Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers highlight reel is both ridiculously short and undeniably intriguing.
The 49ers backup quarterback entered Sunday’s game with 1:07 remaining – enough time to run three plays – after starter C.J. Beathard limped off the field with an injured left knee. The result: A scramble for four yards, an eight-yard completion on fourth down and a 10-yard touchdown pass in which Garoppolo bought some extra time to throw, then threaded the needle between two Seahawks defenders to hit Louis Murphy on the side of the end zone.
The score came as time expired and was San Francisco’s only touchdown in their 24-13 loss to Seattle. But it promises to dominate both the highlight reels and the conversation in Northern California and Chicago as the 49ers get ready this week to play the Bears in Garoppolo’s hometown.
Afterward, coach Kyle Shanahan made no pronouncement about who would start against the Bears.
“Jimmy will have another week (of practice),” Shanahan said. “We’ll watch this tape tomorrow, work with him Monday and Tuesday and see what happens in practice for Wednesday.”
Beathard, who absorbed 13 hits by the Seahawks, walked off the field at game’s end with a barely perceptible limp. He said he would have an MRI on his knee Monday but wasn’t expecting bad news.
“It may just be a bruise to the knee,” he said. “You don’t know. I’m trying to get back out there as soon as possible. Obviously, I don’t think anything’s torn or anything like that. It doesn’t feel like it (is torn).”
Since the 49ers traded for Garoppolo on Oct. 30, Shanahan has noted the vast difference between the system his old team, the New England Patriots, ran and the verbose West Coast offense the 49ers use. He’s said that he wants to put Garoppolo in the best position possible when he does play and, despite a lopsided score in the second half, at no point was Garoppolo poised to enter the game until Beathard got hurt.
Beathard was 22 for 38 for 201 yards and an interception that came when receiver Trent Taylor was stripped of the ball.
“No, not at all,” Shanahan said when asked if he considered pulling Beathard during the loss. “If I felt that was because of the quarterback, I would have made a change.”
Garoppolo was able to operate a hurry-up version of the offense fairly smoothly. The 49ers took a long time to line up on his first snap, which Shanahan said is a result of having a new quarterback in the game. Another play he ran was wiped away by a false-start penalty by right tackle Erik Magnuson.
“I’ve been saying this for the past couple weeks now – it’s like a different language.” Garoppolo said of Shanahan’s offense. “Similar concepts, but different names and everything. That’s part of being a quarterback. There are little things that people don’t see outside of the locker room. You need to master those things and I’m in a situation where you have to do it as fast as possible.”
Murphy, for one, said he’s seen growth in Garoppolo’s understanding in recent weeks.
He was one of the receivers who stayed in Santa Clara during the team’s recent bye week and caught passes from the quarterback. In that way, the two have developed a bit of a rapport.
“He’s definitely picking it up and getting all the calls and stuff and working extra hours – in early and leaving late,” said Murphy, who noted it took him two or three weeks to learn the 49ers offense when he arrived at the start of training camp before being released and later re-signed. “He’s doing all the right things.”
The 49ers hope Garoppolo will develop into their quarterback of the future and there are a number of physical attributes they like about him starting with his quick feet and fast release. It’s a decidedly small sample size, but those traits were on display when Garoppolo entered – to a rare chorus of Levi’s Stadium cheers – on Sunday.
“It was, ‘Alright, fellas, here we go,’ ” Murphy said of the initial huddle. “He just took command of the huddle like a leader does, and everyone else followed.”
Shanahan, however, said Garoppolo’s end-of-game debut wouldn’t factor in to who plays next week.
“Those plays have nothing to do with anything,” he said. “He’s running around and made a great play. But those have no bearing on it at all.”