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The San Francisco 49ers have no hope without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who may have torn his left ACL late in Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
We won’t know for certain until Monday, but that’s what the team fears, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
It’s not an injury Garoppolo can recover from this season, and it’s not an injury the 49ers can recover from either.
Before Garoppolo was installed as the starter late last season, the 49ers had lost 24 of their previous 26 games. And while this team might still be better than that one, the defense is surrendering 29.7 points per game. The Niners were off to a poor start even with Garoppolo under center, and keeping up with the division-rival Los Angeles Rams and wild-card contenders elsewhere in the deep NFC was always going to be a challenge.
When you think about it, it’s strange that the loss of a single player can condemn an entire 53-man roster. There are probably fewer than 30 players in the NFL who are just that valuable.
But Garoppolo is undoubtedly one of them.
There’s a reason he’s the fourth-highest-paid player in the league. Since he took over in December, the 49ers have averaged 27.1 points per outing over eight games.
Had Garoppolo thrown enough passes to qualify last season, his completion percentage (67.4) would have ranked in the top five in the NFL, while his passer rating (96.2) would have put him in the top 10. And among quarterbacks with at least 20 pass attempts, he had the league’s fifth-highest passer rating on third down and the highest rating in the fourth quarter.
He struggled against one of the league’s best defenses in this year’s season opener, but since then he’s posted a 116.4 passer rating and a four-to-zero touchdown-to-interception ratio in back-to-back turnover-free games.
Dov Kleiman @NFL_DovKleiman
The Jimmy Garoppolo injury. He should’ve stepped out.
The 49ers might have had a chance to remain competitive with a strong backup quarterback and an otherwise healthy roster, but they don’t possess either of those things.
The only other quarterback on the team is 2017 third-round pick C.J. Beathard, who completed just 54.9 percent of his passes, threw more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (four) and posted a 69.2 passer rating in seven appearances as a rookie. He’s a low-end backup, which will almost certainly cause the 49ers to look for outside help at the sport’s most important position.
Nobody on the market is likely to be significantly better than Beathard. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on the market. San Francisco will have to ride with Beathard, which could be disastrous considering the lack of support it has for its quarterbacks.
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The 49ers are also without the league’s seventh-highest-paid running back, having lost Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL on Labor Day weekend. McKinnon’s replacement, Matt Breida, had been playing well before he also suffered a knee injury Sunday. Third-year guard Joshua Garnett has been a bust when healthy but is out with a dislocated toe, and the rest of the offensive line has struggled. Garoppolo was sacked 10 times in the last two games.
The defense has plenty of young talent and should benefit from linebacker Reuben Foster’s return from suspension, but 2017 No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas and four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman were also injured in Kansas City.
Chris Biderman @ChrisBiderman
C.J. Beathard says he spoke with Jimmy Garoppolo just now. ‘He told me to lead these guys.’ #49ers
The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl without their star quarterback last season, but Beathard is no Nick Foles, and the rest of the San Francisco roster doesn’t compare to Philadelphia’s. Instead, sadly, the 49ers’ season is likely to follow a path similar to the Houston Texans’ 2017 campaign.
Houston was dominating on offense and in the mix with a 3-4 record when franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL. The Texans were held to 16 or fewer points in eight of their last nine games and lost all eight of those affairs.
The moment Watson went down, the football world knew it could stick a fork in the Texans. And if indeed Garoppolo is out for the season, that’ll be the case with the 49ers.
It’s hard to find a silver lining in that, but the timing of this injury does at least mean Garoppolo will have nearly a full year to recover before next season. And the front office and coaching staff will be able to spend a low-pressure 13-game stretch assessing the many young and talented players San Francisco has on both sides of the ball.
That is unless it decides to call former 49er and current free agent Colin Kaepernick, who threw 16 touchdown passes to just four interceptions when he last played in 2016. But it doesn’t appear as though the team did that before it acquired Garoppolo last fall, so those hoping for a Kaepernick return shouldn’t hold their breath.
No, in yet another reminder that life isn’t fair and neither is football, the 49ers are looking at a spoiled season.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.