After first win, 49ers' focus shifts to 'The Plan That Isn’t' during bye week

After first win, 49ers' focus shifts to 'The Plan That Isn’t' during bye week

The San Francisco 49ers’ first victory of the calendar year, a 31-21 out-of-context hammering of the New York Doing-Something-Barely-Recognizable-As-Football Giants, resulted in a quarterback controversy that isn’t.

Namely, whether C.J. Beathard earned another start, in two weeks, in Seattle. And more specifically, whether there is a plan already installed by Kyle Shanahan to cover that possibility.

Shanahan says there is no plan, so we'll call it The Plan That Isn’t is sacrosanct, and The Plan That Isn’t is all about Jimmy Garoppolo, whose main contribution to Sunday’s victory was keeping his legs warm, limber and fresh just in case.

Just as Shanahan wrote it up, while saying that he didn’t.

“It isn’t the plan,” he said of the much-assumed Jimmy Does Seattle scenario, “because it never was the plan.

The 49ers coach has never said, and he didn’t say Sunday, but the assumption is as it has been along, that Garoppolo, the quarterback of the future, would begin that future two weeks from Sunday against the Seahawks.

So it was that he left Beathard be for one more week, and it resulted in his best day as a fully salaried professional – starting with the fact that he was almost never hit (a week after being pounded like a filthy rug a week ago), threw one harmless (as in the Giants did nothing with it) interception, threw two long touchdowns and ran for a third, left the team in only one punting situation well after the result was in, and in sum looked like he might be able to do this again if called upon.

Which, if The Plan That Isn’t becomes The Plan, won’t happen any time soon.

Oh, there were impatient souls who wanted Garoppolo to play today – the big Christmas present that nobody can open until all the relatives show up. They are the same folks disappointed by Minnesota’s 38-30 victory over Washington because Case Keenum looked good enough to postpone Teddy Bridgewater’s return for at least another week.

But that’s just their curiosity demanding to be fed. In San Francisco, Garoppolo is being afforded the maximum amount of prep time behind a line that only Sunday looked like a cohesive and implacable unit. Garoppolo is a future that is still sufficiently far off that hurrying him to satisfy the customers makes no tangible sense.

And in fairness (another thing that doesn’t actually exist), Beathard deserved this game as a reward for enduring last week’s game. On bad teams such as this San Francisco group, the reward for taking a beating is another beating the next time out, but the 49ers presented themselves as a fully representative NFL team at a time when they needed to know that they could. They have now held the lead in a hair more than 10 percent of their 600 minutes and 1,352 plays of play, and all but 10 of those have been in two games. So you take the good times for what they are, knowing that there is always a kicker right around the bend.

In this case, it is the news that Beathard had his throwing-hand thumb X-rayed after the game after he struck it on his touchdown run. The injury could be properly debilitating, it could be nothing, or it could offer the 49ers an easy way out of their explaining how The Plan That Isn’t Became The Plan.

Of course, we can only know that without doubt if Beathard starts against the Seahawks, and our attitude toward his veracity probably isn’t that resonant an issue for him.

In other words, if he’s fibbing, we’re the only ones who will kvetch. If there actually is The Plan, it will happen without outside input – which I suppose could be considered output.

But the Jimmy Watch will continue, because the season demands it. Sunday’s win gives the team something to build on and bask in, but the future comes hard and fast, especially when it has already begun. Because there is a thing called The Plan. There really is. The only thing we don’t know is when Shanahan will choose to implement it, and we have 13 days before Seattle to gnaw it into gristle

After all, what better reason is there for a bye week in a season that has already left?

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.