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?

Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts


Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

The 49ers recently re-signed eight of the 10 players who finished the season on the team’s practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who was not among the first wave of 49ers signings to 2018 contracts, signed Wednesday with the Indianapolis Colts, ending his three-season association with the organization.

Smelter was one of general manager Trent Baalke’s redshirt draft picks. The team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft despite a torn ACL that ended his final season at Georgia Tech.

Smelter spent his first season on an injured list. He was waived at the beginning of the past two seasons, finishing both years on the 49ers’ practice squad. Smelter appeared in two games in 2016 and caught one pass for 23 yards.

Last season, the 49ers signed wide receivers Louis Murphy and Max McCaffrey to spots on the 53-man roster instead of Smelter, who remained on the practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Carter, who also spent the entire season on the practice squad, was signed recently to the team’s 90-man roster.

Others who finished the season on the 49ers practice squad to remain on the team’s offseason roster are: quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Cole Wick, offensive linemen Andrew Lauderdale and Pace Murphy, linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and defensive backs Trovon Reed and Channing Stribling.

The 49ers also signed fullback Malcolm Johnson, who spent last season on injured reserve with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson appeared in 19 games over the 2015 and ’16 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was a sixth-round draft pick in ’15.

Offensive linemen Cameron Hunt, who finished the season on the 49ers’ practice squad, remains unsigned. Guard JP Flynn is also unsigned. He sustained a torn patellar tendon in November and underwent surgery that was expected to keep him out up to nine months.

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations


An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

If the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are unable to reach a multi-year contract extension by March 6, the 49ers have no other choice but to designate him as their franchise player.

The estimated one-year salary for the franchise tag would be $23.307 million, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, whose work now appears at CBS Sports. (That is assuming a 2018 league-wide salary cap of $178.1 million per team.)

There is a lot to consider for both sides as they look to enter into a long-term contract. Corry said if a deal is struck, he would expect it to be in the neighborhood of Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason.

“And then there’s the other dynamic, which I would not undersell or I think may not be appreciated as much as it should be,” Corry said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “(Garoppolo’s agent) Don Yee has a reputation – no fault of his own – of doing team-friendly deals.”

Yee also represents New England quarterback Tom Brady, whose average of $20.5 million annual pay ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Brady is underpaid by design, Corry said, because one of the great quarterbacks of all-time realizes it helps the Patriots to maintain a strong supporting cast.

“That’s because Tom Brady dictates, ‘I want to do something good for the team, take less money so we can improve the roster to win Super Bowls.’ That’s not Don Yee who wants to do that,” Corry said.

“The agent works for the player, so he’s executing Tom Brady’s wishes. But he gets that held against him in recruiting. So this is his opportunity to erase that perception if Garoppolo allows him to do his job and gives him latitude to strike the deal that he feels is appropriate.”

For more on the potential negotiating strategies of both sides, listen here to the 49ers Insider Podcast.