Jimmy Garoppolo spent the first 3 ½ seasons watching the measures a quarterback must take to protect himself.
Tom Brady is not the most nimble quarterback in the league, but nobody is better at buying time in the pocket with a step here or a step there to create enough space to deliver the ball down the field.
Most of the time, the ball comes out of Brady’s hand quickly -- before the pass rush arrives.
For the past three games while standing on the 49ers sideline, Garoppolo saw the beating a quarterback can take when pass protection does not hold up.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said he will make a decision on the 49ers’ starting quarterback before the team takes the practice field on Wednesday. Teams generally begin their preparations for upcoming opponents on Wednesdays.
Whomever starts at quarterback – rookie C.J. Beathard or Garoppolo, the newcomer – needs the full week of practice reps with the first-team offense to have his best chance of success on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Shanahan said.
First off, it’s not even clear Beathard will be available to take part in a full week of practice. He sustained injuries to his left knee and hip on Sunday upon being taken down by Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett with a low hit after Bennett had already jumped offside.
(The play was not whistled dead before Bennett beat 49ers rookie Erik Magnuson, a fill-in at right tackle, to hit Beathard; and no penalty was called for a low hit on the quarterback.)
Beathard’s mobility will certainly be impacted, if he is deemed OK to play. But even when his legs have been healthy, he has not been able to avoid a large number of hits. It seems the only real decision Shanahan has is to anoint Garoppolo as the starter.
Right tackle Trent Brown was “close” to playing Sunday against Seattle with a shoulder injury, Shanahan said. The team expects him to be available to face the Bears on Sunday.
But that’s immaterial. Beathard might not be healthy, might not be able to protect himself by making the movements necessary to buy time or escape the pocket. He has been sacked 19 times in 5 ½ games since taking over for Brian Hoyer.
The 49ers’ issues with pass protection will not disappear if Garoppolo makes his first start with his new team on Sunday or whether Brown returns to the lineup.
Garoppolo can succeed in making his pass protection look better. He can show that he learned from the best in making quick decisions and subtle movements to avoid the punishment he saw Beathard endure.
Assuming he starts on Sunday, the person most responsible for protecting Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday is Jimmy Garoppolo.