After a Cardinals-49ers game that made the word “desultory” seem like a rave review, it can safely be said that even though he was on the sidelines throwing footballs and smiling a lot, Jimmy Garoppolo seems as far as away as he did when he was still a New England Patriot.
But since everything the San Franciscii do from this moment on will be framed for and by Garoppolo, there seems no better time to begin.
In losing to a profoundly bland Arizona team, 20-10, the 49ers maintained their position as Browns West. If not for a late-game brawl that resulted in Carlos Hyde, Haason Reddick and the gloriously named Frostee Rucker ejected, there would have been no reason whatsoever to remember this day as anything other than a poor expenditure of three hours and 22 minutes.
Especially for C.J. Beathard, the aptly named recipient of yet another strident and persistent pummeling.
Indeed, the 49er highlight of the day was Beathard, in one of his few upright moments, banking a pass off the back of the head of tackle Trent Brown so that Karlos Dansby could intercept it in game’s final three minutes. That, children, is no way to entertain anyone – even people who bet the Cardinals and gave the 2 ½ points.
But Jimmy Garoppolo got to watch, and learn, and see how his six-week trial here is going to go. Beathard got hit once by a long list of Cardinal defenders – and by “once,” we mean “16 times,” or “one hit that lasted three hours.” Once again Kyle Shanahan credited Beathard’s toughness in such an onslaught, but that will hardly be of much comfort when Garoppolo takes the job, in all likelihood in Seattle in three weeks.
Then again, it is hard to see how Garoppolo’s immediate fate will be much different. The 49ers are that injured, and that limited, and that under-rostered – which of course everyone has known for weeks. They can go winless, though it still seems unlikely, but their place near the very top of the NFL Draft order is only a John Lynch phone call away.
That, though, is the short-term, and Garoppolo is the embodiment of a long and glorious future for a fan base that thinks that 2012 was 50 years ago. Which, oddly, is nearly the actual number of years since the last 49er quarterback assigned the jersey number 10 to actually throw a ball in anger (Dennis Morrison) did so.
This is the cynical world that envelops a bad football team. Shanahan said Garoppolo had essentially zero chance of playing Sunday, and in all likelihood not much better chance next Sunday against the 1-8 New York Giants in what will almost surely be the least anticipated game of this largely dreadful season.
But Garoppolo is the face of the franchise to be because he is the hope in which the organization has invested its future. As for C.J. Beathard, he is the face of its present – an earnest and game young man who is taking a weekly pounding until further notice so that Garoppolo doesn’t have to do so. It hardly seems fair, but it seems exactly like football in any place where football is played poorly. The present must suffer so the future can flower.