NaVorro Bowman: Great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more

NaVorro Bowman: Great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more

NaVorro Bowman came, and then he went.

If that seems a cruel way to summarize his career in San Francisco, that’s because football is a cruel game in the best of times, and when your boss changes, all the good will you may have assembled for yourself matters as much as a broken printer.

It is simply the nature of a very vicious beast.

Bowman was released by the San Francisco 49ers seemingly hours after the team cursorily explored trade possibilities for the once-great linebacker.

And with all due respect to the sentimentalists among you, this move was inevitable; if it wasn’t today, it would have been on January 2, two days after the end of the season. Bowman shone brightest on Jim Harbaugh’s watch, three coaches ago, and neither Kyle Shanahan nor John Lynch is married in any way to any part of the 49ers’ past.

That’s why they were hired. That’s why they got six-year deals. They were mandated to change the franchise on the football level, and you don’t have to tell the leaders of a new regime twice that the icons of the old regime have no special pride of place.

Bowman is one of the truly unlucky great players here – an All-Pro-level player until his torn Achilles tendon in 2016. The only thing that happened to him was he lost the speed and lateral movement that made him great, and neutralized his in-game knowledge because his body sometimes wouldn’t always let him capitalize on it.

But in a violent and sentiment-free business, luck often plays an outsized role in a man’s career. Had he survived the Achilles injury, he might have continued on his path toward Canton, but that atop his torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in 2013 rendered him expendable in a new world order.

And with that, he was expended Friday – swiftly and, from the outside at least, harshly. But nothing says the football business quite like swiftness and harshness. That, if anything, is NaVorro Bowman’s story in San Francisco – a great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more.

What they're saying: Happy Thanksgiving 2017


What they're saying: Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Bay Area sports teams and your favorite players have plenty to be thankful for this year. 

Check out how the teams and players are celebrating Thanksgiving in 2017.

Shanahan: Garoppolo's best football will come next season


Shanahan: Garoppolo's best football will come next season

SANTA CLARA – The two quarterbacks who finish this season with the 49ers are probably going to be the same two quarterbacks the organization carry on their 2018 roster.

So every decision coach Kyle Shanahan makes with C.J. Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo is being made to consider what is best for those two players.

Shanahan made the expected announcement this week that Beathard will make his fifth consecutive start on Sunday when the 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

Beathard is coming off his best game as a pro. He was a major contributor to the 49ers’ first victory of the season, throwing for 288 yards, throwing two touchdowns and rushing for a score in a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants. His performance seemingly did enough to earn him another start.

Meanwhile, Garoppolo pulled up to 49ers headquarters on Oct. 31 with no prior knowledge of Shanahan’s offensive system. Even as a rookie, Beathard has five more months of experience in the 49ers’ offense than Garoppolo, a four-year professional who made just two starts during his time with the New England Patriots.

“We’ve had C.J. in there for some time,” Shanahan said. “He’s getting more used to it, and I’m getting more used to him. The players are getting more used to him around him. It’s been nice to add a few things each week for him.”

General manager John Lynch reiterated this week he considers Garoppolo the 49ers’ quarterback of the future. Garoppolo is not under contract for next season. If the 49ers are unable to work out a multi-year extension, the club would be expected to designate him as their franchise player to retain him for the 2018 season.

Garoppolo is likely to get some playing time in the final six games of the season, but the 49ers have every reason to take their time in order to give him the best chance at success. On the first three days of the bye week, Garoppolo had a chance to go back to the beginning and learn the basics of the scheme in meetings with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello and Shanahan.

Shanahan’s scheme is complex with unique verbiage and an abundance of adjustments that are required on any given play. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan took a step backward in his first season in Shanahan's scheme. The next year, Ryan was a runaway MVP winner with a career-high 38 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions.

It took Ryan a full season of experience with Shanahan to fully grasp his responsibilities, so it is unreasonable to believe Garoppolo would be able to do much more than just function if he gets onto the field for extended action.

“Jimmy gets more and more ready each week,” Shanahan said. “Is Jimmy going to be the best he can? To me, that’s impossible. He just hasn’t been here long enough, and I think he’ll get an opportunity to be better each week.

“I don’t think we’re going to see Jimmy’s best football, to be fair to him, until next year because that’s what guys need. But C.J. did play his best football last week, which definitely, to me, made the decision easier.”