Let’s go back one year to a time when Jimmy Garoppolo was coming off one of the best seasons for a quarterback in 49ers history.
The dude did not throw an incomplete pass in the second half of the 49ers’ NFC West-clinching Week 17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The victory in Seattle, where the 49ers had not won since 2011, also wrapped up home-field advantage in the playoffs.
He finished the season with 3,978 passing yards to rank No. 4 in franchise history, and his 69.1 completion percentage was third all time among 49ers quarterbacks in a single season, behind only Hall of Famers Steve Young and Joe Montana.
Garoppolo did all that without the benefit of a full offseason as he was coming back from a torn ACL that limited him to just three games the previous season.
There were plenty of reasons to expect even bigger things from him in 2020 as he had his first opportunity to build on his only full season as an NFL starter.
Meanwhile, in the Atlantic Northeast. a union that defined the league for two decades was coming to an end. Tom Brady and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick were on the splits.
Brady was coming off one of the least-productive seasons of his career. His completion percentage was down to 60.8, his 6.8 yards per attempt was his lowest since 2006, and his passer rating and QBR were at or near the bottom of his career.
But, hey, let’s not concern ourselves with facts, right?
It is easy to sit back the day after Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl title and criticize the 49ers for not casting aside Garoppolo in favor of Brady.
Of course, if Brady had signed a contract with the 49ers, even in retrospect, it does not mean the 49ers would have finished on Sunday what they came so close to accomplishing a year earlier.
Probably, all it would have guaranteed is that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would not have handed the Lombardi Trophy to the Buccaneers.
But even that could be open for debate. After all, Brady was chosen as the MVP of the Super Bowl, but that honor could have gone to Buccaneers linebacker Devin White or, heck, even defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for his masterly plan to combat the explosive Kansas City offense.
Maybe the Bucs would have won the Super Bowl with any other quarterback they would have locked down if Brady had gone elsewhere. Maybe, but not likely.
There is little doubt Brady felt rejuvenated and enjoyed a bounce-back season while head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich gave him more freedom than he ever experienced with the Patriots.
Two weeks ago, Arians described how he let Brady run the show in an interview with Peter King of NBC Sports.
“I allow him to be himself,” Arians told King. “Like, New England didn’t allow him to coach. I allow him to coach. I just sit back sometimes and watch.”
The Buccaneers were coming off a 7-9 season. The next Super Bowl was scheduled to be played in their home stadium. They had nothing to lose.
Contrast the Buccaneers’ desperation to that of the 49ers.
Coach Kyle Shanahan certainly was not going to change his offense and give Brady carte blanche to fix something that was not broken.
Two teams — the Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers — aggressively pursued Brady as a free agent last March, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 49ers admittedly held internal discussions after receiving word the San Mateo native wished to return to the Bay Area to play for the 49ers.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch admitted they discussed the pros and cons of adding Brady.
The 49ers decided to continue to ride with Garoppolo, who is 14 years younger than Brady and is signed through the 2022 season.
That is not a decision that is going to cause the 49ers sleepless nights in the way Lynch admits the decision not to draft Patrick Mahomes haunts him.
Spin it back a year. There is no reason for the 49ers to second-guess themselves when they look back and consider the information they had at the time.
Of course, you know how it all ended. Garoppolo was basically healthy for one game due to two high-ankle sprains. Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard started a combined 10 games.
The 49ers’ issues at quarterback contributed to the team’s fall to a 6-10 record, for sure.
But unless you believe Brady’s immense powers and magic charm could have prevented the other rash of season-derailing injuries the 49ers experienced last season, it is foolhardy to second-guess them now.