Jeff Garcia faced the same situation many times over the course of his 11-year NFL career -- and, before that, five seasons in the CFL.
Through experience and knowing his own physical abilities, Garcia could determine after breaking the pocket when to slide or when to try to pick up additional yards. There certainly were times when Garcia was accused of putting his body at unnecessary risk.
But what seems clear to everyone also is obvious to Garcia: Jimmy Garoppolo should have simply stepped out of bounds Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s one of those things where we talk about the intelligence of the quarterback and growth and maturity at that position, and I think it’s just one of those things, where with time and experience, he’s going to learn to make better decisions in those types of situations,” Garcia said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.
Garcia, a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee, is an analyst on NBC Sports Bay Area.
On a third-and-goal from the Kansas City 20-yard line and the 49ers trailing by two touchdowns with more than five minutes to play, Garoppolo scrambled to his left, got around the corner and ran along the left sideline. Garoppolo advanced the ball inside the 10-yard line. Then, with four defensive players surrounding him, he made the regrettable decision to attempt to cut back inside for additional yardage.
Garoppolo’s left knee gave out as he tried to change direction. A split-second later, Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson leveled Garoppolo with a high hit. Initially, some 49ers players and coaches feared Garoppolo sustained a concussion.
Instead, Garoppolo grabbed at his left knee. He will undergo surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which will require a six- to nine-month recovery period.
“As much as I want to be supportive of him as a competitor, because I know that feeling of wanting to do whatever you can for your team,” Garcia said. “You want to show your physical and mental toughness, but you also have to know your limitations. And I think in that situation, as much as trying to get 1 or 2 extra yards was probably on his mind, he has to understand that he’s not a typical running quarterback. That’s not his strength.”
The season-ending injury will have a major impact on the remainder of the 49ers’ season. But it also could have a carry-over effect for Garoppolo, who turns 27 in November and will enter his sixth NFL season in 2019.
“He’s still raw. It was only his 10th start in the National Football League,” Garcia said. “He hasn’t even completed an entire season at this point, and you just wish he would’ve had a different mindset at that point.”
Garcia said Garoppolo’s mindset should have been to get some yardage back in order to make a fourth-down play manageable. He accomplished that goal. Then, he should have gotten out of bounds to save time and avoid a hit to his head or his throwing shoulder.
Garcia said the remainder of the team will continue to develop and improve over the course of the season, but Garoppolo will miss out on the valuable experiences of going through 16 regular-season weeks of meetings and practices.
Then, there’s the valuable experiences that comes with the decision-making that is required for a quarterback through running approximately 1,000 offensive plays during the course of a season.
“The team is young and they’re going to continue to grow and evolve and mature in all the other aspects of the team,” Garcia said. “That’s what you were counting on with Jimmy, to be able to take this year, get a full season under his belt playing the position.”
Instead, it will be backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick last year, who will have the opportunity to get the bulk of the experiences this season. Beathard takes over in Week 4, beginning with the game Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“And now it’s back to square one, back to a young quarterback who was drafted last year and got some games, some starts, which is a positive thing,” Garcia said. “But he’s not the franchise guy, and that’s where so much was put into Jimmy being the guy for many years to come, and now there’s a major setback once again.”