49ers

QBs like Jimmy G, Wentz can't thrive without teammates' belief

49ers

The 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles, their Week 4 opponents on "Sunday Night Football," are used to questions about their quarterbacks. It'd be difficult to find two QBs subject to more external scrutiny over the last few years than Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco's starting signal-caller, and Carson Wentz, Philadelphia's face of the franchise.

Garoppolo, in some ways, has become the new Joe Flacco (when healthy), with his performances monitored on a week-to-week basis to see if he crosses an ethereal Mendoza Line measuring whether or not a QB is elite. Wentz, meanwhile, has yet to replicate his MVP-like play from 2017, and he's not helped by the fact that Nick Foles, his backup at the time, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory that season after Wentz sustained a torn ACL.

With Nick Mullens thriving in Garoppolo's absence and Wentz's Eagles staring down an 0-3-1 start if they lose to the 49ers on Sunday, the questions aren't stopping any time soon. What's far more important to each QB is whether or not they have the support of their teammates, NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst Seth Joyner told NBC Sports Bay Area's Donte Whitner in an interview this week.

"I find it implausible, when you consider 53 guys on a roster, that everyone would love each other," said Joyner, a former linebacker who played 13 NFL seasons. "(But) I think the quarterback position is a unique position because he's looked at as the leader of the team across the board, and I think that the majority of the guys have to like that guy in order to follow that guy.

 

"When you look at quarterbacks in the league today, it has to do so much with the old quote that it's a quarterback-driven league, so I find it difficult to believe that you can have guys on the offensive side of the ball, particularly, that don't like the quarterback yet go out and fight for him."

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If you want to know what a quarterback's teammates think of him, Joyner said you should look at how he's treated by the players blocking for him and the ones he's throwing to.

"You can tell by how they protect and how they lift up their quarterback in situations, whether they really like him or love him or not," Joyner explained. "When you see a quarterback get sacked and his offensive linemen don't reach down and give him a hand up, that's a problem. When you have guys that don't have positive things to say about their quarterback at the skill positions, that's a problem.

"So, I'm not so sure that that can happen because, in my opinion, you don't have the total buy-in that you need by the other 10 guys on the offensive side of the ball, you have to believe in that guy in order to go out and fight for him, in order to be able to put yourself in a position to win a Super Bowl."

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Neither Garoppolo nor Wentz would appear to have that problem. Seemingly every 49er who went on the record during the offseason and/or the preseason shielded Garoppolo from criticism, from the skill positions to the offensive line. Wentz's teammates have praised his leadership and defended him from media critiques, too.

Garoppolo won't play Sunday, whereas Wentz can silence some of his doubters if the Eagles beat the defending NFC champions at Levi's Stadium. As long as those critical voices aren't coming from their own locker room, though, neither quarterback needs to worry about the noise.

"I agree that you have to have a working relationship, a professional relationship," Whitner said. "And it wasn't guys that I played with that I necessarily wanted to hang out with on a Friday night, but I knew that they were putting that work in away from the facility and they were a leader on our football team."

After the afternoon NFL games end Sunday, go to NBC Sports Bay Area or the MyTeams app at 4 p.m. PT for "49ers Pregame Live," as Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams, Matt Maiocco, Jennifer Lee Chan and Grant Liffmann preview the "Sunday Night Football" matchup against the Eagles. Then, after the game, come back for "49ers Postgame Live," with highlights, analysis, interviews and more.