49ers

Why Peter King thinks Jimmy Garoppolo key to 49ers making NFL playoffs

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Why Peter King thinks Jimmy Garoppolo key to 49ers making NFL playoffs

Jimmy Garoppolo has started and ended a season as the 49ers' starting quarterback, but never in the same year.

He joined San Francisco in a midseason trade in 2017, ending the year on a 5-0 run and signing a lucrative contract extension the following offseason. He tore his ACL in Week 3 last year -- his eighth start with the 49ers -- and missed the remainder of the season. 

The 49ers went 3-10 in Garoppolo's absence, turning to both C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens to fill the void for their franchise QB. Garoppolo is set to take the reigns under center once more, and NBC Sports' Peter King believes a healthy season from the quarterback is enough for San Francisco to end its five-year playoff drought.

"I think the 49ers are going to make the playoffs," King said Tuesday on "The Damon Bruce Show" on 95.7 The Game. " ... It's hard to say that in a vacuum. If Jimmy Garoppolo slips on a banana peel in September, they're not making the playoffs. But, I don't think you look at Jimmy Garoppolo [or Philadelphia Eagles quarterback] Carson Wentz necessarily and say, 'Well, they're doomed to a life of being injury-prone.'"

Because of last year's injury and his time backing up Tom Brady with the New England Patriots for the first three-and-a-half years of his career, a 16-game season in 2019 would be a first for Garoppolo. In fact, Garoppolo has only started 10 regular-season games in his career. 

Five starts -- and six appearances -- for San Francisco in 2017 were enough for the 49ers to commit to Garoppolo long-term, but the sample size of his NFL career as a starter remains small. King noted that Garoppolo's torn ACL made him an outlier among starting QBs last season, given how much time he missed. 

As long as Garoppolo remains healthy, King thinks the 49ers will learn a lot about him this season. 

"This is a golden year for the 49ers, in my opinion, because we're going to be able to see what Kyle Shanahan has in Jimmy Garoppolo, and what Jimmy Garoppolo can do over the long haul." King said. " ... To me, they were the outlier last season, and if they had Garoppolo for 16 games, I think they would've been knocking on the door in December." 

[RELATED: How 49ers' offense stacks up against NFC West rivals]

The 49ers undoubtedly missed Garoppolo last season, but making the playoffs won't depend upon him alone. San Francisco addressed some of its defensive shortcomings in free agency and the draft, and a pass rush that accounted for the 22nd-most sacks in the NFL (37) looks much-improved on paper. There still are question marks in the secondary, however, after the 49ers allowed more passing touchdowns (35) than everyone other than the Raiders. 

In other words, the 49ers will have to worry about positions other than the one under center, whether or not Garoppolo hits the ground running. 

Jimmy Garoppolo 'really good' but not elite, analyst Chris Simms says

Jimmy Garoppolo 'really good' but not elite, analyst Chris Simms says

Is your quarterback elite? Well, if you're a fan of the 49ers then no -- at least according to Chris Simms.

The NBC Sports football analyst couldn't confidently put Jimmy Garoppolo in the elite category, but still had plenty of praise toward him, especially knowing he plans on leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

"I think there's some quarterbacks in football right now: Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, DeShaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes -- they kind of stand alone," Simms said.

After that handful of quarterbacks, Simms highlights a group of "good," a squad that he considers Jimmy G to be a part of. Plus, Garoppolo has a lot of "good" surrounding him.

The elite talents of tight end George Kittle are something that shouldn't be argued -- unless you're not sure if he's a decent blocker or not. Ahem, Doug Gottlieb.

"That's all you need to win a Super Bowl," Simms added.

The consensus around Jimmy G's eliteness is that he's not elite, but he's not bad, but he's good enough.

[RELATED: NFC offensive consultant on Jimmy G's eliteness

Got all of that?

His throwing abilities have been talked about, but once again the word "elite" was not mentioned.

49ers tackle Joe Staley doesn't have looming retirement on his mind

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49ers tackle Joe Staley doesn't have looming retirement on his mind

A lot of times for athletes, it's not up to them whether or not they want to retire -- it's up to their body. For 49ers tackle Joe Staley, it's really no different.

"I like to think that I can continue to play football for as long as they'll have me," Staley said in an interview with 95.7 The Game on Thursday. "And that's my mindset. I've never thought about when an end is going to be."

The 35-year-old signed a two-year contract extension with San Francisco in June which ultimately means he could spend the entirety of his NFL career as a member of the 49ers. And while that seems like a long time, he's still soaking up the everyday grind of his job even with the setbacks he's faced this season.

"The challenges of this season have been different than seasons past," he said. "I love the adverse situations and you kind of learn a lot about yourself -- how you respond and challenge yourself daily with different goals ... "

Staley sustained a fractured left fibula earlier in the season during the Week 2 matchup against the Bengals and with a smile tried to remain positive but admitted: "it sucks." He was emotional after the injury but said that had a lot to do with how special the team was and the guys he was surrounded by.

Still, you can't fake the passion the six-time Pro Bowler brings to the 49ers and it appears you would have to pry the game away from his hands if you anticipate him hanging up his cleats any time soon.

[RELATED: How Jimmy G can enter record books in 49ers-Falcons]

"That love for the game is still there, burning," Staley said.

He finished the statement saying he doesn't have an honest answer as to just how much football is left in his body, but it's not something he's concentrating on at the moment.