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."
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.