Peter King

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

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USATSI

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. 

Jon Gruden 'loved' Kyler Murray, Raiders were never trading for No. 1 pick

Jon Gruden 'loved' Kyler Murray, Raiders were never trading for No. 1 pick

Did Raiders head coach Jon Gruden really consider pulling a control-alt-delete on quarterback Derek Carr to take Kyler Murray in the 2019 NFL Draft?

While Gruden admits he "loved" Murray, the Raiders coach told NBC Sports' Peter King that he never planned on picking the Heisman Trophy winner. 

"That doesn’t mean we were gonna take him" Gruden told King in the writer's latest Football Morning in America. "How do you not love his performance, his playing style, what he accomplished? I had a blast with him [when the Raiders worked him out pre-draft in Dallas]. We didn’t think about going up to number one. We did look at [Nick] Bosa, [Quinnen] Williams, but not going to one." 

Instead, the Raiders stayed at No. 4 and selected former Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell. That was a surprise in its own right, but there was plenty of speculation surrounding the Silver and Black selecting a quarterback early in the draft. 

Despite Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock saying Carr is a "franchise quarterback," rumors swirled about the signal caller's future with the Raiders. The coach and GM did their due diligence on the position, though they say that had nothing to do with Carr's standing in the organization. 

"We did our homework on the quarterbacks. You gotta know who’s coming into the league at that position," Gruden said. "There was a lot of speculation that we were gonna take a quarterback. I kept watching a guy on NFL Network saying we’re going up to get Murray. Then he says we’re going up to get Haskins. Then he says we’re going up to get Lock. We’re trading Carr.

"I don’t understand it."

[RELATED: Carr was 'annoyed' by speculation Raiders would draft QB]

Carr is still a Raider and already is more comfortable in Year 2 of Gruden's offense as he expressed during OTAs. Will the two co-exist for years to come, however?

That's the question that surely won't go away anytime soon.

Raiders rank No. 19 in Peter King's 2019 NFL power rankings due to schedule

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AP

Raiders rank No. 19 in Peter King's 2019 NFL power rankings due to schedule

The Raiders had a fascinating offseason as they added a lot of talent to the roster.

Antonio Brown, Trent Brown, Lamarcus Joyner, Tyrell Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, Johnathan Abram and several other draft picks joined the Silver Black over the last few months.

But the NFL schedule-makers may have offset all of that with an absolutely brutal road schedule in the first half of the 2019 season.

It's for that reason that NBC Sports columnist Peter King has the Raiders at No. 19 in his initial 2019 NFL power rankings.

King explains here:

"Such an interesting team, from the front office and the addition of Mike Mayock, to the offensive attack and the addition of Antonio Brown, to the run game and the addition of Josh Jacobs, to the secondary and the addition of tone-setter Johnathan Abram. I wonder if the schedule will make it very tough to be good—and not just the quality of opposition, but the way the slate is set up, with the Raiders going 48 days between games in Oakland in Week 2 and Week 9. And the Raiders finish with two straight on the road. Hard to imagine the Grudens being great this year, but they can, at least, set the stage for a bright future by hanging around .500."

[RELATED: Why Raiders don't want 'Hard Knocks']

The Raiders finished tied with the Jets and 49ers for the second-worst record in the NFL in 2018, so coming in at No. 19 is an improvement for Oakland.

Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have higher expectations than being the 19th-best team in the league, but they might have to settle for it considering the schedule they have to navigate.