San Francisco 49ers

49ers locking in Jimmy Garoppolo sets up interesting future with Bears' Mitch Trubisky

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USA TODAY

49ers locking in Jimmy Garoppolo sets up interesting future with Bears' Mitch Trubisky

Second-guessing is as easy as it is pointless, same with playing “what-if?” So that’s not the point here at all.
 
The San Francisco 49ers casting their future (and a not insignificant portion of their salary cap) into quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this week – potentially $137 million over five years – marks another of those moves that aren’t directly tied to anything Bears, but nonetheless spark a number of thoughts, much as the Super Bowl and postseason in general did, even sans Bears.
 
By way of Garoppolo-specific musings:

If anyone thought using a No. 2-overall draft pick on a quarterback with just 13 college starts (Mitch Trubisky), how about making a quarterback with a total of seven NFL starts and 94 total NFL passes prior to Week 12 of the 2017 NFL season the highest-paid player in football? Starts at North Carolina are nowhere near the same conversation about NFL ones.

But if Garoppolo turns in anything close to the 5-0 performance he did as a starter for the then-woeful 49ers from this point forward, San Francisco GM John Lynch should be unanimous NFL executive of the year, as Ron Wolf (Brett Favre) deserved to be, both of them getting franchise quarterbacks via trade. And Lynch did it with a second-round pick, much as Bill Walsh once did to get Steve Young out of Tampa (the 49ers also threw in a No. 4 to make that deal).
 
(A side question is still the real reason why the Patriots didn’t keep Garoppolo in addition to having Tom Brady the way the 49ers once did when they traded for Young with Joe Montana in place. San Francisco kept them both for five years, which was possible before the advent of the salary cap. But a little intra-QB tension didn’t derail either player or the organization, which won consecutive Super Bowls in 1988-89 even with a head-coaching change. Besides, Brady has made more difficult “adjustments” in his career.)
 
It matters not in the least now, but could Garoppolo have been a Bear? Not unless GM Ryan Pace was clairvoyant.
 
Garoppolo was on the Bears’ radar this time a year ago (which is really not saying much – if you know anything about radar, EVERYTHING is “on” radar, so this is the last time that phrase will appear under this by-line). So were Kirk Cousins, Mike Glennon and myriad other possible solutions to the post-Jay Cutler question around the Bears quarterback situation.
 
So Pace did his due diligence, which including watching Garoppolo work against the Bears during 2016 Bears-Patriots joint practices in New England. wasn’t going to give up No. 1 and No. 3 picks (the supposed New England asking price) for Garoppolo, neither was anyone else, including the 49ers, and the Patriots at that point weren’t really going to give up Garoppolo, anyway. That came later, long after any fail-safe point Pace and the Bears had with respect to making a decision of their own.
 
Pace will be subject to enough scrutiny based on the comparative performances of Trubisky and Deshaun Watson. He doesn’t and won’t deserve any over Garoppolo not being a Bear. Garoppolo wasn’t going to give Pace any hometown discount based on being from Arlington Heights or sharing an alma mater (Eastern Illinois).
 
Exponentially more important is what Pace does to build a franchise team around Trubisky. The Bears were aggressive in securing Matt Nagy, retaining Vic Fangio and then supplementing Nagy/Mark Helfrich with Brad Childress as an offensive consultant. And Pace got the quarterback he wanted at what is and will be a fraction of the contract cost of what the 49ers lavished on Garoppolo, whom the Bears will see again in 2018, every three years based on normal schedule rotation, and every year in between whenever the Bears and 49ers finish at the same division level.
 
That, far more than Trubisky-Watson, will be the rivalry to watch over time.

Imperfect 10: First look at who might be available for Bears in NFL Draft

Imperfect 10: First look at who might be available for Bears in NFL Draft

With the NFL draft three months from this Friday, our Bears insiders JJ Stankevitz & Moon Mullin take their first look at the Top 10 picks and evaluate the Bears options with the 8th overall pick.

Quarterback picks could scramble the Top 10, which would work to the Bears' benefit by pushing talent at other positions down toward No. 8.

GM Ryan Pace has traded up to land each of his last two first-rounders (Leonard Floyd, Mitch Trubisky) and he will have options to move up or down and draft whatever he didn’t secure in free agency.

1. Cleveland Browns 

Moon: Sam Darnold, QB USC

Browns failed to restart their franchise with a QB in ’17. Darnold has flaws and has been a turnover risk, but Browns can’t be picky at 0-16.

JJ: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold seemed like a lock to be 2018’s No. 1 overall pick a year ago, but he went from a 31/9 TD/INT ratio in 2016 to a 26/13 TD/INT ratio in 2017. Still, the tools are there, and Cleveland could see in him the quarterback who finally leads them out of such a dark stretch of losing. 

2. New York Giants

Moon: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Eli may want to follow Brady and Brees in the longevity dream but Giants need a pipeline’er like Garoppolo was for Brady, and Rosen will need development.

JJ: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

How Darnold, Allen and Josh Rosen shake out is going to be fascinating to watch from now until late April, with two of the three likely going in the first two picks. Allen’s stock is high as draft evaluations begin, though that could change between now, the Combine, pro days and then the draft. 

3. Indianapolis Colts

Moon: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

GM Chris Ballard will want to give his new coach a jump start and a pass rusher on the fast Lucas Oil turf is a must for NFL’s 31st sack ‘D’ corps. Too high to take a flyer on LSU’s Arden Key with his concerns.

JJ: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

Chubb is an absolute menace who instantly would give the Colts’ lackluster pass rush a disruptive jolt. With quarterbacks going off the board in the first two selections, Chris Ballard gets his pick of the best players available — and goes with the best one. 

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston)

Moon: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Letting Joe Haden go hurt in more ways than one and Browns need a shutdown force in division with elite defenses, all except for the Browns’ (7 INT).

JJ: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

The thought of pairing Barkley with Darnold is awfully enticing for a Browns team that hasn’t ranked in the top half of the league in points scored since 2008. Barkley is as complete a running back as you’ll find in the draft, rushing for 1,271 yards but also catching 54 passes for 632 yards at Penn State last year. 

5. Denver Broncos 

Moon: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Since Peyton Manning finished, Broncos have had woeful QB results, and bringing back Brock Osweiler was a low point among several (Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian), all playing in ’17.

JJ: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame

Nelson may be the best offensive player in this draft — and yes, that includes Barkley in this discussion — and has the physicality and athleticism to be a Pro Bowler from Year 1 to Year 10 in the league. Denver needs to address its quarterback situation, and they could opt for Rosen here, but Nelson seems too good to pass up in this spot. 

6. New York Jets 

Moon: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

RBs were devalued a few years ago. Not now, with 6 of top 8 rushers in playoffs, the need for a run game is back in vogue.

JJ: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The Jets could be the landing spot for whatever quarterback is squeezed out of the top two, with 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg looking like a bust at this point. The Jets need to do more to improve their offensive structure around the quarterback with a better offensive line and running game, and could look for Texas tackle Connor Williams here. But in a year that could be a bumper crop of quarterbacks, the Jets get theirs. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Moon: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Ward was a backfield mate of Marshon Lattimore and consistently solid. Bucs haven’t gone DL at No. 1 in 5 years and want to remain elite up front but Ward projects as day-one starter.

JJ: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Fitzpatrick looks like the second-best defensive player in the draft, and the Bucs might be jumping for joy if he falls to them at No. 7. Fitzpatrick could be either a corner or a safety, but no matter where he is, he seems like a good bet to be great. 

8. Chicago Bears

Moon: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame

Too high to take a WR. OL coach Harry Hiestand developed Nelson, and protecting Mitch Trubisky is a franchise-grade mandate. Texas OT Connor Williams is the other option, with more experience on the edge.

JJ: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

In going through the first seven picks here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears traded out of this spot, since I agree with Moon that it’s probably too high to take a wide receiver. Perhaps Ryan Pace is able to trade up for the third consecutive year to snag Fitzpatrick or Nelson; or maybe he’ll look to trade down to add some more picks and still have a shot at landing Ridley, a corner (like Ohio State’s Denzel Ward), an outside linebacker (like Texas’ Malik Jefferson) or a tackle (like Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, who played under OL coach Harry Hiestand in college) later in the first round. 

9. San Francisco 49ers

Moon: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Pairing a force player with Reuben Foster immediately creates a defensive core, and Smith is a hedge against Foster injury issues. But Alabama WR Calvin Ridley may be too good to pass up as complement to QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

JJ: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

The lure of adding a go-to wide receiver to pair with Jimmy Garoppolo — who made a ragtag bunch of pass-catchers look pretty good after getting the 49ers’ starting nod in December — is too strong to pass up here. Sutton caught 62 passes for 1,085 yards with 12 touchdowns for SMU in 2017.

10. Oakland Raiders

Moon: Vita Vae, DT, Washington

Ridley would fit Raiders’ tradition for impact passing offense if he lasts this long, and Raiders very likely to go offense to muscle up for Jon Gruden’s program and support Derek Carr. But Gruden’s Oakland and Tampa Bay teams were stout on defense. 

JJ: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

In Smith, the Raiders could see the rock of their defense for years to come under Jon Gruden. This may be a little high for an inside linebacker, though, and Ward could be an option here as well. 

Bears-49ers highlighted the gap between Mitchell Trubisky and Jimmy Garoppolo

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USA TODAY

Bears-49ers highlighted the gap between Mitchell Trubisky and Jimmy Garoppolo

In the big picture, the result of Sunday’s game — a 15-14 Bears loss to the San Francisco 49ers, who scored all their points on five Robbie Gould field goals — doesn’t matter a whole lot. It does to the players, of course, and will have some impact on the draft positions of both of these teams.

But what Sunday’s meeting between two of the worst teams in the NFL did highlight was the gap between Jimmy Garoppolo and Mitchell Trubisky.

Garoppolo, who’s in his fourth year in the league, made his first start with the 49ers and completed 26 of 37 passes for 293 yards with an interception and an 82.4 rating. Trubisky, making his eighth career start, completed 12 of 15 passes for 102 yards with one touchdown and a rating of 117.2. But this less about each player’s respective stat line and more about how each player looked on Sunday.

Garoppolo — who was barely pressured by the Bears’ front seven — picked apart the middle of the field and made a number of impressive throws, even with a lackluster group of receivers and a running game that didn’t go anywhere (Carlos Hyde rushed 17 times for 54 yards).

For all the talk in the Bay Area of Garoppolo not knowing coach Kyle Shahanan’s offensive system, he looked comfortable and confident throwing the ball and operating the San Francisco offense. Garoppolo’s interception was less about him making a bad throw and more about Kyle Fuller making an outstanding play to rip the ball away from receiver Louis Murphy.

Meanwhile, Trubisky started the game well, finding Dontrelle Inman for an eight-yard touchdown and showing good timing on some quick slant throws. But whatever modest level of success he had against a 49ers defense that entered Sunday ranked 27th in DVOA fizzled in the second half. Trubisky fumbled twice in the span of three plays at one point and looked “hoppy” at times, though he once again did well to avoid any dangerous throws.

Everyone shares in the blame for the Bears’ offensive struggles, from Trubisky to the running game to the wide receivers to the offensive line to the coaching staff. It’s not like the 49ers have markedly better players surrounding their franchise quarterback, though there’s an argument to be made the coaching around Garoppolo is better.

But while Garoppolo out-played Trubisky on Sunday, this isn’t necessarily a sky-is-falling take second-guessing the Bears’ decision to get their guy instead of the 49ers’ guy. Worth noting: Garoppolo will be a free agent after this season, and given the market for quarterbacks (see: Mike Glennon’s contract) he’ll be in line for a hefty payday from San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the Bears control Trubisky for four more inexpensive years during which he can develop and grow. It might be easier to build a core around a quarterback who will earn a little over $29 million on his current contract than having to pay around $20 million just to keep said franchise quarterback.