SANTA CLARA — It is a firm rule that every NFL quarterback must have a nickname. So somebody came up with a beauty for the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo — Jimmy GQ.
The fashion magazine-handsome newcomer easily passes the airport test. That’s when you see the chiseled, 6-2, 225-pound 26-year-old walking through the airport and you say, “I don’t know who that is, but he looks like an NFL quarterback.”
Now, of course, we have to see if he plays like one.
Until last week, this column was adamantly opposed to rushing the team’s prized showhorse on the field. Let him settle in for a few more weeks. No hurry.
The main concern was he could get squashed like a bug. The offensive line is floundering. Watching poor crash-test quarterback C.J. Beathard get knocked facemask over tea kettle is becoming painful for us all, let alone No. 3.
But that was before head coach Kyle Shanahan arrived at his press conference last week with a can of worms, which he proceeded to open. Most football coaches avoid quarterback controversies like neckties.
Shanahan stepped right into this one, admitting he’s toying with the idea of playing Garoppolo now, and acknowledging that he runs into advocates for the idea everywhere, even at home. With the kind of sly quip that’s going to make him a media fave if he ever starts to win, he said his wife joined the “Play Jimmy G” chorus until he “had to simmer her down a little.”
So this is a thing. Garoppolo looms. Sooner rather than later.
I have two theories about why Shanahan wants him out there, despite the risks.
The first, unfortunately, is an unlikely conspiracy theory. Still, I’m going to throw it out there, just for the record.
Last year Garoppolo started two games for New England while Tom Brady was serving a four-game suspension. Jimmy G was excellent, but there’s a reason he only played two games.
In the second, he suffered one of those brutal Aaron Rodgers tackles, where the defender wraps you up, pins your arms to your sides and then body-slams your shoulder to the ground. (Which should be illegal, by the way. You should be allowed to hit the QB without the ball, but not wrap him up.)
Garoppolo suffered an “AC sprain” to his throwing shoulder, which I’ll bet the rest of us would call a shoulder separation.
He threw four passes the rest of the year, completing one. Granted, Brady was back, but that’s a small, uninspiring sample.
Last week, at his locker, I asked Garoppolo how long it took for the shoulder to heal. He said he was fine after two weeks. So, noted.
This year he played in three exhibition games with New England, putting up numbers that were perfectly fine, if not spectacular.
Now bear in mind that the 49ers did not sign Garoppolo to a contract extension when he was traded here from New England. Add in media reports that have said the team may not be ready to sign him to a long-term deal right away.
Wouldn’t it be within the realm of possibility that before the 49ers hand him $100 million, they want to see him on the field to be absolutely sure that he’s the player they thought they were getting? Specifically, is the shoulder OK?