SANTA CLARA - How did you spend Jimmy Garoppolo Day? In the traditional manner? Gathering with loved ones to eat stuffed ravioli and watch replays of Jimmy G’s highlights against the Chicago Bears, smiling and drawing one another close every time he beat the blitz to complete a pass?
Or maybe you’re a nonconforming practitioner of Garoppolism. Maybe you did something quirky to celebrate the big day, like constructing a collage of Jimmy Garoppolo’s face from torn-up tickets dating back to the dark, pre-Garoppolo era of October. Or generating a list of JIMMY GAROPPOLO anagrams, like PLAYROOM JOG IMP or ROYAL JIG POMPOM or A GLORY PIMP MOJO.
I mean, Monday may not have officially been proclaimed Jimmy Garoppolo Day throughout the Bay Area. Just like no one has to declare Play in the Snow Day when a rare inch or two falls in our foothills. When a miracle occurs, you run with it.
And man, we were running with it Monday, a day after Garoppolo made his long-anticipated first start in red and gold, and led the 49ers to a come-from-behind victory at Chicago.
On the frequencies of sports-talk radio, only one topic existed. From the drive-time shows at 6 a.m. until the lonely first-time callers at 11 p.m., it was Garoppolo, Garoppolo, Garoppolo. Shaun Livingston’s one-game suspension was unheard-of, Rob Gronkowski’s cheap shot was a nonevent and Giancarlo Stanton was … wait … who is Giancarlo Stanton again?
I can’t remember. And I don’t care, unless he can block for Jimmy Garoppolo next season, or at least groom the great quarterback’s eyebrows or something.
The sports-talk guys were over the moon with Garoppolo’s accuracy under pressure, with the way he got teammates lined up despite his short time in the system, with his postgame attire in Chicago: black blazer, white dress shirt, white pocket square. His passer rating against the Bears was 82.4; the cut-of-his-jib rating was a perfect 158.3.
At one point during my drive to Santa Clara for Kyle Shanahan’s weekly Monday press conference, I heard 95.7 FM run a pre-recorded promo urging listeners to tune in for all the latest on Garoppolo. 95.7, I’d like to remind you, is the Raiders’ flagship radio station. The Raiders, I’d like to remind you, are tied for first place in the AFC West and thoroughly relevant in the playoff picture. The 49ers are 2-10. None of that matters, because there’s only Jimmy Garoppolo, and he doesn’t play in Oakland.
On YouTube, a gentleman who posts under the name HawkHaterTV recorded a selfie video extolling Garoppolo’s virtues shortly after the 49ers’ 15-14 win. “Jimmy Garoppolo is a stud,” he said to his phone. “And I’m ecstatic to be a 49ers fan right now. Jimmy G’s season is in full effect, the 49ers are headed in the right direction and I cannot wait to see where this goes.”
Meanwhile, the Twitter user @cakede_ posted this: “My dad wants me to marry jimmy garoppolo lmao.”
And why, I might ask @cakede_, are you “l-ing” your “ao”? A man could do a lot worse for a son-in-law than a cross between the next Joe Montana and the next Jack Kennedy.
Even Garoppolo’s teammates sounded like admiring kids after Sunday’s game.
According to reporters on the scene, running back Carlos Hyde made the ultimate Garoppolo comparison (East Coast version). “That’s what he reminded me of: just a young Tom Brady out there,” Hyde said. “How Brady is late in the game, where you give him like 30 seconds to go, yo, he can still win the game for his team.”
Goodwin, who had a career-high eight catches for 99 yards on the other end of those impeccable Garropolobs, gestured across the locker room to the GQQB at one point and said: “Just look at him. Look at him. You know what I’m saying? He’s got it together. He came in a short time and has just helped us flip this around. Some people are just winners, and he’s a winner.”
ESPN’s Jim Trotter tweeted Monday that when the 49ers players adjourned to the team buses at Soldier Field, Goodwin stood up from his first-row seat and offered it to Garoppolo as the quarterback boarded. Other 49ers cheered the gesture. Disrespectful, if you ask me. Garoppolo should have been driving the vehicle, and controlling the music.
Asked about this touching scene at his presser, Shanahan said he was on a different bus and hadn’t witnessed it. “That’s nice of him,” the coach added. “Smart. Receivers should do whatever they can to get quarterbacks to like them.”
I was relying on Shanahan to throw a bucket of cold water in my face. I was in the grip of Garoppolo Fever and borderline delirious. I needed a voice of reason to remind me that the 49ers didn’t score a single touchdown in Jimmy G’s first start of 2017, and that the Bears are a pretty bad team.
And the first words out of Shanahan’s mouth were: “You know, it was fun to watch, first time on the plane, watching it a couple times today. I think seeing it out there live, you could tell he made some impressive throws.”
Shanahan did try to temper some of our zeal. He noted that Garoppolo made a few bad reads, and that it took him a little longer to get plays off than it did his predecessors, Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard, because he’s still learning the terminology. But these were sour little piano notes drowned out by the Garoppolo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Late in the press conference, I asked Shanahan if he could remember another individual player making a late-season appearance that generated this much excitement on a team.
“Not one that I’ve been on,” he said. “I’m sure there have been. I’m sure there’s a number of them. But not one that I’ve been on, especially with the quarterback position, so it’s different. I think it was some excitement that we needed. I think we’ve gone through a long year. I think it’s been a necessary year. I think there was a lot of good that has come from this year, even though your record doesn’t totally show it.”
And he’s right. Have we put the cart about 100 yards in front of the horse here? You bet. Garoppolo has played a little more than four quarter for the 49ers. Hoyer and Beathard each had one stellar game here, too. We really won’t know what the Niners have in the new guy until next year, when he is steeped in Shanahan’s system and opponents have plenty of film to look at.
But as Shanahan said, this has been a brutal year for his players, and for 49ers fans. They deserve a little Garoptimism at this point. So let’s make today Jimmy Garoppolo Day, too, and turn December into Garoppolo Awareness Month, and make 2018 the Year of the Garoppolo. We’ll deal with reality when it gets here.