SANTA CLARA — Things have been so bleak for San Francisco in recent years that one successful start by the franchise quarterback of the future was enough to get the 49ers faithful dreaming big.

Jimmy Garoppolo is already being compared to greats such as Joe Montana by the fans and talk radio shows after winning his first start for the 49ers, praise he quickly tried to downplay.

“I try not to listen to any of the outside stuff. The Joe Montana comparison, I think it’s a little early for those. It’s only been one game,” Garoppolo said Wednesday before agreeing with one similarity with the Hall of Famer who won four Super Bowl titles for the 49ers.

“We are both Italian. So, we have that in common. But, I think it might be a little early.”

Niners fans can be forgiven a bit for the high level of excitement because of how dreadful the team has been in recent years. After three consecutive trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl appearance under Jim Harbaugh from 2011-13, the franchise has been in a free-fall.

The hiring of offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan brought some optimism this season, but there was little tangible evidence of improvement on the field with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard at quarterback, leading the team to trade a 2018 second-round pick for Garoppolo on Oct. 31.

Garoppolo looked sharp in leading the Niners (2-10) to a 15-14 win at Chicago last Sunday, only raising the hype.

“To come in there in that situation and to make some of the plays that he did, when he is in that situation, definitely excites everybody,” Shanahan said.

“I think everyone knows the potential and the possibilities. It’s not that you have to temper, you just have to be realistic. It was one game. He did some really good things in that game and there’s a lot of stuff that we can get better at too from that game.”

Garoppolo went 26 for 37 for 293 yards in his third career start, with his only interception coming on a pass that was on target to Louis Murphy but ripped loose by safety Kyle Fuller.

About the only knock on him was an inability to get into the end zone as San Francisco settled for five field goals.

“We kind of knew that’s one of the tougher areas of the field,” Garoppolo said. “That and third down are always going to take some time. But, there’s some good things to learn from.”


2017 FINISH: 64-98 (5th in NL West)

MANAGER: Bruce Bochy (902-880, 12th season)

PERSONNEL EXECUTIVE: Brian Sabean, executive vice president of baseball operations (4th season)


Highest-paid player: RHP Johnny Cueto ($21.8 million in 2018)

Top returning position player: C Buster Posey (4.0 WAR in 2017,

Top returning pitcher: LHP Madison Bumgarner (2.9 WAR in 2017)


Key addition(s): 3B Evan Longoria (trade), OF Andrew McCutchen (trade), OF Austin Jackson (free agent), LHP Tony Watson (free agent), LHP Derek Holland (minor league free agent), 3B Chase d’Arnaud (minor league free agent), RHP Jose Valdez (minor league free agent), C Hector Sanchez (minor league free agent), RHP Casey Kelly (minor league free agent).

Key subtraction(s): RHP Matt Cain (retired), 1B Michael Morse (free agent), LHP Matt Moore (trade), OF Denard Span (trade), SS Christian Arroyo (trade), RHP Kyle Crick (trade).

Baseball America top-100 prospect(s): OF Heliot Ramos (No. 79).


The Giants had won three World Series, made four postseason berths and finished third or better in the NL West since the start of 2009 before injuries played a part in burying them in the basement of the division last year. They’re hoping veteran additions — from trades for Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen (31) and Rays 3B Evan Longoria (32) to the signing of OF Austin Jackson (31) — reposition them for contention in 2018 in baseball’s toughest division.

The shoulder injury sustained in a dirt bike accident limited LHP Madison Bumgarner to a career-low 17 starts. Now he’s out again with a broken left pinkie finger. RHP Johnny Cueto (1.7 WAR) fought himself and injuries in his second year in San Francisco. Those two reverting to form alone would boost the Giants’ stock in 2018.

RHP Mark Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million pact before the 2017 season to shore up the Giants’ bullpen only to have forearm trouble limit him to 30 not-so-great innings. The Giants will look for him to bounce back from a September surgery.


83 wins.

— San Diego Union-Tribune