Barber: Playing Jimmy Garoppolo is a non-starter for 49ers

Sunday would have been a perfect day to change quarterbacks, but Shanahan is sticking with Beathard.|

SANTA CLARA - We thought the 49ers were acquiring a solid quarterback when they traded for Jimmy Garoppolo on Oct. 30. Turns out they were getting some sort of doomsday device. The guy is cloaked in so much secrecy that the team won't even allow us to see him in action.

What are you hiding, 49ers? Give us the Garoppolo!

We figured this was the week we'd see No. 10 behind center. It made so much sense. The most obvious reason was that the 49ers are exiting their bye week. Swapping out one starting quarterback for another is always awkward. But if you're going to do it, why not make it happen after a doubly long break, one that the new guy (Garoppolo) spent with his nose in the playbook?

There are other factors that pointed to a Nov. 26 debut for Garoppolo. Like the health of his offensive line, and the health of C.J. Beathard's thumb.

The former is pretty good right now; it would make sense to introduce your new investment when tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown are both able-bodied and the quarterback has a chance to stay upright.

And the latter isn't perfect; Beathard, who has started the past four games at QB, still has a sore digit on his passing hand.

Anyway, we're dyin' over here. It has been excruciating to watch the 49ers perform for much of this season. Throw us a bone, Niners. Give us the Garoppolo.

But no.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan formally announced Wednesday what his general manager, John Lynch, had presaged Tuesday: that Beathard will get at least one more start. And erase the notion that Shanahan might play Garoppolo in the second half, or toggle between quarterbacks against the Seahawks on Sunday.

“It's not going to be like an experimental - get a guy a few reps and stuff,” Shanahan said. “You go with the guy and you do whatever you can to win the game, and you make changes with injuries if need be.”

So there you have it. The 49ers traded a high-high second-round draft choice to New England for Garoppolo, but he'll be a dashing clipboard-holder for at least another week.

Why? Shanahan talked about the decision at length Wednesday, but the only sentence you really need is this one: “I don't think it's totally right for Jimmy, C.J., the entire team or organization” to change quarterbacks right now.

The way I see it, Shanahan is 75 percent correct, which isn't bad for an NFL coach.

What's totally right for Jimmy? To set up a director's chair on the 49ers sideline bearing his name, and to let Sunday continue to be a day of rest for the fourth-year pro.

Shanahan's offensive system is notoriously complex - in its nomenclature, in its variety of sets, in its patterns of motion. Garoppolo admitted Wednesday that he isn't “100 percent comfortable” with every play.

And let's face it, he probably isn't 100 percent comfortable with his help on offense. The 49ers' interior line is shaky, and their wide receivers resemble the winners of an open tryout. The best thing for Garoppolo would be to admire the scene through binoculars.

What's totally right for C.J.? To keep on playing. The guy absolutely deserves it. He was more sparring partner than quarterback in his first four games (including a relief role at Washington in Week 6), hounded and battered by waves of pass rushers.

Two Sundays ago, the O-line finally gave him time to throw against the listless Giants, and Beathard was fantastic: 19 of 25 for 288 yards and a couple touchdowns, plus another TD rushing.

It would be fitting to give him further chances to prove his worth as an NFL quarterback.

What's totally right for the entire team? If you're talking about the team on the field, the answer is definitely to stick with Beathard. The 49ers finally found some rhythm behind their rookie quarterback in Week 10. To yank him out of the lineup and replace him with Garoppolo would be to jeopardize that flow.

Unfortunately for all of the above, the last part of Shanahan's equation is by far the most important. What's totally right for the organization? To put Garoppolo on the field.

In just about everything they've done since they arrived more or less in tandem last February, Lynch and Shanahan have taken a long view on their decisions.

That was true when they opted for middling Brian Hoyer as a stopgap quarterback rather than shelling out big bucks for someone with a higher profile, and when they released accomplished veterans like Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman.

Shanahan positions The Great Wait for Garoppolo as another example of patience, but you could see it as the opposite. Sticking with Beathard gives the 49ers the best chance of winning now. Playing Garoppolo is more vital to the team's future.

Here's the thing: The 49ers won't know what they have in Garoppolo until he sets up behind center in a few real games. Shanahan has suggested otherwise, and he doubled down on Wednesday.

“Just working with the guy every day and knowing what he's capable of, studying him throughout college and the times he has played in the NFL, I know the game's not too big for him,” Shanahan said. “I know he doesn't mind contact. I know he has all the talent. I know just working with him that he's a very smart guy and he's capable of doing it all. So, to me, when he goes in and plays this year, it's fun because you get to see it. You get some tape on it. It's more you get to talk. But, in terms of judging someone to how it goes, that's why I don't feel much of a pressure.”

Again, it makes me uncomfortable to contradict the quarterback whisperer on this topic. But I present Exhibit A as my counter-argument: Brian Hoyer.

Shanahan knew far more about Hoyer than he does about Garoppolo. The two worked together in Cleveland. Hoyer has way more career film than Jimmy G, who started just two regular-season games and five preseason games over 3½ seasons with the Patriots.

Shanahan thought Hoyer would be, at the very least, solid. And everything Hoyer did in practice and said in team meetings seemed to support the notion.

While I watched him only a couple times in training camp, the 49ers beat writers generally had favorable accounts of his performance.

But when the lights came on in the regular season and the horrors of the 49ers offense sprang to life, Hoyer froze. He got nervous in the pocket and made terrible decisions, went 0-6, compiled a 1970s-like passer rating of 74.1 and made it easy for the 49ers to ditch him in favor of Beathard.

How do we know Garoppolo won't do the same? Shanahan says the new guy “doesn't mind contact” and that “the game's not too big for him.” But Garoppolo's only NFL action has come in the cozy cocoon of the New England offense.

They say a man learns something about himself when he's waiting for Kendrick Bourne to break open and relying on Brandon Fusco to keep the pass rush away. And Shanahan will learn something, too.

If the 49ers are to retain Garoppolo past 2017, they will have to pony up at least $22 million, the expected basement for the QB franchise tag next year.

And if they truly believe he is their quarterback of the future, you'd have to imagine Garoppolo will command something close to the $45 million guaranteed and $77 million total the Dolphins ponied up for Ryan Tannehill.

That's a lot of money. Is Garoppolo worth it? There's only one way to find out, and it's not by inserting a thumb drive that contains the man's practice tape.

Garoppolo has to play sometime. Sunday would have been a great day for it.

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