Grant Cohn: 49ers' patience with Jimmy Garoppolo could end with one hit

When the 49ers released Brian Hoyer, they were left with only two QBs on the active roster.|


Help me understand Kyle Shanahan’s logic.

Shanahan doesn’t want to play his new quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, because Garoppolo isn’t ready. He doesn’t have a good enough understanding of the playbook, the game plan, the audibles, the checks at the line of scrimmage - none of that stuff. He can’t function. He’s been on the team only one week. If he goes in the game this weekend against the New York Giants, he could get himself or someone else injured.

Shanahan also doesn’t want to play Garoppolo because the offensive line can’t protect him. If he goes in the game and gets hammered, he may choose not to re-sign long term with the 49ers. Playing him now could kill contract negotiations and ruin any good faith the Niners have with Garoppolo and his agent, Don Yee.

I get all that.

Here’s where I’m confused:

If the starting quarterback, C.J. Beathard, gets hurt, Garoppolo has to play - he’s the only other quarterback on the roster. The 49ers don’t have a third QB. It’s Garoppolo or nobody. Does that make sense to you?

Shouldn’t the Niners sign a third QB? Someone who could serve as a bridge between Beathard and Garoppolo until Garoppolo learns the offense or the offensive line can shield him from sudden death.

“Bridge” might be the wrong word. Shouldn’t the Niners sign a third piñata in case the current piñata - Beathard - busts? And believe me, he could bust at any minute - or get smashed, considering how often defensive players hit him.

Isn’t a third piñata the logical solution? Or am I missing something?

Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Shanahan called 57 passes and only 16 runs even though the offensive line can’t protect the quarterback. Beathard took at least 20 hits. Which means Shanahan put the inexperienced Beathard in harm’s way for no good reason.

Whatever happened to safer plays like screen passes? Whatever happened to running the ball? Teams in the NFL have been known to run the ball. Arizona ran Adrian Peterson 37 times against the 49ers and kept their quarterback, Drew Stanton, mostly upright.

At Shanahan’s Monday press conference, he acted innocent, like he didn’t know he called so many passes. Like it never crossed his mind. Like he doesn’t have a quality-control guy to update him during the game on the run-to-pass ratio.

“If you would have told me after the game that we were in the 50s compared to 17s, I would say how much did we get killed by?” Shanahan said about all those unnecessary passes. “That’s definitely not the goal going in. We want to be balanced, especially in a situation that we were in. I would even want to do more.

“I know it was extremely unusual that we had 28 passes called and four two-minute drives. Never been a part of that before. I know we threw every single time in the fourth quarter.”

That’s a good rationalization - the score at the end of the game forced Shanahan to call so many passes. He wasn’t really trying to maim poor Beathard.

Except, Shanahan called 25 passes and only eight runs in the first half of the game when it was still close - that’s a one-to-three ratio. He was just being reckless.

This is what I said to Shanahan at his presser.

“Beathard’s been getting hit a lot,” I said. “If he goes out in the next game, would Jimmy Garoppolo be your quarterback?”

“Yes,” Shanahan said.

“I thought you were planning on waiting on him?”

Shanahan stared at me for a second. “Well, there are two quarterbacks on our roster, so who else would you suggest?”

Was this a trick question from the rookie coach?

“Would you consider bringing in a third quarterback as a bridge until Garoppolo’s ready?” I asked.

“Who is that third quarterback?”

He’s asking me?

So many names ran through my head. Joe Montana. Steve Young. Rip Van Winkle.

Any working stiff.

“Someone on the practice squad, or someone who’s a free agent. Maybe Matt Barkley?” I said.

Barkley was on the team during the offseason and the preseason. And Nick Mullens is on the practice squad. Mullens has been in every quarterback meeting this year. He should know the offense.

“No,” Shanahan said. “We feel Jimmy is about where they would be, especially with them not being with us the last few months. You’d have to cut other players to do that. And we don’t have that leeway right now just to cut a lot of other guys. Everybody’s playing a role on our team right now with the injuries we have. So, we really don’t have the room for that right now.”

“So you won’t be looking at quarterbacks (Tuesday)?” Tuesday is the 49ers’ off day.

“No,” Shanahan said.

Of course not. Why would he plan ahead? Is it really a coach’s job to plan ahead?

Me, I would have kept Brian Hoyer, because he could have gotten killed while Garoppolo learned the playbook and remained safe and sound on the sideline. But that would have qualified as a plan.

I get it now.

Grab a helmet, Jimmy. You’re up next.

Grant Cohn covers the 49ers for The Press Democrat and You can reach him at

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