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It must be creepy to be Jimmy Garoppolo these days. He spent three-plus years as a backup to Tom Brady — holding a clipboard and keeping a low profile. Now all of a sudden he’s one of the Kardashians.

People are watching everything he does, evaluating his postgame attire and asking fan mag questions. Recently a reporter noticed that Jimmy G doesn’t wear his helmet when coming on the field before games and remembered that Brady doesn’t either.

He asked if going helmetless was “an homage” to Brady.

“A what?” Garoppolo asked.

So apparently Jimmy doesn’t speak French. And we thought he could do anything. Hopefully, this doesn’t affect his run for mayor of San Francisco.

Granted, Garoppolo’s got that special zing. It’s hard to describe.

I keep coming back to the late Bill Walsh, who was fanatic about footwork. He used to say he could watch video that only showed a quarterback’s shoes and could tell whether or not a pass was complete. Garoppolo bounces back in the pocket briskly and then pauses, setting his feet nicely in balance. Somewhere Walsh smiles.

No doubt about it. He’s been a game-changer. And as everyone is saying, the 49ers lost five consecutive games by three or fewer points. What if Jimmy G had been playing? With him, the 49ers could easily be a playoff contender next year.

So now we all need to light a candle, throw a coin in a fountain and pray he does not get injured.

Not to harsh anyone’s mellow, but let’s face it: For NFL quarterbacks, an injury is virtually a rite of passage. They all get hurt to various degrees and when it is one of the few and the gifted, there’s usually only one outcome.


Aaron Rodgers is Exhibit A. When he broke his collarbone, the Packers were instantly out of the playoff hunt.

He returned last week, clearly rushing it, but couldn’t summon the magic. They lost and Green Bay’s postseason evaporated. Rodgers immediately went back on the IR, which is probably where he should have stayed.

Or, let’s look across the bay at last year’s Jimmy G — Derek Carr. Last season his broken leg torpedoed the Raiders’ playoff hopes.

In the fourth game this year he suffered a fracture of a small bone in his back, the transverse process.

He sat out a week, then returned to the lineup. He’s been much less effective than last year, when he was an MVP candidate, and the Raiders are long shots for the playoffs.

Geez, what happened?

Well, a couple of points about a fractured transverse process. First, it is extremely painful. Second, according to a medical website, it generally takes at least six weeks to heal. (Longer, I’d guess, if your job description includes getting knocked off your feet repeatedly on Sundays.) And third, symptoms include numbness, muscle weakness and decreased range of motion.

So wouldn’t it be logical that Carr might take an injection to make the pain tolerable? And wouldn’t it be possible that the stiffness and muscle weakness could be affecting his throwing?

Of course, when asked, Carr says he couldn’t be healthier. It’s the gridiron code of honor. But the next time someone asks what’s wrong with Carr, consider injury.

Carson Wentz is out for the Eagles, who were fashionable Super Bowl picks. Backup quarterback Nick Foles was fine in relief last week after Wentz tore up his knee, but you know Philadelphia wishes it had its stud out there.

In the Bay Area, Garoppolo has been a clinical study in the difference one man can make. The NFL rolls out the old “it’s a quarterback league” cliche, but if anything that understates the reality.

The way the professional game is currently configured — encouraging passing, calling the faintest of pass interference infractions — the QB isn’t the MVP; he’s king. Everything, good or bad, happens because of him.

The concern? This is the same offensive line that caused the phrase “poor C.J. Beathard” to trend earlier this year. There’s a reason they were 1-10 before Jim-sanity overtook us. Forty-niners quarterbacks have been sacked 42 times, including seven for Garoppolo in three games as a starter.

Hopefully, he’ll make it through to the end of the year. Maybe with a minor ding or two. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, the league, which offers lip service to player safety, should pay attention. Sure, it is a blow when someone like Wentz or Rodgers or Andrew Luck gets hurt.

But for a struggling franchise, battling to hold its fan base, finding a bona fide franchise quarterback can’t be underestimated.

You’ll hear the “why don’t they put a dress on them?” gripe from the old-timers if the league takes steps to protect the quarterback. But at the very least the NFL should stop the play where a pass rusher — after the ball has been thrown — blasts the QB, wraps him up and drives him into the ground.

Rushers should be able to hit him, even knock him over, but no wrapping them up.

Because real quarterbacks are too hard to find. And once found, they are too valuable to lose. Ask the 49ers.

Contact C.W. Nevius at cw.nevius@pressdemocrat.com. Twitter: @cwnevius.

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