Garoppolo easily wins over 49ers

Jan 2, 2018 - 3:24 AM SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers won more than just a fifth straight game Sunday.

They won the hearts of several veteran players, including standout left tackle Joe Staley, who made it clear he wants to be back for a 12th season next year despite a fourth consecutive non-winning season.

It's amazing what the addition of one player can do to a team's psyche.

Now imagine the possible ramifications of the loss of said player.

Jimmy Garoppolo is set to become a free agent this offseason.

The 49ers can keep him by: 1) Getting him to sign a new contract; or 2) slapping a franchise on tag on him.

Both options have their plusses and minuses.

The last two NFL quarterbacks on the verge of stardom to get long-term deals were Detroit's Matthew Stafford (five years, $135 million) and Oakland's Derek Carr (five years, $125 million).

The 49ers surely can afford to pay Garoppolo that kind of money. But the concern is: Isn't that a lot to guarantee a guy who has made just seven NFL starts, just five for your team?

The 49ers don't need to make that kind of commitment ... yet.

The franchise tag assures he'll be back next season, but it's not cheap. It cost $21.3 to use it on a quarterback in 2017, and that's only likely to go up.

The advantage: It's only a one-year commitment in case the young stud goes south.

It's not an easy call.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan stuck with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard long enough to ensure a high draft pick, then switched to Jimmy Garoppolo, who won back the fans.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The season ended. Imagine an all-in NFL postseason. Anyone betting against the only team that went unbeaten in December?

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. Now you see why this physically imposing guy bounced around from program to program in college. Great talent. Minimal results. His inconsistency and injuries are equally agonizing.

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Kicker Robbie Gould. Who'd have thought the 49ers could let Phil Dawson go and actually upgrade without using a draft pick? The nearly perfect Gould, basically a scrap-heap find in the offseason, was far and away the team MVP among guys who were around for more than half the season.

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: DeMeco Ryans. The recently retired player learned the coaching ropes as the defensive quality control coach in 2017. He has a lot of fans in the coaching ranks, and could be in line to become a full-time position coach, or possibly even a coordinator, in the very near future.

--So why wouldn't the 49ers play it safe and simply slap their franchise tag on pending free agent Jimmy Garoppolo next season?

Here's the problem:

You are basically telling the guy -- the face of your franchise, no less -- that you're not completely sold on him. That he still has some proving to do in order to truly earn the big bucks.

And you have to wonder how Garoppolo would respond to that.

The 26-year-old has kept all his options open. While stating several times that he's enjoyed his relationship with Shanahan and his new teammates, he's never assured he's coming back.

Heck, just last week he innocently declared one of his first tasks in the offseason would be to clean out his apartment.

It could be because he's about to buy a mansion. It also could be because that mansion is in another city.

San Francisco Bay Area sports history says the 49ers would be wise to lock up Garoppolo long-term as soon as possible.

A remarkably similar situation unfolded for the Golden State Warriors in 1994, after rookie Chris Webber had electrified a dormant fan base.

The Warriors, who had given Webber an out clause in his contract after one season, couldn't get the standout to re-sign after the 1994 season.

Webber was just a restricted free agent, meaning the Warriors retained the right to match any offer, thus forcing him to stay.

It sounded like the Warriors had the power ... until Webber chose not to play at all in 1994.

Two weeks into the stalemate, the Warriors caved and agreed to trade Webber to Washington for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round draft picks.

It set the Warriors back a decade. A team that had made the playoffs five times in eight years went 13 years before reaching the postseason again.

That's 2030, 49ers fans, if you're counting.

--How hot were the 49ers at the end of the season? Consider:

Their six total wins were a first ever for an NFL team that started the season 0-9.

They were the only team in the NFL this season to go unbeaten in December.

They were the first team since the 1986 Indianapolis Colts to enter December with 10 or more losses and then win all their remaining games. The Colts made the playoffs the following season.

They won five straight games overall and three straight on the road for the first time since 2013, when they went 12-4 and came within one game of a return trip to the Super Bowl.

They gained 369 or more yards in five straight games for the first time since 1998, when they went 12-4 and made the playoffs.

--Remarkably, the 49ers finished the season tied with, of all teams, their cross-Bay rivals, the Oakland Raiders, for the ninth-worst record in the NFL (6-10).

The two teams will be involved in a coin flip at the NFL Combine to determine which team picks ninth and which picks 10th in the April draft.

Cornerback is at or near the top of each team's wish list.

NOTES: QB Jimmy Garoppolo won his fifth straight 49ers start Sunday at Los Angeles, making him 7-0 in career starts counting his previous two with New England. The seven-game winning streak is tied for the NFL's third-longest of all-time with QB Dieter Brock and QB Daunte Culpepper, trailing only QB Ben Roethlisberger (15) and QB Mike Tomczak (10). Garoppolo's 1,542 passing yards in his five 49ers starts are a franchise record and also the fourth-most in NFL history in a player's first five starts for a team, with QB Drew Bledsoe (Buffalo) leading that list with 1,762 yards. His 2,038 passing yards in his first seven NFL starts also ranks fourth all-time, with Billy Volek (2,305) atop those rankings. Additionally, with Sunday's win, Garoppolo joined QB Elvis Grbac (four) and QB Jim Plunkett (three) as the only 49ers quarterbacks since 1970 to win each of their first three road starts for the organization. ... RB Carlos Hyde recorded the sixth two-touchdown game of his career in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams. He finished the season with a career-best eight rushing touchdowns. ...

WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion) had to leave Sunday's game after being carted off the field. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion. Goodwin had already recorded his second touchdown reception of the season. He finished the year, his first with the 49ers, with career-highs in starts (16), receptions (56) and receiving yards (962). ... WR Aldrick Robinson caught his second touchdown pass of the season in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams. The TD catch was the ninth of his career. ... DL Sheldon Day recorded his first sack as a 49er in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams. The sack was the third of Day's career. ... DE Cassius Marsh forced a fumble when he sacked Los Angeles Rams QB Sean Mannion in Sunday's win. It was Marsh's third forced fumble of the season. ... OLB Elvis Dumervil sacked Los Angeles Rams QB Sean Mannion in Sunday's win, giving him at least a half-sack against all 32 NFL teams in his career. DE John Abraham is the only other NFL player ever to have achieved that feat. Dumervil's sack gave him 105.5 for his career. ... K Robbie Gould had two field goals and four extra points in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams, allowing him to finish the season with a career-high 145 points, the second-most in 49ers history. K David Akers set the mark of 166 points in 2011. Gould's two field goals gave him a career-high 39, which led the NFL this season.

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