Graphic by Francisco Valladares/Athletics Editor

Mining for the Motherlode

Can the Niners make the playoffs this season?

By Juan Villagomez Contributor

The San Francisco 49ers’ 2017 season did not start off as planned. In fact, they didn’t win their first game until week 10, when they played the New York Giants, who were equally as bad. The score ended 31-21 and it started to look like that would be their only win of the season, with most fans having little to look forward to.

So what changed?

The 49ers agreed to terms with the New England Patriots in a trade deadline deal that altered San Francisco’s rebuilding process. In this deal, they acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a talented backup stuck behind all-time great Tom Brady. Garoppolo started in two games prior to this deal but won both of them and showed plenty of promise, shadowing Brady, one of the best to ever play the quarterback position. Many pundits and fans believed him to be the next franchise quarterback for the Patriots.  

Why does this matter?

Garoppolo instantly became a spark plug for the 49ers. In his first start, Garoppolo led the team to a close 15-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, ending the game with 26 of 37 attempts, 293 yards and one interception. He followed up that performance by winning each of the remaining weeks in the season, ending as a 5-0 starter for the San Francisco 49ers and 7-0 starting in his career. These victories included an impressive win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who would go on to play in the AFC championship game, and the Los Angeles Rams, their talented division rival. It was hopeless season ending in optimism, as well as suggesting a potentially great rivalry between Garoppolo and Rams quarterback Jared Goff. To think all that San Francisco had to give up was a second round pick for this year’s draft. What a steal, right?

The 49ers are making moves for a potentially great future.

Last weekend on March 10, the 49ers signed Richard Sherman, an incredibly talented defensive back released by the Seattle Seahawks after playing seven seasons with them. He is a four-time All-Pro first team and four-time Pro Bowl selection and ranks first in the league in both passes defensed (99) and interceptions (32) since 2011. On top of that, the 49ers re-signed receiver Marquise Goodwin to a three-year extension. Goodwin ended with a season high: 56 receptions, 962 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

With plans to sign former Giants interior lineman Weston Richburg to a five-year deal, the 49ers are making sure Garoppolo is well protected and able lead them to their first playoff game since 2013.

Skill positions are important but San Francisco is making sure to invest in their line play too. The 49ers made contract extensions for two key linemen, center Daniel Kilgore for three years and offensive tackle Garry Gilliam for two. With plans to sign former Giants interior lineman Weston Richburg to a five-year deal, the 49ers are making sure Garoppolo is well protected and able lead them to their first playoff game since 2013.

Having little preparation and still starting out 5-0, this off-season will only do wonders for “Jimmy G” and the 49ers coaching staff, including the dynamic offensive schemes of head coach Kyle Shanahan. Garoppolo will definitely be familiarized with the 49ers’ playbook and lead them to their first playoff game since 2013. So tune in next season or you’ll miss the Jimmy G. and 49ers show.