Should We Pump the Brakes on Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco 49ers?

Should We Pump the Brakes on Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco 49ers?

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers were two very different teams in 2017. After a nightmarish 0-8 start, general manager John Lynch acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots.

A dream run of five straight victories to close the season—including three over playoff teams—followed soon after.

That winning streak lifted Garoppolo’s record as an NFL starter to 7-0. It also earned the 26-year-old a jaw-dropping five-year, $137.5 million extension.

Lynch followed up with another aggressive offseason. And that combination of positive vibes has 49ers fans dreaming big as we move into the summer.

The playoffs. Maybe even Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII.

The problem with expectations is this is the time of year they tend to get out of hand. And the ones in Santa Clara, California, need to be dialed back.

Because while we know the 49ers are better—substantially so—we still don’t know exactly how good they are.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Garoppolo, who threw for 1,560 yards and seven scores in his first year in the Bay Area, is the centerpiece of all this confidence. As Eric Branch reported for SF Gate, Niners legend Steve Young believes the time served as Tom Brady’s understudy in New England uniquely prepared Jimmy G for the hype and expectations he faces:

“Now the expectations are huge, and that’s good. He knows how good you have to be. He’s watched it—so that’s nice. It’s not going to be ‘Oh, Jimmy, the expectations are too high.’ He’s like ‘No, I know how good you have to be. You can expect me to do whatever you want, but I know how good I have to be. I’ve witnessed it.’ It just makes a huge difference. A lot of players don’t have any idea how hard the job is; what really good looks like. And Jimmy’s watched it for four years.”

Garoppolo played well last year. He took control of the 49ers offense, made plays when he needed to and appeared to mesh seamlessly with head coach Kyle Shanahan. The team made it crystal clear it thinks Garoppolo can lead it to a Super Bowl when it paid him approximately all the money ever.

But we’re still talking about a quarterback with seven career starts. A quarterback who averaged an interception a start with the 49ers—the sort of turnover rate that can lead to trouble.

Garoppolo has shown the potential to be great. But he ain’t great yet.

San Francisco wasn’t any more shy about bolstering the ground game than it was about locking up Garoppolo. After the team signed free agent Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million contract, Shanahan raved about the versatility the 5’9″, 205-pounder brings while speaking with Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

“Everyone talks about running back and stuff—they need a new position to name people,” Shanahan said. “Because he plays running back and receiver and tight end—he does all that. You use him the same way you use all these positions. He’s a very good running back. But he also brings a lot of other stuff to the table.”

Jerick McKinnon (center)Ben Margot/Associated Press/Associated Press

McKinnon, who

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