TThere’s an old saying in NFL circles: “If you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have one.” Well, tell that to the San Francisco 49ers, who learned the value of keeping two qualified starters. Although the 49ers were criticized for taking backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a one-year guaranteed deal in the offseason rather than trading him for whatever they could get, the move may have saved their season after Trey Lance went down with a broken ankle on Sunday.
The extent of Lance’s injury was unknown when the team put Garoppolo – previously labeled “the most expensive backup in the world” by some of the snarkier members of the media – on the field against the Seattle Seahawks in first quarter. As usual, it was an effective but not flashy performance from Garoppolo, who had two touchdowns running and rushing and threw for 154 yards without a single pick. The 49ers beat the Seahawks 27-7, getting their first win of the season while handing Seattle their first loss.
It turns out they’ll be forced to rely on Garoppolo — who practiced alone for much of the offseason — in the long run. Immediately after the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Lance’s broken ankle will require season-ending surgery. It was heartbreaking news for a 22-year-old who has so much talent to offer fans. Suddenly, Garoppolo, who looked like he was going to spend his season sitting on the bench for a team that clearly wanted to move on from him, is again in charge of the team that took him Game NFC Championship last season.
Oh, and about that “most expensive backup” designation? If Garoppolo stays healthy, he will be a bargain. Yes, his contract guarantees him $6.5m, but the 49ers certainly saved themselves some money by restructuring his contract. While he could earn $12.65m if he started the entire year, that’s a far cry from the $24.2m he was due under his old deal.
It’s not a great situation for San Francisco, which was hoping to develop its top pick in the 2021 draft, but Garoppolo’s presence prevents Lance’s broken ankle from being a devastating blow. It turns out that in a league where top quality starting quarterbacks are the most valuable commodity a team can have, keeping two on hand doesn’t have to be silly.
Let’s be honest, though: this isn’t San Francisco’s Plan A. If another team was willing to overpay for Garoppolo during the offseason, he’d be that franchise’s starter right now. Goodness knows there are teams he could improve on (probably finding a home in a league that understandably doesn’t encourage tanking). Still, instead of treating him as a surplus commodity, the team valued his skills, and his many years playing within their system, over what was being offered.
So, the 49ers decided to be conservative, took their fair share of criticism and now seem to have been rewarded (albeit in the cruelest way possible). What is the moral here? Well, let’s go to a sports cliché that really applies in this situation: sometimes it’s the moves you don’t make.
MVP of the week
Ax Tagovailoa, quarterback, Miami Dolphins. For most of the Baltimore Ravens game against the Miami Dolphins, it looked like this was Lamar Jackson’s lost award. Unfortunately for him, Tagovailoa (with the help of the Ravens’ porous defense) had different plans as Miami overcame a 21-point deficit and posted a shocking 42-38 victory to improve their record to 2-0.
The story in Baltimore should be that Jackson was continuing to bet on himself and won: he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another, putting together 437 yards together. It still wasn’t enough because Tagovailoa was just much better: he threw for 469 yards and a whopping six touchdowns. Turns out, if you can do that, you don’t really need to do things with your feet. Right now the best quarterback in Florida may not be the one the Dolphins were reportedly hoping for in the offseason.
The situation of the week
six people. That’s the number of times Joe Burrow was sacked during the Bengals’ 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Although Burrow is one of the most dangerous QBs in the league, the only knock on his game is his tendency to take sacks. Last season, much of the blame was placed on Cincinnati’s iffy offensive line but the team was supposed to have spent the offseason fixing it.
The results? Worse than indecisive. Until now, Burrow was sacked 12 times in two games, a huge reason why last season’s Super Bowl runners-up started this campaign with an 0-2 record.
Video of the week
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 20-10 on Sunday, but the biggest play had little to do with football. In a typically chippy game between the two teams, Saints quarterback Marshon Lattimore and Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans were ejected during a bench-clearing brawl.
Lattimore probably had a right to be irritated about being sent off since Evans pushed him, but there was no doubt that the history between the two players influenced the referees. Meanwhile, Tom Brady also looked unhappy, at one point slamming his tablet in frustration. Perhaps his heart is elsewhere.
Quote of the week
“That shit was embarrassing. We got our asses drunk” – Indianapolis Colts quarterback DeForest Buckner tackles after his team’s 24-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s hard to argue with Buckner. In fact, the Colts’ cold in Jacksonville is just historic. The last time they won was in Jacksonville it was 2014, which is amazing considering the Jaguars were mostly pretty bad during that stretch. Despite upgrading at quarterback by trading for veteran Matt Ryan during the offseason, the Colts have started their season 0-2. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have won their first regular season game in 15 years. No points for guessing which team they are beat on both occasions.
Elsewhere throughout the series
— It was another bad look for the New York Jets, who were down 30-17 against the Cleveland Browns with less than two minutes to go. At one point, Cleveland’s there was a 99.9% chance of winning. However, after Joe Flacco’s elite touchdown pass, punter Braden Mann hauled in a successful onside kick that quickly turned into New York’s game-winning touchdown. The Jets beat the Browns 31-30 thanks in part to Mann getting his foot back in football.
Somehow, it wasn’t even Mann’s most impressive play of the game. New York wouldn’t even have been able to come back if Mann hadn’t kept a first-quarter drive alive with his arm, converting a fake punt on fourth-and-end that set up the first of Flacco’s four touchdowns. . Passes.
— The overcrowded Arizona Cardinals barely escaped falling into the same 0-2 hole as the Bengals. Fans had reason to worry about quarterback Kyler Murray – who signed a five-year, $230.5m contract in the offseason – after his team fell into a 20-0 halftime deficit against the Las Vegas Raiders, who were looking for their first win on the season too. season. Murray forced overtime with arguably the most absurd two-point conversion the league has seen in years.
After tying things up in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals went on to win the game in overtime fumble recovery. You know, just how they drew things up. It was a potential season-saving win for Arizona. The Raiders fell to 0-2 in brutal fashion, but that’s okay, it was still a pretty special day for Las Vegas sports.
– New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston was playing with four broken backs, which partially explained a brutal day by three interceptions, six sacks. It’s also led to one questioning whether the Saints should have gone with veteran backup Andy Dalton instead of pressing his injured starter into duty.
— In a game that would have had a lot more buzz a few seasons ago when Brady was in New England and Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t retired, the Patriots got their first win of the season in a mess of turnovers and penalties against. the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 17-14 road win at least prevented the Pats from falling into an 0-2 hole for the first time in 20 years. The two teams are now 1-1 and neither team looks to be in the postseason right now.
– In Defensive Rookie of the Year news, Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks in the first half on Sunday, helping his team to a 22-0 halftime lead over the Washington Commanders. To Washington’s credit, Carson Wentz had three second-half touchdowns to keep this one from being a total laugher, as the Lions eventually hung on to win 36-27.