SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Cool scene at 49ers camp Sunday afternoon: Two young towheads, maybe 6 and 3, one wearing a Jerry Rice “80” jersey and one wearing a Jimmy Garoppolo “10” jersey, waiting for Jimmy Garoppolo Himself to come down the autograph line after a training camp practice. And here comes Garoppolo, in his black practice jersey and swoon-for-me thick stubbly beard.
“Hi guys!” Garoppolo says, taking a black Sharpie and signing the Rice kid’s hat and the Garoppolo kid’s jersey. This is one of those autograph periods the famous players have to do. Garoppolo, though, is in charm mode, and looks like he really wants to give these two kids a memory for life.
He looks into the younger kid’s eyes, smiles, and says, “Would you guys like a picture?”
Kid in Garoppolo jersey says: “Nahhhhh.”
Now this is an “Access Hollywood” or “Extra” moment, with a Mario Lopez voiceover: Northern Californian stiffs Garoppolo! We’ll show you the new Brady’s shocked reaction! Except the new star of stars laughs along with the aghast Mom of the towheads—he has to love someone not wanting something from him these days—and after the Mom arranges the kids next to the 49ers quarterback, he bends down to take a smart-phone photo with them.
A year ago, Garoppolo was in his fourth New England training camp, clueless about his future and osmosis-learning how to be great from Tom Brady. His world changed in a flash Oct. 30 with the trade to San Francisco, and lots of other worlds changed too. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s world changed; he thought he’d be mortgaging Niner millions to try to sign former pet QB Kirk Cousins as a 2018 free agent. GM John Lynch’s world changed; he thought he’d be in serious scouting mode, trying to figure whether Josh Allen or Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield would be his long-term quarterback heir to Montana and Young. Even the great Tom Brady’s world changed, because now he would no longer have the hot breath of Garoppolo on his neck, and he would no longer have to wonder if the Patriots would pay Garoppolo starter money to serve as pressure on him for the next two or three years.
It’s a crazy story, and I’m not even talking about the TMZ adult film star date video, or the fact that Garoppolo, after seven NFL starts, has a contract averaging $6.5 million more per year than Aaron Rodgers’ contract. All of it is crazy.
But with more logic than you think.
I love the potential of Garoppolo, I love the Niners taking the gamble of making Garoppolo the third-highest-paid player in NFL history after seven starts. I love the GM and coach putting their careers on the line for a guy with 12 career touchdown passes. I love the story (more than the 2018 team, honestly), and I love one throw I saw Sunday on a baking 87 degree day in a place that has hope for the first time since Jim Harbaugh roamed the land.