Disaster struck the 49ers on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Trailing 38-24, the Niners were in the Chiefs’ red zone facing third-and-goal. Jimmy Garoppolo could not find an open receiver and scrambled towards the sideline looking for the first down.
Near the out of bounds line, Garoppolo’s left knee buckled at an awkward angle as he took a big hit. He will have an MRI on Monday to confirm but the 49ers fear he most likely tore his ACL. The 49ers lost the game 38-27 and they may have lost their savior for the season.
The hopes were high going into the 2018 season for the Niners. They had recently signed their franchise quarterback, Garoppolo, to a $137.5 million contract. He was undefeated as entering this year and had all of the intangibles to be one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.
Garoppolo will not only lose the rest of the season but he will lose valuable time developing his skills. He will only have 10 career starts under his belt if he doesn’t return until next year.
Griffin was known to be a mobile quarterback before getting hurt. During the 2012 season, his rookie year, he ran 120 times for 815 yards while scoring seven touchdowns. The year after his injury he ran 86 times for 489 yards with no touchdowns. While Griffin III showed some mobility again, the decline in his carries is worth noting.
Griffin III’s skills as a passer also slowly eroded. He only threw 16 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in 2013 and his quarterback rating slipped from 102.4 to 82.2. He was no longer the same player and was eventually replaced by Kirk Cousins. Griffin currently is the third-string quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens after sitting out the 2017 season.
Bridgewater was viewed as the franchise quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. He had all of the intangibles of a pro-style quarterback and seemed ready to lead Minnesota for years. After leading the Vikings to the 2015 playoffs he tore his ACL during practice the following summer and has rarely seen the field since.
After two years of rehab, the Vikings signed the aforementioned Cousins and let Bridgewater sign with the New York Jets. The Jets traded him during training camp in 2018 and he is now backing up Drew Brees for the New Orleans Saints. While it is unclear how much Bridgewater’s skills have rusted, the future of his career continually remains uncertain.
Watson had a sensational abbreviated rookie season in 2017. In seven games (six starts) he broke an NFL record with 19 touchdown passes. Watson put the NFL on notice by throwing for 402 yards and four touchdowns, on the road, against the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL the following week during practice. He has returned to the starting lineup to start the 2018 season and has yet to win a game after his injury. He has been mediocre, throwing just five touchdown passes to three interceptions. It is still early in his development and only time will tell if he can overcome this injury.
Watson did overcome an ACL tear in college. He was a freshman when it happened and he came back to lead his Clemson squad to two National Championship games. He ultimately won a National Championship in college and threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama. He has already come back from this kind of injury but will he do it again?
If Garoppolo is out for the season then the 49ers will turn to his backup, CJ Beathard. He showed flashes of potential in 2017 but the speed of the NFL caught up to him and he crumbled. He only had one victory that season while completing 54.9% of his passes. He threw four touchdowns to six interceptions during that time.
Beathard was unimpressive in the 2018 preseason. He completed 27 passes in 45 attempts without throwing a touchdown. He had one interception and a number of his passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage. While the preseason usually does not dictate how the regular season will go, these statistics are not promising. Is Beathard ready to lead the 49ers? Depending on the final results of Garoppolo’s MRI, the answer may come next Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.