It was a tale of two teams for the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. There was pre-Jimmy and post-Jimmy. The Jimmy experience gives the 49ers a sweet feeling heading into 2010.
On Sunday, the 49ers beat the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum, 34-13, to finish the schedule with their fifth straight win and sixth in seven games. The 49ers started the season 0-9, but were a different team completely after acquiring quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots in a trade on Oct. 30. Garoppolo took over for rookie C.J. Beathard to start against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 3, and the Niners went on a roll, knocking off the Bears, Texans, Titans, Jaguars and Rams.
On Sunday in Los Angeles, Garoppolo wasn’t as sharp as he has been in most games, yet he still completed 20-of-33 throws for 292 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
So the 49ers end their season 6-10, exactly the same as their cross-bay cousins, the Oakland Raiders, who began the season with Super Bowl hopes.
The 49ers now enter the offseason with the quarterback they’ve been seeking for several years, some bright young talent – such as linebacker Reuben Foster, defensive linemen DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and tight end George Kittle – plus plenty of room under the salary cap in 2018 to go after free-agent help.
If general manager John Lynch again has a productive offseason, the 49ers will go into the 2018 season with expectations they can make a move in the NFC West.
That’s a huge change in direction from the way the 49ers appeared in September, October and November.
On Sunday at the L.A. Coliseum, Garoppolo got plenty of help, with running backs Carlos Hyde (90 yards, two TDs) and Matt Breida (72 yards) having strong games, Kittle pulling in four passes for 100 yards and the defense holding the Rams – playing without some key starters before the playoffs – to 251 total yards.
As Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group noted, the season-ending win was a great cap to the season for rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan. The turnaround from 0-9 to 6-10 was “remarkable,” he wrote.
Added Inman: “As a result, this was the 49ers first finale since 2013 that didn’t mark the end of a head coach’s tenure.”
Now, the 49ers can continue to build and start dreaming of 2018.