On one side of the field will be Mitch Trubisky, the No. 2 choice in this year’s NFL draft. On the other will be Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers’ quarterback of the future and, finally, the present.
Sunday’s matchup between the 1-10 49ers and 3-8 Bears in Chicago has little bearing on anything other than next year’s draft order. But for the 49ers and their fans, it should be extremely interesting.
The Bears and 49ers pulled off a draft-day trade this spring in which San Francisco sent the second pick in Round 1 to the Bears, allowing them to pick Trubisky. The 49ers dropped down a spot to No. 3 and selected the man they wanted anyway, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, plus extra picks.
So far, Trubisky looks like a work in progress. The Bears young QB has started seven games and has a 2-5 record. He’s completed 52.8 percent of his throws for 1,135 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions, has a QB rating of 70.8 and has been sacked 19 times. But, he’ll get to face a 49ers defense that ranks seventh worst in the league and a run defense that is third worst.
Garoppolo, meanwhile, will get his first start since being acquired from the Patriots at the trading deadline. After a very brief appearance at the end of last week’s game – in which he was 2-for-2 for 18 yards and a TD in relief of the injured C.J. Beathard – Garoppolo will become the third starting QB this year for the 49ers, following Brian Hoyer and Beathard.
The Chicago-area native still hasn’t completely mastered the 49ers playbook, so the offensive game plan will be cut back a little by head coach Kyle Shanahan, who wants to keep his new young passer at ease in his first start for his new team in the region where he was raised.
“He’ll work at it all week and whatever he doesn’t feel comfortable with and he doesn’t get down in these three practices, then we’ll take it out and whatever we’re going with Sunday, he’ll know 100 percent of it,” Shanahan told reporters this week. “I want him to feel real comfortable going into this game.”
Though Shanahan said it’s likely Garoppolo will start for the remainder of this season, the quarterback said he’s not looking past the Bears.
“I’m trying not to think about the future too much,” Garoppolo said. “I’ve learned in the past that when your mind wanders like that, quarterbacking in this league is hard enough. So, when you start thinking about other things you’re going to have a tough time.”
One thing is certain: It will be hard for Garoppolo to improve on his current NFL statistics on Sunday.
He’s started just two games in the NFL and is 2-0. He’s completed 67 percent of his 96 passes for 708 yards, six TDs, zero interceptions and has a passer rating of 110.1.
But, it’s been a small sample size. Now the Pats’ second-round pick in the 2014 draft from Eastern Illinois will finally get his chance to show what he can do with one struggling team against another struggling team.
Kickoff Sunday at Soldier Field is set for 10 a.m. in the Bay Area. Oddsmakers have made the Bears 3 to 3½-point favorites.