Second-guessing is as easy as it is pointless, same with playing “what-if?” So that’s not the point here at all.
The San Francisco 49ers casting their future (and a not insignificant portion of their salary cap) into quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this week – potentially $137 million over five years – marks another of those moves that aren’t directly tied to anything Bears, but nonetheless spark a number of thoughts, much as the Super Bowl and postseason in general did, even sans Bears.
By way of Garoppolo-specific musings:
If anyone thought using a No. 2-overall draft pick on a quarterback with just 13 college starts (Mitch Trubisky), how about making a quarterback with a total of seven NFL starts and 94 total NFL passes prior to Week 12 of the 2017 NFL season the highest-paid player in football? Starts at North Carolina are nowhere near the same conversation about NFL ones.
But if Garoppolo turns in anything close to the 5-0 performance he did as a starter for the then-woeful 49ers from this point forward, San Francisco GM John Lynch should be unanimous NFL executive of the year, as Ron Wolf (Brett Favre) deserved to be, both of them getting franchise quarterbacks via trade. And Lynch did it with a second-round pick, much as Bill Walsh once did to get Steve Young out of Tampa (the 49ers also threw in a No. 4 to make that deal).
(A side question is still the real reason why the Patriots didn’t keep Garoppolo in addition to having Tom Brady the way the 49ers once did when they traded for Young with Joe Montana in place. San Francisco kept them both for five years, which was possible before the advent of the salary cap. But a little intra-QB tension didn’t derail either player or the organization, which won consecutive Super Bowls in 1988-89 even with a head-coaching change. Besides, Brady has made more difficult “adjustments” in his career.)
It matters not in the least now, but could Garoppolo have been a Bear? Not unless GM Ryan Pace was clairvoyant.
Garoppolo was on the Bears’ radar this time a year ago (which is really not saying much – if you know anything about radar, EVERYTHING is “on” radar, so this is the last time that phrase will appear under this by-line). So were Kirk Cousins, Mike Glennon and myriad other possible solutions to the post-Jay Cutler question around the Bears quarterback situation.
So Pace did his due diligence, which including watching Garoppolo work against the Bears during 2016 Bears-Patriots joint practices in New England. wasn’t going to give up No. 1 and No. 3 picks (the supposed New England asking price) for Garoppolo, neither was anyone else, including the 49ers, and the Patriots at that point weren’t really going to give up Garoppolo, anyway. That came later, long after any fail-safe point Pace and the Bears had with respect to making a decision of their own.
Pace will be subject to enough scrutiny based on the comparative performances of Trubisky and Deshaun Watson. He doesn’t and won’t deserve any over Garoppolo not being a Bear. Garoppolo wasn’t going to give Pace any hometown discount based on being from Arlington Heights or sharing an alma mater (Eastern Illinois).
Exponentially more important is what Pace does to build a franchise team around Trubisky. The Bears were aggressive in securing Matt Nagy, retaining Vic Fangio and then supplementing Nagy/Mark Helfrich with Brad Childress as an offensive consultant. And Pace got the quarterback he wanted at what is and will be a fraction of the contract cost of what the 49ers lavished on Garoppolo, whom the Bears will see again in 2018, every three years based on normal schedule rotation, and every year in between whenever the Bears and 49ers finish at the same division level.
That, far more than Trubisky-Watson, will be the rivalry to watch over time.