October 30, 2017: A date every football fan in the Bay Area should remember and cherish for years to come. The day after receiving a butt-kicking in Philadelphia, the 49ers shook up the NFL by sending a second-round pick to New England for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
By becoming the third quarterback in franchise history to win his first two road starts, Garoppolo has restored enthusiasm to a fan base and franchise that desperately needed something to be excited about.
The 3-10 Niners have Twitter buzzing and the Faithful are no longer afraid to walk out of the house wearing red-and-gold gear.
It’s funny because the preseason chatter projected that the Bay Area airwaves and newspapers would be discussing at this point of the season the Oakland Raiders’ chances against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Not the case at all.
The tide is shifting for both franchises. The 49ers are ascending with $116 million in cap space — most in the NFL — and a future top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Oh, and it looks like they have their franchise quarterback.
Despite being mathematically alive in the AFC playoff picture, it sure seems like the Raiders trajectory is plummeting fast.
Sitting at 6-7 after a listless loss to the Kansas City Chiefs — a game in which franchise quarterback Derek Carr looked unsure of himself — the Silver and Black look joyless in a season that has, to put it kindly, disappointed.
A day before Garoppolo arrived, Carr and the Raiders were overwhelmed in Buffalo — which was confusing because it followed them seemingly finding their mojo in a thrilling Thursday night game against the Chiefs.
The Raiders recovered and regained control of their destiny before last Sunday’s debacle.
But, something bigger is happening around the Raiders and it’s not about the coaching this time.
Skepticism of offensive coordinator Todd Downing hasn’t died down and the Fire Jack Del Rio Fan Club is gaining new members by the day, but folks in the Bay Area are now questioning whether Carr is a legit franchise quarterback.
Think about that for a second. Carr — who signed a deal worth $125 million over five years that included $70 million guaranteed — is having such a down year that Raider fans are scratching their head and second-guessing that move.
(To defend Carr, he did suffer three transverse process fractures and only missed one game. You try doing anything with broken bones in your back, let alone playing quarterback in the NFL.)
But the alarming thing about Carr is his inability to raise the level of play from his teammates this season. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what we’re seeing from Garoppolo and the 49ers.
No doubt Carr has the more explosive receiving core, the most expensive offensive line in football and arguably the better backfield, yet, he and the Raiders are barely scoring 20.3 points per game. In losses, they’re averaging a shade under 13 an outing.
Cross the San Mateo Bridge and you’ll see Garoppolo throwing to a former track star Marquise Goodwin, an undersized rookie Trent Taylor, and grizzled veteran Garrett Celek. But more importantly, look how the 49ers are buying into Garoppolo’s leadership skills.
After just two starts, teammates are referring to Garoppolo as the franchise. He may be 46-for-70 for 627 yards with a touchdown and two picks, but the positive impact he makes with the way he commands the huddle is undeniable. His calmness in the pocket to go along with precise throws have won his teammates over.
This is bananas because this is exactly how we felt about Carr coming into 2017 due to his magical 2016.
But after this past Sunday, it’s clear both franchises are headed in different directions. You can look at the win totals of both teams and differ on this opinion, but it’s the truth.
I’ll leave you with this question: who would you rather have at quarterback leading your franchise in 2018?
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from 12-3 on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.