NFL Playoff Diary: NFC Championship
Los Angeles Rams 20, San Francisco 17
As far as U can tell, Jimmy Garropolo is on the shortlist of most handsome quarterbacks ever. This isn’t exactly my field, but the guy is clearly movie star good-looking. I just made the mistake of typing “Most handsome NFL quarterbacks ever” into a Google search, which has led me to “The 11 hunkiest quarterbacks in the NFL,” and “Hottest NFL quarterbacks of All-Time,” and “Why are most football quarterbacks good looking?” and various other places I undoubtedly don’t want to go.
But, based on a quick survey, it looks like these handsome QB lists generally include Tom Brady, Joe Namath, Matt Ryan, Dan Pastorini, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and, bizarrely, Elvis Grbac, who in 1998 was named “People’s Sexiest Athlete.”*
*Jeff Pearlman tells an absolutely hilarious story about this; he says that the magazine had actually chosen another Chiefs quarterback, Rich Gannon, as its sexiest athlete, but the photographer took photos of the wrong person. And by the time the photos made it back to New York, nobody had the heart to tell Grbac that he was not the guy, so they just went through with it.
Anyway, I’ve gone way too far into this topic that I do not care about … except to say that Jimmy Garoppolo is very clearly a good-looking guy, and he’s an NFL quarterback, and he’s been to a Super Bowl, and he’s a millionaire, and so whatever happened in this game … it just ain’t that bad. I mean, he’ll probably be OK.
Through three quarters of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, San Francisco led the Los Angeles Rams 17-7, and as the quarter began I feel sure that the big, blaring echo going off in 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s head — and I imagine the voice sounding like the great Jeffrey Wright — was simply: DO NOT LET GAROPPOLO LOSE THIS GAME.
I could be wrong. Shanahan might have had any number of thoughts going off in his head, such as, “Can you believe that when I was in Cleveland, the general manager used to text me plays during the game?” But I think the Garoppolo thought is a bit more likely because, as you might remember, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, who famously took a 28-3 lead over New England midway through the third quarter of Super Bowl LI.
And from that point on the Falcons probably should have been all about protecting that lead. Instead, they went aggressive — admirable but oh-so-second-guessable — and the Patriots scored to make it 28-9, then the Falcons tried to throw it and went three-and out, and then the Patriots kicked a field goal to make it 28-12, and then the Falcons when three-and-out when Matt Ryan got sacked, and the Patriots scored and got the two-point conversion to make it 28-20, and then the Falcons hit a big pass but were stalled by a sack and two incompletions, and then the Patriots scored and made the two-point conversion again to make it 28-28.
Not to make Falcons fans relive that fiasco, but like I say I would think the one reverberating thought in Shanahan’s mind was the aforementioned: DO NOT LET GAROPPOLO LOSE THIS GAME.
So, when the critical moment game — 10 minutes left, San Francisco leading 17-14, 49ers with the ball at midfield facing a 4th and 2 — I don’t think that Shanahan seriously considered going for it. I take this from Shanahan’s own statement: “We weren't going to go for it there at midfield on fourth-and-two.”
So the 49ers punted, the Rams drove the ball down the field and scored to tie the game.
Then, with 6:49 left, the 49ers tried to run short and safe passes for Garoppolo — safe being the operative word — and he missed all three of them (with a delay of game sandwiched in*). Another punt, and once again the Rams drove down the field and kicked a field goal to take the lead.
*I don’t know if this is more true this year than in years past, but doesn’t it seem like every game now has like six delay of game penalties that are not called?
Then with 1:46 left, now trailing by three, the 49ers had no choice but to at least try and let Garoppolo bring them back. He threw an incomplete pass, threw a pass for a three-yard loss and threw an interception.
And the Rams are going to the Super Bowl.