SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As the healthy members of the San Francisco 49ers depart the Bay Area for a much-needed bye week with trips planned all over the country, one notable player is set to stay behind.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will spend most of his week off at the team facility working with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello and head coach Kyle Shanahan in his on-going efforts to get up to speed in Shanahan's offensive system after three-and-a-half years with the New England Patriots.
In addition to the extra classroom work, Garoppolo will also get the chance to translate what he's learned to the field and throw to pass-catchers who are recovering from injuries or are also new to the team.
“Rich and myself will come in here, too, and both of us, but mainly Rich doing most of it," Shanahan said. "I know we've got a number of players here, too, some of the guys who have got to stay back for rehab. Guys like [tight end] George Kittle and [receiver] Trent [Taylor], and I know [wideout Louis] Murphy's going to stay around a little bit. So, we’ve got some players who can catch some balls for him and stuff like that.”
The bonus time for Garoppolo could put him on a trajectory to start the Niners' next game, which is scheduled for Nov. 26 against the Seattle Seahawks. Garoppolo will get that extra week while fellow quarterback C.J. Beathard, the rookie who has started ahead of Garoppolo the past two weeks, is recovering from a right thumb injury.
Beathard, who initially banged his thumb on the helmet of an Arizona Cardinals defender two weeks ago, re-injured it in Sunday's win against the New York Giants when he dived across the goal line for an 11-yard touchdown run. Despite the injury, Beathard was able to finish the game.
Shanahan indicated Monday that the damage to the thumb would not require surgery, but Beathard will need to use this week to recover.
"[He's] pretty banged up," Shanahan said. "He'll be sore throughout this week. It will definitely help to let him get some rest because nothing's broken or anything. Make sure no one runs into it over the next week will help, and it should be better next Monday.”
Getting Beathard healthy and getting another week of learning for Garoppolo will be important as Shanahan once again intends to institute his week-to-week approach in making a decision on who his starter will be. Like last week, Shanahan indicated that the quarterback who fares better in practice after the bye will start against Seattle.
Asked Monday if watching the film of Beathard's strong showing against the Giants had forced him to reconsider who will start against the Seahawks, Shanahan said nothing had changed, though he left plenty of wiggle room for a change should Garoppolo prove ready to go.
"We'll see how practice goes next week," Shanahan said. "C.J. played pretty well. I thought he had his best game. I think he’s gotten better each week in practice, and I think it showed in the game the most. I thought the guys played around him their best game, too, which definitely makes it easier to keep everyone out there and keep that going. We'll see how Jimmy responds this week. We'll get to work more one-on-one with him, get a little extra practice on Monday and see how it goes. We'll have our game plan done Monday and Tuesday and we’ll start practicing our game plan Wednesday.”
As Shanahan pointed out, Beathard played what was easily his best game of the season against New York, an effort aided by an offense that finally gave him the protection and support he needed to succeed. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was able to pick apart a Giants defense that didn't seem all that interested in stopping anyone.
Despite Beathard's big performance, the game after the bye still remains the most logical time to turn to Garoppolo. It might seem unfair to bench Beathard following his best game of the season, but the Niners need to get a look at Garoppolo at some point and by the time they host the Seahawks, he will have been with the team for nearly a month.
That's not enough time to fully absorb Shanahan's scheme but it should be enough to put in a full game plan and have Garoppolo at a point where he can handle it without being limited too much. In addition, the bye week should allow some banged-up Niners an opportunity to heal up and be ready to go, thus bolstering the supporting cast.
Putting Garoppolo in against a stout defense like Seattle's is not an easy task but it's also not exactly a walk in the park for a rookie, either. Plus, getting Garoppolo a chance to make his debut in front of the home fans rather than the following weeks at Chicago or Houston would give Niners fans something to be excited about coming out of the bye, potentially filling some of the many empty seats they've seen so far this year.
No matter the ultimate decision, Shanahan is pleased that he's at least seen enough of Garoppolo in meetings and practice and of Beathard in games to have an actual decision still to make rather than having it dictated to him by performance.
“[I've] been excited about C.J. since we drafted him," Shanahan said. "[I've] been very excited about Jimmy since we had the opportunity to get him. So, having both of those guys here, I'm very excited about our room.”