There are five preseason games scheduled today beginning with an opening act that pits two teams expected to struggle this season, the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions, and concluding with a matchup between two squads with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.
In Green Bay, as has been the case for more than a decade, the quarterback focus is on their future Hall of Fame signal caller, Aaron Rodgers. In this first summer skirmish the Packers coaching staff have already decided their prize quarterback will be in Santa Clara tonight with a view of the game exclusively from the sideline. Conversely, the 49ers brass is very interested in getting their projected starting quarterback extra work this preseason.
The Jimmy Garoppolo era in San Francisco is by all accounts over, and the 49ers are turning to their 2021 first round draft choice, Trey Lance. He is saddled with the responsibility of leading the team to their first Super Bowl win since Steve Young guided the 1994 49ers to their fifth franchise title. The 49ers have made a pair of Super Bowl appearances since last winning the final leg of the NFL season. In 2012, behind the brief success enjoyed by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers lost their first Super Bowl, Joe Montana had won four before Young won his, to the Baltimore Ravens. Three seasons ago, Garoppolo guided the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth and narrow defeat to the only Super Bowl Patrick Mahomes has won for Kansas City Chiefs to complete the 2019 campaign.
Last season, in Garoppolo’s apparent final year as the 49ers starting quarterback, he led San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game and a narrow loss to the eventual Super Bowl winning Los Angeles Rams. Garoppolo’s success in San Francisco was often derailed by injuries, and that perhaps is as much as any reason why the 49ers spent a bevy of draft choices to move up in the draft two years ago to select Lance.
On his way out the door, we salute Garoppolo while reminding 49ers fans that he took over a struggling San Francisco team in 2017 that had won only one of their first eleven games and finished that year with five straight victories. Injured early the following year, the 49ers dropped down to also-rans without him behind center. The following season the talented quarterback avoided injuries and led the team to a Super Bowl berth, and last season had the 49ers back in the NFC Championship Game.
Those results, nearly as good on paper as any quarterback of the past five seasons, never gained Garoppolo the full throated confidence by either his fan base or the 49ers front office. Tonight, we are going to get a look at what John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan hope will be the next glorious chapter in this storied franchise history with Lance running the show on the field.
While the 49ers are looking to improve on a season that resulted in an NFC Championship Game loss, the New York Jets take the field tonight still looking to separate themselves from the very worst teams in the league. One-time 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh begins his second season as head coach in New York, and after a rocky rookie campaign appears poised to guide a Jets team that could be a surprise success this season.
When a team is as bad as the Jets have been in recent years they just can’t help but to acquire talent while drafting early each year. Still, they have missed in their attempt at finding a coveted franchise quarterback. In 2018, the Jets had the third pick in the draft and after the Cleveland Browns made Baker Mayfield the first pick in the draft and the New York Giants selected runningback Saquon Barkley with the second pick, the Jets chose Sam Darnold. Turns out the apparent best quarterback in that draft went to the Buffalo Bills, who four choices after the Jets pick took Josh Allen.
Okay, the Jets decided they missed in that draft so they went back to the drawing board three years later and took BYU signal caller Zach Wilson with the second pick in the draft. The 2021 NFL college crop was rich in quarterback talent. The Jets pick followed the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Trevor Lawrence with the first pick and the 49ers grabbing Lance with the third. So far, it appears the best quarterback in that draft, based only on 2021 returns, was the signal caller the New England Patriots got with the 15th choice, Mac Jones.
I don’t think those early returns will continue to be the order in which the quarterbacks selected in the 2021 draft will be ranked after their careers are over. The 49ers are hoping Lance is the answer, and the Jets are going to get to see how a year of seasoning is going to serve their quarterback of the future.
According to my work, I think it will come to pass that Wilson is the real deal and the Jets fly a lot higher than most have them chartered for this season. With that as my guide, I suggest we board this flight before it gets crowded.
Qoxhi Picks: New York Jets (pk) over Philadelphia Eagles