The two-week gap between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl is a godsend to both teams playing in the game.
They use the extra week to install game plans, heal bodies, and reflect on what has been an incredible journey to date.
But let’s be honest: this break is a burden on the fans and media.
Two weeks? That’s far too much time to talk about one game.
With a berth that wide, there was never any doubt that some wild takes would fly. Such is this day and age.
One national narrative has already broken through: the Super Bowl quarterback matchup is comically lopsided.
On its face, it’s easy to see how this thought came to pass.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is, unquestionably, the league’s best at the most important position in sports. Imagine that Russell Wilson had the ability to throw it 70 yards, across his body, with pinpoint accuracy while off-balance — that’s Mahomes.
And then there’s 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has thrown 27 passes all postseason.
Not so fast.
Ignoring the all-to-critical fact that the quarterbacks will never actually match up against each other on the field, this takeaway is utterly laughable.
Now, no one in their right mind would think that Garoppolo is as good a quarterback as Mahomes — but the truth (that isn’t discussed all that often because it’s not sexy) is that he doesn’t need to be. Quarterback play is vital to offensive success, but last time I checked, football is a team game.
(Please let me know if that’s no longer the case.)
And when you factor in all those other players — when you take a wider view of this matchup as offense vs. offense — I’m failing to see the massive mismatch.
The Chiefs averaged 28 points per game when Mahomes’ 14 games this season.
The 49ers averaged 30 in Garoppolo’s 16 games.
This, despite the 49ers playing in the toughest division in football and the Chiefs squaring off with the Raiders twice a year.
Now, Mahomes and the Chiefs are fast and electric. They pick up yards in bunches and as this postseason proved, there is no lead that’s safe with them. They’re the more dangerous offense — the one that inspires more fear.
But fear doesn’t win games, points do.
And don’t think for a moment that Garoppolo is afraid of the moment or that the 49ers are afraid to let their quarterback throw.
This guy is not a game manager, as has been alleged. This is evidenced by the fact that he attempted nearly 30 passes per game and averaged just shy of 250 passing yards a contest this season. Mahomes, in his 16 games — with a far worse running game to back him — averaged 34 pass attempts and only 40 more yards per contest.
The 49ers have no problem passing the ball. The national folks didn’t see it — they must have been watching the Cowboys — but 49ers fans and people who sought out good football did.
In fact, Garoppolo was statistically better than Mahomes in their last seven games of the regular season — the stretch after Mahomes came back from his knee injury.
Garoppolo: 145/204 (71 percent), 274 yards per game, 9.73 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns, five interceptions, 111.6 quarterback rating
Mahomes: 162/243 (66 percent), 264 yards per game, 7.62 yards per attempt, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions, 97.6 quarterback rating
Garoppolo was also spectacular in critical wins over New Orleans and Seattle during that stretch. In the 49ers’ two biggest games of the year, his arm carried the day on offense.
In the playoffs, the 49ers haven’t needed that kind of play. They’ve been able to run the ball down their opponents’ throat in their two Super Bowl tune-ups, so that’s what they’ve done. Why fly when you can drive?
(Also, does anyone see the irony in criticizing head coach Kyle Shanahan for running the ball in the playoffs?)
To be fair, Garoppolo wasn’t stellar against the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round, but Minnesota’s defense is significantly better than Kansas City’s.
As for the Packers game, on the rare occurrences the 49ers needed to throw, Garoppolo was strong.
There was once a time when a quarterback starting his career with a 23-5 record and leading the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL required no further scrutiny, but I suppose guys like Mahomes are ruining the curve.
Yes, Mahomes is a generational talent, but Garoppolo keeps winning games — and isn’t that the point?
So we’ll dive a bit deeper: Garoppolo has a career quarterback rating of 100 — he’s more than capable, as anyone who has watched him knows. He’s clutch, too — he was the NFL’s best third-down quarterback and authored seven game-winning drives and four fourth-quarter comebacks this season.
Yes, Garoppolo has a brilliant offensive coordinator calling the plays — but when did we start holding coaching against players. And, indeed, Garoppolo is prone to throw interceptions, but he’s not Jameis Winston.
Perhaps Garoppolo is too handsome to get any credit — one man can’t have it all.
That’s legitimately my best theory as to why this guy is treated like some scrub.
The truth is that, yes, Mahomes is elite, but Garoppolo is a solid quarterback who — ignoring the positive off-field leadership skills — has shown an unflappability and uncanny knack for lifting his game to new levels in big moments.
Does that remind you of anyone? Because you could characterize the man Garoppolo was set to replace in New England — Tom Brady — the same way, particularly early in his career.
And I’d venture to say that whatever Brady was doing was more than enough to win Super Bowls.