For a long time, Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr lived a parallel tortured existence with the bottom line.
Was Garoppolo responsible for the 49ers winning so many games during his tenure as a starter, or did his teammates and coaching staff carry him there?
Was Carr responsible for the Raiders losing so many games during his tenure as a starter or did his teammates and coaching staff drag him there?
Now that Garoppolo has officially signed with the Raiders, we’ll begin to find out. One thing’s for sure: If Garoppolo can deliver 10-plus wins, we have our answer. The Raiders love to talk nostalgia and mystique, but the only mystery with the franchise over the last 28 years is how many losses were on the horizon, as the Raiders have finished over .500 just five times in that span.
Garoppolo gave the 49ers their due right out of the box, then looked to the future.
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“I just want to thank the Yorks, thank the 49ers for everything that they’ve done,” Garoppolo said at his introductory press conference Friday. “It was awesome. I enjoyed it. A lot of ups and downs. It was a fun time. Turn the page now, it’s the next chapter in my life and can’t wait to get started in Vegas.”
If Garoppolo has any ill feelings about the way things ended — going from starter to reserve to starter again before fracturing his foot — he is keeping those thoughts to himself after signing a three-year deal that could pay him as much as $72 million.
The press conference was delayed as final contract details were ironed out, leading some of the more snide corners of Raider Nation on social media to wonder if he’d been injured walking to the podium.
Garoppolo is an impressive presence and an easy guy to like. But this fan base will turn on Garoppolo in an instant if injuries, losses or both begin to pile up as they have so many other times since the mid-1990s.
Rich Gannon won three straight division titles and an MVP in the only sustained run of success the Raiders have seen since moving to Oakland in 1995, yet he was barely tolerated by a segment of the fan base that wanted an old-school, Al Davis-style downfield thrower.
If there’s one thing Garoppolo is not, it’s an old-school, Al Davis-style downfield thrower. It will be dink, dunk and run after the catch with Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs, Jacobi Meyers and presumably Hunter Renfrow.
“Whenever you’ve got skill position guys like that, the run after catch, I’m a big believer in that,” Garoppolo said. “You give them an accurate ball, if you’ve got the right guys ... we seem to have the right guys here, just have to get working together.”
Carr was a little bit of everything for the Raiders. Sometimes too conservative, occasionally too bold. But mostly, Carr was durable. He fractured a vertebra in his back once and missed exactly one game. He left a Chargers game two years ago with a severe groin injury and played the next week.
In nine seasons, Carr missed two games en route to a 63-79 overall record before being benched, released and moving on to the New Orleans Saints. Garoppolo, meanwhile, missed 39 games in six seasons with the 49ers and had a 38-17 record.
There are more than a few Raiders fans who are wondering how the Raiders would dump tight end Darren Waller for the No. 100 pick in the draft after battling injuries for two years and then entrust the most important position on the team to Garoppolo and his own history of injury.
Garoppolo wasn’t asked about his injuries and it’s not like he has a good answer anyway. The NFL is a brutal sport and he’s been prone to bad luck.
But Garoppolo was a respected figure in the 49ers’ locker room, and not because he forced the issue. Players gravitated toward him because of the way he went about his business without fanfare, and it will be the same thing in Las Vegas.
“I think it will happen naturally. I don’t want to force anything and be unauthentic,” Garoppolo said. “I just want to be myself and it’s served me well in the past I think being hard-working, setting an example for the other guys, bringing everyone along and getting everyone on the same page, those are the little things that go a long way.
“I’m trying to bring an energy to this building, get everyone going in the right direction. When you play with passion on the field I think it translates to the building too.”
After six seasons under Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo is back with Josh McDaniels, who ran the offense in New England when he was with the Patriots.
“Kyle’s offense vs. Josh’s offense, there’s a different mindset behind it,” Garoppolo said. “I think revamping my mind is the first step and then just relearning the language. It’s basically like going Spanish to French. Josh’s offense has evolved over the years and I’ve got to pick it up as quickly as possible.”
Garoppolo went from the Patriots, who were a winning organization, to the 49ers, whom he helped establish as one. He now looks forward to doing the heavy lifting with what has been a fairly consistent loser for a long time.
“Being in three different organizations, you compare and contrast, see what you like, see what you don’t like,” Garoppolo said. “I’m just trying to come here and bring a little bit of everything. Make this a family — I think that’s the first step in winning football games is everyone pushing in the right direction and if we can do that it’s a good start.”
When the Raiders introduced free agents the previous day, Garoppolo was referenced as a “winner” by new teammates Jakobi Myers and Phillip Dorsett Jr.
If Jimmy G. can turn the Raiders around, even the most hard-bitten Raiders fans would have no argument.