The 2017 season ended on an extreme high note for the San Francisco 49ers. The mid-season acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo not only turned around the season, but appears to be a franchise changing move. With Garoppolo under helm, the 49ers won their last five games, including three over playoff bound teams. Since the season has ended for the 49ers, there are not many storylines for 49ers fans to release pent up hype. Reading John Lynch quotes once a week about wanting to lock up Garoppolo for the long term can only go so far. There are, however, several interesting stories and ties that connect the 49ers to Super Bowl LII.
San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl LII Storylines
Wide Receiver What Ifs
Virtually all wide receivers participating in this year’s Super Bowl have a connection to the 49ers. Some of these connections are obvious. For example, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Torrey Smith was a 49er for two years. Other connections are less obvious.
Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery was drafted in the second round (45th overall) of the 2012 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. The 49ers, coming off a painful defeat by the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game, selected wide receiver A.J. Jenkins. Jenkins played only three games for the 49ers and failed to register a catch. At the time, the Jenkins selection was viewed as a reach. There is no telling where the 49ers may be had they instead selected Jeffery.
For the New England Patriots, two receivers with 49ers ties are Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan. In 2014, the 49ers were in need of speed at wide receiver, and a lot of mock drafts had them selecting Cooks. Cooks, a native of the Bay Area, commented that he would, “love to blow the top off,” for the 49ers. Cooks was selected before the 49ers pick, and has gone onto great success.
Hogan signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent after the 2011 NFL draft. He did not make the final roster. After several years playing for the Buffalo Bills, Hogan has become one of the Patriots best weapons. Two more interesting hypothetical 49ers.
The Garoppolo Conundrum
Roughly three years after winning his fourth Super Bowl, Joe Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Though Montana was the face of the franchise and most successful quarterback of all time at that point, the 49ers felt that Steve Young was their quarterback of the future. It was a difficult decision, but it ultimately worked out. Young would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, and win a Super Bowl.
The Patriots found themselves in a similar predicament. Tom Brady has surpassed the accomplishments of Montana, and was still playing at an MVP level, but was on the last leg of his career. Bill Belichick, a football historian, most likely would have wanted to trade Brady and start the next regime with Garoppolo. The Seth Wickersham report suggests Belichick was not allowed to trade Brady, and Garoppolo was traded to the 49ers instead.
If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, or any other Super Bowl under Brady, trading Garoppolo will look like the right move. Keep in mind the Montana trade only looks good for the 49ers because Young won a Super Bowl. If the Patriots should lose and never win another ring under Brady, and Garoppolo goes on to great success, then the Garoppolo trade will a blemish on the legacy of both Brady and Belichick. The Patriots had their Steve Young, and they let him walk out of the building.
Two teams could not be further opposed on a subject. The Eagles locker room is led by Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long, two very outspoken players on social injustices. The Patriots are known for trying to eliminate anything that could possibly be viewed as a distraction, which includes protests. Even talking about a touchdown celebration could get a player in Belichick’s doghouse.
All protests in the NFL can be pointed back to Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick protested social injustice by sitting, and then kneeling, during the National Anthem of the 2016 NFL season. Since then, multiple players have joined in some sort of protest, including Jenkins, Eric Reid, and Marcus Peters. Kaepernick went unsigned throughout the 2017 NFL season despite expressing interest in playing.
This Super Bowl could have lasting implications for the future of protests in the NFL. If the Patriots should win, the status quo will remain unchanged. The common philosophy that any sort of distraction, such as a protest, will inhibit a team’s ability to win, will still stand.
Should the Eagles win, however, the NFL could be flipped on its head. Having won with “distractions,” protests could become more welcome throughout the league. Perhaps the disgraced former 49er quarterback will be accepted back into the league. Five years ago, Kaepernick was competing for a win in a Super Bowl. With an Eagles victory in this Super Bowl, he might be in for a different type of win.