The faint whispers of a quarterback controversy were entirely silenced after the 49ers' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4. Garoppolo is set to return under center Sunday against the Miami Dolphins and Nick Mullens -- Garoppolo's ostensible challenger in the eyes of some -- likely will be inactive after falling to No. 3 on the 49ers' QB depth chart.
NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area's Grant Liffmann earlier this week that he never paid much attention to any discussion Mullens could push Garoppolo after the 49ers beat the New York Giants in Week 3.
"Everybody in the Bay Area gave me crap because I made him the 19th-ranked in my quarterback rankings," Simms said of Garoppolo, "and then we saw one good game against a crappy team, and we're ready to bench Jimmy Garoppolo for Nick Mullens. And I understand that's the world we're in right now, but the reality is Garoppolo's a starting quarterback in football -- and a good one at that."
The 49ers punted or turned the ball over on eight of 12 drives against the Eagles last week. Neither Mullens nor C.J. Beathard had much success throwing to anyone other than All-Pro tight end George Kittle, as the 49ers' remaining pass-catchers combined for 17 receptions (on 30 targets) and 155 receiving yards.
Garoppolo's return Sunday, along with a healthy Kittle and Deebo Samuel, should make the 49ers offense look much more like the team envisioned during the offseason. Simms said the offense isn't dependent upon Garoppolo, but his improvisational ability is vital to its success.
"There's a handful of plays every game where it's third-and-7 or third-and-8, and, oh, nobody's open," Simms explained. "But he does a great job manipulating the pocket or making some awkward throw where, when the game's over, we don't talk about it or notice it, but coaches will go back and go, 'That was a big moment. That was a big play by our quarterback to kind of get us through there and keep that drive going.' I think those are the things that we'll slowly but surely start to notice that we missed without Jimmy G in the lineup."
The 49ers are getting Garoppolo back at a good time, with the schedule becoming increasingly difficult beginning in Week 6. With the 49ers already two games back of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West standings, beating the Dolphins at Levi's Stadium on Sunday is vital to keep pace in the divisional race.
Garoppolo can show the 49ers exactly how much they were missing.