After first win, 49ers' focus shifts to 'The Plan That Isn’t' during bye week

Ray Ratto
NBC Sports BayArea

The San Francisco 49ers' first victory of the calendar year, a 31-21 out-of-context hammering of the New York Doing-Something-Barely-Recognizable-As-Football Giants, resulted in a quarterback controversy that isn't.

Namely, whether C.J. Beathard earned another start, in two weeks, in Seattle. And more specifically, whether there is a plan already installed by Kyle Shanahan to cover that possibility.

Shanahan says there is no plan, so we'll call it The Plan That Isn't is sacrosanct, and The Plan That Isn't is all about Jimmy Garoppolo, whose main contribution to Sunday's victory was keeping his legs warm, limber and fresh just in case.

Just as Shanahan wrote it up, while saying that he didn't.

"It isn't the plan," he said of the much-assumed Jimmy Does Seattle scenario, "because it never was the plan.

The 49ers coach has never said, and he didn't say Sunday, but the assumption is as it has been along, that Garoppolo, the quarterback of the future, would begin that future two weeks from Sunday against the Seahawks.

So it was that he left Beathard be for one more week, and it resulted in his best day as a fully salaried professional – starting with the fact that he was almost never hit (a week after being pounded like a filthy rug a week ago), threw one harmless (as in the Giants did nothing with it) interception, threw two long touchdowns and ran for a third, left the team in only one punting situation well after the result was in, and in sum looked like he might be able to do this again if called upon.

Which, if The Plan That Isn't becomes The Plan, won't happen any time soon.

Oh, there were impatient souls who wanted Garoppolo to play today – the big Christmas present that nobody can open until all the relatives show up. They are the same folks disappointed by Minnesota's 38-30 victory over Washington because Case Keenum looked good enough to postpone Teddy Bridgewater's return for at least another week.

But that's just their curiosity demanding to be fed. In San Francisco, Garoppolo is being afforded the maximum amount of prep time behind a line that only Sunday looked like a cohesive and implacable unit. Garoppolo is a future that is still sufficiently far off that hurrying him to satisfy the customers makes no tangible sense.

And in fairness (another thing that doesn't actually exist), Beathard deserved this game as a reward for enduring last week's game. On bad teams such as this San Francisco group, the reward for taking a beating is another beating the next time out, but the 49ers presented themselves as a fully representative NFL team at a time when they needed to know that they could. They have now held the lead in a hair more than 10 percent of their 600 minutes and 1,352 plays of play, and all but 10 of those have been in two games. So you take the good times for what they are, knowing that there is always a kicker right around the bend.

In this case, it is the news that Beathard had his throwing-hand thumb X-rayed after the game after he struck it on his touchdown run. The injury could be properly debilitating, it could be nothing, or it could offer the 49ers an easy way out of their explaining how The Plan That Isn't Became The Plan.

Of course, we can only know that without doubt if Beathard starts against the Seahawks, and our attitude toward his veracity probably isn't that resonant an issue for him.

In other words, if he's fibbing, we're the only ones who will kvetch. If there actually is The Plan, it will happen without outside input – which I suppose could be considered output.

But the Jimmy Watch will continue, because the season demands it. Sunday's win gives the team something to build on and bask in, but the future comes hard and fast, especially when it has already begun. Because there is a thing called The Plan. There really is. The only thing we don't know is when Shanahan will choose to implement it, and we have 13 days before Seattle to gnaw it into gristle

After all, what better reason is there for a bye week in a season that has already left?

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