The 49ers made quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the highest-paid player in NFL history based on seven career starts, five in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Someone will be paying quarterback A.J. McCarron based on four career starts.
Hovering over both is an important question: What will they do after defenses get enough film on them?
New quarterbacks and/or quarterbacks in new systems can thrive at first. Then, after four or five or six weeks, opposing defenses gather enough film to figure out what the quarterback is doing well, and how to force him away from his favorite plays and throws.
The question then becomes whether, when Plan A is shut down, the quarterback can execute Plan B, C, and/or D. The great ones can. The not-so-great ones can’t. Many in the middle need time to get to the point where they can move the ball and score points against a defense that knows enough to slow them down.
For Garoppolo and McCarron the question is what kind of quarterback will they be, once defenses figure out what they want to do and take it away? The 49ers already have placed a gigantic bet on Garoppolo being able to thrive once he has generated enough film to make it easier to game-plan against him. Whoever signs McCarron will be making a similar wager.