Ratto: The quarterback controversy you want, not the one you need

Fans gotta fan, and who am I to get in the way of such nonsensical fun?
By 95.7 The Game

The entire history of the San Francisco 49ers is based on one central truth, namely, that anything can be a quarterback controversy if you want it badly enough. So we have one now, meritless and silly as it seems, because that's just what the fan base desires.

Based on the flimsy tissue of facts that (a) Jimmy Garoppolo isn't Patrick Mahomes, (b) that his contract is easily escapable, and that (c) backup quarterback Nick Mullens had a good day as the 49ers beat the crippled and rancid New York Giants by four scores, we are now well into the "Well, let's change now" portion of the QC Trail. Mullens did not harm the team in any material way as they hammered a sadly depleted Giants side, which frankly is good enough for the folks who want to move on from Garoppolo because… well, just because.

It is the nature of 49er fandom since 1951, when Y.A. Tittle and Frankie Albert began vying for Albert's job. Albert was the local favorite, Tittle was the precocious balding rookie, and the debate raged through two full seasons before Tittle won the job and… well, you get the point. This stuff's been going on here for 70 years. The best flourish ever was the three-way QC in 1962 and 1963 with John Brodie, Billy Kilmer (who was disguised as a halfback at the time and replaced a year later by Lamar McHan) and Muddy Waters, but the fan base as an amorphous collective has taken the art of preferring the quarterback who isn't playing and perfected it.

The problem, though, is that there hasn't really been a good one since Steve Young retired in 1998 and the franchise fell into disrepair. There was the Alex Smith-Colin Kaepernick one that flashed only briefly in 2012, but that was less a controversy than it was an exchange of chairs orchestrated by Jim Harbaugh.

And the Garoppolo-Mullens one feels even flimsier, since there is no evidence that head coach and uberboss Kyle Shanahan doesn't much prefer Garoppolo to any other alternative. Even the arguments for Mullens presume exactly the opposite, that Mullens' qualities are exactly what Shanahan wants because he is either better, cheaper or both. He is cheaper, but he is not better, not yet. He is as good as he can be, which Sunday was properly good, but he was actually on the low end of quarterback ratings for quarterbacks who won their games.

All of this is based, seemingly on Mullens' first start ever in 2018, in which he shredded an Oakland team that quit sometime in the second quarter en route to 34-3 loss. He also gets credit for beating a very ordinary Seattle team later in that year, and in general doing what a good backup does — going 4-5 with a 91.5 rating.

He is not, however, preferable to Garoppolo unless you long for the good old days of Montana-Young,or Brodie-Spurrier, if you aren't dead yet, Albert-Tittle. Nick Mullens is a competent backup on a good team, and beating the New York Giants changed that in no way whatsoever. This seems obvious,  and yet you will hear this come up again as the season advances because fans gotta fan, and who am I to get in the way of such nonsensical fun?

Someone who has better stuff to do, I guess, so go and enjoy your quarterback controversy. It is your birthright.