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Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury ruined so much, including the 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a broken foot early in Sunday's win over the 49ers and is done for the season.Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

The 49ers were coming into the locker room on a high. Christian McCaffrey scored a touchdown with four seconds left, giving the Niners a 17-10 halftime lead over the Dolphins on Sunday.

Then coach Kyle Shanahan delivered the news that changed the 49ers’ season: Jimmy Garoppolo “broke a few things” in his left foot on the eighth offensive snap of the day. He needs surgery. His season is over.

“Everyone had a lump in their throat,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “I was crushed. It took a minute to get that off my mind. It sucks. There is no better word for it. It sucks.”


Gone with Garoppolo’s injury, most likely, are the 49ers’ chances of winning the Super Bowl. Shanahan likely didn’t say it, but everyone surely thought it.

“Obviously when it’s the quarterback of your team, it affects guys a little bit more,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers finished with an impressive 33-17 win, improving to 8-4 and first place in the NFC West. Rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy played surprisingly well in his NFL debut. The 49ers’ No. 1-ranked defense shut down the Dolphins’ high-powered offense.

But everything about Garoppolo’s injury stinks. It potentially ruins the 49ers’ chances of reaching the Super Bowl and removes a serious contender from the NFC. It ruins a highly anticipated showdown against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers Sunday in San Francisco. And it delivers a blow to a quarterback who was authoring a terrific redemption story, playing the best football of his career after the 49ers tried to dump him in the offseason.

“It’s brutal,” McCaffrey said.

Garoppolo left the stadium after halftime and wasn’t around to celebrate the win.

“I feel so bad for him and everything that he’s had to go through,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk added. “It just seems like we’ve been down this road so many times, and it’s truly unfortunate.”


That’s the problem. Garoppolo and the 49ers have been down this road so many times. He can’t stay healthy.

When Garoppolo plays, the 49ers win. Garoppolo is 42-19 (.689) as starter for the 49ers since arriving in 2017, with a trip to the Super Bowl and two to the NFC Championship game. This year, after taking over for Trey Lance early in Week 2, Garoppolo went 8-3 in games in which he played the majority of snaps.

But he can’t stay on the field. The 49ers’ 2018 season got ruined when Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3. The 2020 season, coming off the Super Bowl, got ruined when Garoppolo was limited to six games because of an ankle injury. And this season is potentially derailed by a broken foot with five games left. Garoppolo also hurt his shoulder two games into a four-game stint with the Patriots in 2016.

Garoppolo’s durability is a big reason why the 49ers tried to move on. Shanahan must be beside himself that it’s happening again.

Garoppolo was injured during Sunday's win over the Dolphins.Godofredo A. Vásquez/Associated Press

“Just hearing it is pretty crushing,” Shanahan said. “We know what Jimmy’s been through, how hard he’s worked at this . . . It was such a special win, but definite mixed emotions hearing about Jimmy.”

The 49ers are built to win now. They have won five games in a row, by an average score of 27-11. They traded draft picks for McCaffrey. They are the No. 3 seed in the NFC, and have the No. 1 defense in the NFL. With Garoppolo, they were as dangerous as any team in the NFC.


And Garoppolo was having a heck of a season. He has 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions, and is sixth in the NFL in passer rating (103.0). Garoppolo is top 10 in completion percentage and yards per attempt. He was throwing interceptions at the lowest rate of his career (1.3 percent).

Now the 49ers will likely have to pin their hopes on “Mr. Irrelevant” — the nickname bestowed upon the player taken with the last pick of the NFL Draft. The 49ers drafted Purdy out of Iowa State in April with the 262nd pick.

They also have young journeyman Jacob Eason on the practice squad, and signed 36-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson off the Broncos’ practice squad Sunday night. Baker Mayfield was released by the Panthers on Monday and makes a lot of sense. One outside-the-box solution could be coaxing soon-to-be 41-year-old Philip Rivers out of retirement.

Purdy did a nice job Sunday against a blitz-happy Dolphins defense, throwing for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Shanahan praised Purdy for handling the Dolphins’ “Cover 0″ blitzes.

“We were having to change a lot of stuff on the fly, putting a lot of pressure on him in that way, and I thought he did a hell of a job,” Shanahan said. “We’re going to be ready to do our best to overcome this.”

But expecting a rookie late-round pick to play at a Super Bowl level for five regular-season games, then in the playoffs, is probably not realistic. Hence the gloomy mood after the win.


“Bittersweet,” receiver Brandon Aiyuk said of the day. “To lose our quarterback and the captain of this team, it’s tough.”

It’s no doubt tough on Garoppolo, too. Keeping Garoppolo in San Francisco this year on a reduced contract was the best decision of the offseason for both the 49ers and Garoppolo, who already knew the offense and was popular in the locker room.

“I saw him at halftime and it was pretty emotional,” defensive end Nick Bosa said. “It just stinks because I really felt him coming on even more so this year. He’s always been a great leader, but I felt him really caring about this team and his part.”

This injury also complicates Garoppolo’s free agency market in March. The 49ers can’t use the franchise tag, and he may be the best quarterback available next spring. Garoppolo is only 31, and his play this year improved his stock greatly. A return to the 49ers is in play, but he should have several other suitors.

What does the future hold for Garoppolo?Ezra Shaw/Getty

But now he’s suffered his third major injury in five years. It’s probably going to give teams some pause. And it may convince the 49ers that it’s time to finally move on from Garoppolo.

The 49ers will still probably make the playoffs, but everything about Garoppolo’s injury is unfortunate. The only ones not complaining are the Eagles, Cowboys, Vikings, Seahawks, and Buccaneers, who likely have one fewer team to worry about in January.


“It is heartbreaking,” McCaffrey said. “I’ve been in that position before where you’re playing and you’re excited, and it all has to end in a year. And it really sucks and it hurts.”

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.