Every season at this time of year on every NFL team that’s not going to the playoffs, there is talk of taking momentum from the end of the current season into the next season.
And every year in almost every circumstance, that notion is pure folly.
What happens at the end of one regular season has absolutely no impact on what will happen the following season, which isn’t going to begin for another nine months. And that’s not even to mention the organized team activities, minicamps and training camp taking place before that next season begins.
A team winning its final game of the 2017 season or its final three or four games is not going to benefit from that once the 2018 season begins. Nor is a team losing its final game, two or three in 2017 going to damage its chances in 2018.
So the thought that any team that’s already eliminated from a postseason berth is seeking a win in Sunday’s season finale to give itself momentum entering the 2018 season is a myth.
With one exception: The 49ers.
Because of Jimmy Garoppolo.
The energy, production and wins the former Patriots backup quarterback has brought to San Francisco have given the franchise, which has spent the last several years in the doldrums, massive hope — not just 2018 but beyond.
The trade-deadline deal San Francisco swung with New England has given the 49ers the franchise quarterback they so desperately needed and probably makes them a contender in 2018.
The 49ers are the most upbeat and hopeful 5-10 team in the NFL right now, entering Sunday’s season finale against the 11-4 Rams in Los Angeles having won their last four games (Garoppolo’s first four starts with them) and are 3 ½-point favorites.
Granted, the Rams have secured their playoff position and are likely to rest some starters, but you get the point: The 49ers are a real team now with real momentum.
The 49ers, coming off a commanding victory over the 10-5 Jaguars last week, were 0-9 at one point this season before Garoppolo was handed the keys. Now they’re a good enough team that, if they were going to the playoffs, few opponents would welcome facing them.
“I’ve just watched the games with Jimmy Garoppolo playing,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said after his team was beaten by the 49ers. “I saw a team that is really a strong football team. Obviously, they got after us. I have a lot of respect for them.”
It was Halloween when the 49ers consummated the trade for Garoppolo, sending their second-round draft pick to the Patriots for him, and the 49ers have been a scary team to face ever since he began starting.
“It’s a new beginning, a new start,” 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster said.
“It’s all potential so we have to go out there and have a great offseason and be very focused and all that stuff,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “We’re feeling good. It’s an exciting time right now. I’m just happy to be a part of it.’’
With their current four-game winning streak, it’s the first time the 49ers have done that since 2013. And in the case of this team with this quarterback, the momentum from this end-of-the-season 2017 run figures to have a significant impact once 2018 begins. Unlike most all of the others.