Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.
In this space, I'll be articulating a handful of positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below are my unpopular opinions for Week 17.
But honestly, I need a lot of you to be a little more hyped. I just want you to buy in a smidge more. I've been driving this bandwagon since mid-November. Let's get everyone fully onboard.
It's kind of like when you go to the movies with your friends, and you come away super-stoked about the film. Almost to the point where you're envious of the people about to enter the theater after you, because they will be seeing the flick for the first time, and you can never recapture that magic again. (This might or might not have happened after "The Last Jedi" recently.) Only problem is, your friends are like, "Yeah, that was a good movie." But you felt the movie was AMAZING, and now you're upset that everyone is not at your level of excitement. Because that's where I'm at with Jimmy GQ right now. And I want you to be there, too.
I know -- many of you have read this far and are thinking, Slow your roll, Rank. He's been fine. But he hasn't been THAT good.
Really? Just fine? OK, let's have some real talk here.
Garoppolo's thrown for 1,250 yards in his first four games as the starting quarterback of the 49ers. That's more than Joe Montana and Steve Young piled up over their first four Niners starts combined. COMBINED. (Side note: This is the only franchise that rivals Green Bay when it comes to having an embarrassment of riches at quarterback. The 49ers have been so great at quarterback, Jeff Garcia, Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick were all expendable. As a Bears supporter, I find this quite vexing.)
Beyond that, Garoppolo has started his career with six straight wins, which is the most since Ben Roethlisberger, the all-time leader in the category (15). Garoppolo could tie Daunte Culpepper with a win over the NFC West champion Los Angeles Ramsthis Sunday. Jimmy GQ's 101.8 career passer rating is the third-highest passer rating by any quarterback with at least five starts in the last 25 years. He's also recorded the fifth-most passing yards in a player's first six starts since 1991.
So, yeah, I would say he's doing pretty well. And these numbers aren't the only things that stand out.
Garoppolo was mic'd up in the 49ers' thrilling comeback win over the Titans in Week 15. And as you can see in the video, he was so matter-of-fact about the whole thing. He approached that game-winning drive the same way a Dunkin' Donuts manager would explain how to work the coffee machine to some new hire. When he engineered another winning drive against Chicago earlier in the season, I remember thinking to myself, I'm soooooo glad the Bears didn't trade a second-round pick for Jimmy GQ, the pride of Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows High School, and take Malik Hooker or Marshon Lattimore with the third overall pick in April, because that would have been awful ...
Actually, who knows how that would have worked out? Another big reason for Garoppolo's success is that he's working with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. If you don't think Shanahan is a good coach, check in with Matt Ryan, who went from NFL MVP to curtain jerker in one year's time. We haven't seen a drop this significant since The Miz went from headlining WrestleMania XXVII to losing to Brodus Clay at "Over the Limit" just over a year later. And yes, I know the Falcons are still in playoff contention. I'm a bitter fantasy guy, so please forgive me.
The point is, Garoppolo spent some time learning from the G.O.A.T., and he's about to (presumably) embark on his first full offseason with one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game. And the 49ers currently have a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft (no thanks to Jimmy GQ's winning streak), where San Francisco could take one of the top running backs or receivers available.
So, right now, you're just getting a trailer of the full-length feature film that is about to be unleashed on the NFL next season. I suggest you get in line for the big show today.
I am in no way abandoning my friends down in Duval County, Florida. A lot of folks sprained their ankles jumping off the Jags' bandwagon following the 44-33 loss to San Francisco, but my bum is firmly attached to my seat. I'm not jumping off any time soon. As a matter of fact, I think Sunday's setback was probably the best thing that could've happened to Jacksonville at this point. Before you claim that I've lost my mind completely, let me explain.
Things had gotten a little too lit for the Jaguars in recent weeks. They were the toast of the NFL town. Everybody had them pegged as a sneaky Super Bowl contender. Though it's hard to be sneaky when everyone is picking you. But they were the new pick to click. The hot new gastropub that opened up with a line around the corner. Once the Jaguars lost, everyone cleared out quicker than when your uncle breaks out the Fireball after Christmas dinner and starts ranting about the state of the world. Not me, though. I'm like, Make mine a double and let's get into this!
A loss can help ground you. Spawn a little humility. Help get the edge back. Remember early in "Rocky III," when our hero was so full of himself and Clubber Lang had the eye of the tiger? The Jaguars had become statue-unveiling Rocky. But after getting Jimmy GQ'd, Jacksonville's raring to go once again.
The Jags needed to get back the underdog mentality that allowed them to beat up on the Steelers -- in Pittsburgh -- back in Week 5. They needed the chip back on their shoulder.
And if you want a little historical perspective, take a look at Tom Coughlin's past. Back when Coughlin, the current executive vice president of football operations in Jacksonville, was coaching the Giants, a little late-season hiccup wasn't unheard of. In fact, each of Coughlin's title teams experienced this: The 2007 Giants lost two of their last three regular-season games, while the 2011 edition dropped a Week 15 game to the lowly Redskins before starting the Super Bowl surge. So you're all good, Jacksonville. This was all part of the plan.
POPULAR OPINION THAT'S SPOT ON: Jeff Fisher should stay retired (or go coach in the GSAC).