Around the NFL: 49ers Lose Garoppolo, Harbaugh Shoots Down “That Time of the Year” NFL Return Talk, Bye Bye Baker, More

‘Tis the season for Christmas caroling, holiday dinners, and Jim Harbaugh to the NFL rumors, but this time, Harbaugh himself is putting the recurring song and dance to bed.

Plus, Mr. Irrelevant takes over for Jimmy G, Joe Cool and the Bengals top the Chiefs, Dallas throttled Indy on SNF, A.J. Brown got his revenge, and more in a packed Around the NFL this morning.

49ers Lose Jimmy G for the Season

San Francisco-Miami was one of the more intriguing games this week heading into Sunday. Miami needed a win to keep pace with the Bills for the top spot in the AFC East after Buffalo beat New England on Thursday night. San Francisco came into the game winners of four straight, with their last loss coming on October 30 against the Rams.

The game lived up to the billing, and the 49ers got their fifth straight win to move to an NFC West-leading 8-4, but the cost was significant. On the game’s opening drive, Jerome Baker and Jaelan Phillips sacked Jimmy Garoppolo, and Garoppolo’s ankle was caught awkwardly under Phillps as he went to the ground.

Garoppolo was replaced by backup Brock Purdy, who helped the 49ers beat the Dolphins 33-17 on Sunday, completing 25-of-37 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Purdy was pumped after throwing his first career touchdown in front of the Levi’s Stadium crowd, and for a good reason; Purdy was the last pick of the NFL Draft last spring.

Mr. Irrelevant has now gone from the last pick in the draft to the starting quarterback on a potential playoff team after 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan delivered the news that Garoppolo will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot suffered in that first quarter sack.

“Just hearing it, it’s pretty crushing,” Shanahan said after the game. “We know what Jimmy’s been through, how hard he’s worked at this. I got that news in the second quarter, so it was a little different for me, even with how happy we were with that game.”

Garoppolo’s newest teammate, Christian McCaffrey, said that the loss of Garoppolo “sucks” and praised his leadership skills that have been on display in the short time that McCaffrey has been in San Francisco.

“I haven’t been around here [San Francisco] a long time, but I can’t say enough good things about him … it really sucks.”

Purdy and the 49ers lead the NFC West by a game over Seattle and play the Buccaneers at home next week before heading to Seattle on Thursday Night Football in Week 15 for what should be a big game that will have huge playoff seeding implications.

Bye Bye Baker

Whelp… that was quite the ride.

After just seven games in a Carolina Panthers uniform, Baker Mayfield is being released by the team, according to Ian Rapoport. Mayfield has missed time this season due to injury and being benched most recently.

After Sam Darnold started the Panthers’ Week 12 victory over the Denver Broncos and led the Panthers to a win — albeit against the Broncos — the Panthers have decided to stick with Darnold coming out of the bye week.

Mayfield completed just 57 percent of his passes this season and threw for 1,313 yards, six touchdowns, six interceptions, and a 74.4 passer rating.

Hey, maybe the 49ers could use a backup for Brock Purdy for the rest of the season?

Welcome Back to the Harbaugh Zone

For years now, there’s been a point in the NFL season — usually around the beginning of December — when Jim Harbaugh suddenly becomes the most significant potential hire in the impending NFL head coaching cycle.

Harbaugh’s camp plays coy every year about the possibility of a return to the NFL, usually to juice up his stock for an extension at Michigan, and then all the December keystrokes and chatter become nothing more than fodder after he stays in Ann Arbor.

Last year Harbaugh went as far as interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings for their head coaching vacancy. The Vikings ended up going with Kevin O’Connell, and Harbaugh stayed at Michigan — again. This time, the posturing netted Harbaugh a five-year, $36.7 million extension with the Wolverines, which in my opinion was always his end game when it came to a flirtation with an NFL return.

Like clockwork, the first Sunday in December featured an Ian Rapoport story once again linking Harbaugh to potential NFL jobs, but only because “sources say multiple NFL teams have been doing background work recently on Harbaugh.”

Naturally, that was followed by a column at The Athletic by Bob Kravitz, in which Kravitz called Harbaugh the ultimate must-hire for the Colts this offseason.

Insert audible fart noise, here.

I’m not doing this again for the next two and a half months. Harbaugh is making over $7 million a year to have total control over everything in Ann Arbor — his alma mater who are in the College Football Playoff for a second straight season — and he said after his dance with the Vikings last season that he was shutting the door on the NFL. And, if he was still struggling to beat Ohio State, these rumors might have some more juice. But Harbaugh’s Wolverines have now won two in a row against their hated rivals.

Sure, topping Harbaugh’s $7 million AAV would only put him in the top 10-12 paid head coaches in the NFL, but again, Harbaugh himself said it wasn’t happening last year.

“Sure, the Super Bowl is the greatest prize in our sport,” Harbaugh said. “But winning a national championship, that’s pretty darn great. Let’s do that.

“There was a pull to the NFL because I got that close to the Super Bowl, but this was the time (to try and return.) And this is the last time. Now let’s go chase college football’s greatest prize.”

Harbaugh doubled down on Sunday by telling reporters on a Fiesta Bowl teleconference that he’s returning to Michigan in 2023:

“A lot of that-time-of-year type of speculation,” Harbaugh said of the rumors. “No man knows the future, but I think that people that think we’ve done a good job and are pleased with the job that we’ve done here at Michigan are gonna be very happy to learn that I’ll be back enthusiastically coaching the Wolverines in 2023. And those people that don’t approve of the job we’ve done and would rather see somebody else coaching here, I think they’ll be most likely disappointed to learn that I’ll be back coaching the Wolverines in 2023.”

As Harbaugh said, it’s that time of the year, so I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the reports to the contrary, but for now, Harbaugh has put that notion to rest himself.

Extra Points

  • Joe Burrow and the Bengals seem to have the Kansas City Chiefs’ number these days. Cincinnati topped the Chiefs again in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship.
  • Burrow’s fourth-quarter touchdown throw to Chris Evans put the Bengals on top for good in this one, and Burrow finished the afternoon with 286 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions as the Bengals beat the Cheifs 27-24 to move to 8-4. Their fourth straight victory moved them into a tie atop the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens heading into Week 14.
  • Speaking of the Ravens, they narrowly topped the struggling Broncos 10-9 on Sunday but lost Lamar Jackson to an injury during the first quarter when Jonathan Cooper sacked him. Tyler Huntley played the rest of the game for the Ravens, and coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game that Jackson has a knee injury that he doesn’t believe is a season-ending injury.
  • NFL on FOX’s resident doc believes that Jackson could miss anywhere from 1-3 weeks purely based on what he saw on the video, speculating that there might be a PCL sprain.
  • Deshaun Watson completed just 12 of his 22 passing attempts for 131 yards with one interception, resulting in a 53.4 passer rating in his return to action. However, the Browns still picked up a 27-14 win over the Texans on Sunday without even scoring an offensive touchdown.
  • A.J. Brown balled out in his revenge game against the Tennessee Titans, hauling in eight passes for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Eagles blasted Tennessee and moved to 11-1 on the season.
  • Sunday Night Football was a laugher as the Cowboys throttled the Colts in primetime, scoring 33 points in the fourth quarter alone. Maybe the Colts do need Harbaugh after all …
  • Last night, the NFL allowed SNF to be streamed on the Caesars Sportsbook app, a significant milestone in the NFL-sports betting relationship dynamic.
  • written by

    Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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