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Reaction to Jalen Ramsey quote reveals the sensitive side of fans when it comes to quarterbacks

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Jacksonville Jaguars v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Contracts aside, the only player on the 49ers that I would trade Jalen Ramsey for, if I were the Jaguars, is Jimmy Garoppolo. That’s not exactly a slight to San Francisco, it mostly has to do with the fact that Ramsey has to be one of the most valuable players in the NFL today: 23 years old, a first team All-Pro, a rookie contract, and basically the version of Richard Sherman that the Seahawks had all the way back in 2012.

Do the 49ers have a single player like that? No.

I feel comfortable not having to say “probably not.” The closest is DeForest Buckner, while Solomon Thomas certainly has the potential to get there. Reuben Foster as a football player maybe, but other considerations have to be taken into account. By all accounts, I think Ramsey is more valuable than any player on the Niners, with the exception of a potential franchise quarterback; I said “contracts aside” earlier because I’m not ready to buy into mega-contracts for QBs and Garoppolo hit the motherload.

All that being said, Ramsey has nothing to fear in San Francisco. He’s not a person who lacks confidence and I think it’s safe to say that he has the right to feel confident in a number of things, such as the fact that Jacksonville has a much clearer path to both the playoffs and the Super Bowl than the 49ers do. The Jaguars are also a much better team than the 49ers are. (Don’t freak out on me, San Francisco fans, the Jags are also better than Seattle.) When you’re that good and you have that much confidence in your team, it’s easier to speak the truth.

Another trait that Ramsey has in common with Sherman: he’s not afraid to speak his truth.

This week, Ramsey went on the NFL Network and was asked to list some quarterbacks who don’t belong on the Top 100 list. This was not casual. Ramsey had a notecard prepared. This was a segment that the NFL Network planned ahead of time and went over Ramsey with. People who work at NFL Network got in a room and pitched ideas — or at least had a Slack about it. This was a plan by the NFL Network to do something that would generate headlines. It worked.

Ramsey, unafraid to share his opinions on “the enemy,” complied.

“He came in at 90. Jimmy Garoppolo. Not yet. Not yet. What he play, five games? He has good potential. I think he’ll be a good player. In my experience playing him, it was a lot of scheme stuff. It wasn’t like he was just dicing us up.”

Kurt Warner then adds in that the question was designed to of course talk about players who they think will be Top 100 worthy next year. Nobody else in the room said Ramsey was being outlandish, and why would they? Ramsey was asked to list a QB who maybe wasn’t ready for the Top 100, and who else was he meant to pick?

Garoppolo was the second-to-last QB on the list. Kirk Cousins was 94th. Derek Carr was the third-to-last, and he was all the way up at 60th. (I mean, my first answer would’ve been Garoppolo or Carr, but the question even leaned towards players who are trending up but maybe not ready and Carr was maybe never ready, so it’s almost like a different answer to a different question.)

“There’s not a lot of film on him,” said Ramsey.

“That’s a big deal!” replied Warner.

Then Michael Irvin proceeds to say that 16 QBs on the list is too many and that he has six guys who don’t belong on the list. The six who don’t belong? While Ramsey had the gumption to name one player who maybe hasn’t proven enough and will get there eventually, Irvin wouldn’t name any player who didn’t belong, even said there were at least six. “Philip Rivers should be higher” is all Irvin would commit to.

Ramsey named one QB who was barely on the list and said he wasn’t quite ready, but the headline bite is: “It wasn’t like he was just dicing us up.”

Let’s talk about that too.

The Jaguars had an incredible defense last season, but collapsed in a Week 16 road game in San Francisco: A 44-33 loss that included 21 points allowed in the fourth quarter. Garoppolo was 21-of-30 for 242 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also rushed for a touchdown. Ramsey’s takeaway from the game: Garoppolo was not dicing them up. Is that true?

Well, Ramsey’s job is to cover wide receivers, often the best wide receivers on the field. Of Garoppolo’s 21 completions, nine went to receivers: three to Marquise Goodwin, three to Trent Taylor, one each to Louis Murphy, Aldrick Robinson, and Kendrick Bourne. Per PFF, cornerback A.J. Bouye allowed a passer rating of 60.4 when thrown at. Ramsey had a more difficult time, allowing a rating over 100 for the first time in his career.

But still, 76 receiving yards went to fullback Kyle Juszczyk. 42 yards and a touchdown went to tight end George Kittle. Goodwin was the leading receiver at receiver with 37 yards. And the fourth quarter collapse was really a disaster in run defense, penalties, and an interception by Blake Bortles. The Jags actually led 19-16 midway through the third quarter, but the Niners had 28 more points in store; despite this “offensive explosion,” Garoppolo’s longest pass for the rest of the game was 10 yards.

His remaining yards gained on completions: 8, 7, 8, 2, 10, 8, 7, 3, 5

This isn’t to say that Garoppolo wasn’t good or that he wasn’t executing to perfection the gameplan given to him by Kyle Shanahan. Nor is it saying that Ramsey’s statement that it was “scheme” really matters as far as excusing a poor performance against Garoppolo, every team runs a “scheme.” It does however illustrate that if Ramsey was saying that they weren’t “out-armed” by Garoppolo, but instead “out-coached” by good planning and great execution, he wasn’t wrong.

What Ramsey said is perfectly defensible. He was also asked a specific question and he answered it honestly by giving the name of a quarterback who probably would’ve been the most common answer by anyone asked “Which QB on the top 100 right now is perhaps the least ready to be on the Top 100?”

Survey says: Jimmy Garoppolo.

This did not make it easier for some 49ers fans to swallow.

Ramsey responded to Niners Nation’s tweet and story with this (again, not afraid to get face-to-face with it, challenging them to @ him next time):

The responses are garbage.

Daniel’s response sums up the most common response from 49ers fans: “You lost.”

Keep in mind that Ramsey and Daniel are talking about a game in which the Jaguars fell to 10-5 and the Niners improved to 5-10. Jacksonville won two playoff games — including a rather easy road win against the Steelers — and they narrowly let the AFC Championship slip out of their hands in New England. The opposing fans here seem to think that Ramsey would be bitter about a December road loss.

Except that the loss had literally zero effect on the Jaguars season, which was considerably more successful than San Francisco’s season and Ramsey has a significantly better chance to both return to the playoffs and to win the Super Bowl this year than the 49ers do.

(Sidenote: I’m also with the EU on banning memes. Not because of copyright, but because it emphasizes the lack of creativity and original thought on the part of millions of people who rehash and reuse tired gifs like this one when they have nothing else to say.)

A response to a question asking Daniel why the game even matters is met with perhaps the most popular way to deflect when you don’t have an answer: “Well, what about that thing on your side that maybe isn’t that good!”

And then when someone rushes to the aid of Daniel, he proposes that Ramsey should keep Garoppolo’s name out of his mouth. Remember ... Ramsey was asked to do this on NFL Network. He didn’t personally write a manifesto and print a full page ad in the New York Times.

“Focus on your own players” is an interesting way to respond when you are literally so worried about what a player on a different says that you take to Twitter conversations and message boards about it. I mean, why should any 49ers fan care more about Jalen Ramsey than Ramsey cares about Jimmy Garoppolo? At least Ramsey has a reason to care about Garoppolo.

The only reason here is: “I like the quarterback on the team that I root for. Anyone who says anything bad about him is now my enemy.” And that’s it. It really just boils down to the sensitivity and insecurity we have about our favorite players and usually the one getting the most praise and criticism in football is the quarterback.

I mean, sometimes not even players can stand criticism of the quarterback:

Some players never put blame on the quarterback:

Former quarterback Chris Simms even said on the Dan Le Batard Show recently that “We are in this weird culture right now where the quarterback is on a pedestal.” (Start at 1:30, before Tony Boselli actually calls in to rant in defense of ... Blake Bortles.)

Tony Romo, Danny Etling, Blake Bortles is a great way to transition then into the fact that this is not about Jimmy Garoppolo or Jalen Ramsey. This is not about San Francisco 49ers fans. If you’re a Niners fan and you’ve read this far, then I’ll expect a very different comment than if you only read the headline and skimmed the piece. Because Seattle Seahawks fans do this with Russell Wilson.

(Using Sam as an example may be considered cheating.)

Note: You can totally trash players on the offensive line. I’ve seen others trash the wide receivers Wilson has to throw to sometimes. (“Pedestrian” as an example when they do it on TV.) You can trash the running backs. You can trash assistant coaches. If you’re really skilled, you can trash the head coach too. And certainly there are some fans who will run to the defense of these people too — but it takes a lot to be able to trash the quarterback and not expect a backlash.

Remember: Boselli had to call into a radio show to defend Bortles.

You can’t trash a team’s quarterback without expecting some backlash, and in the case of Garoppolo it’s just such a unique situation that it’s going to be more heated than usual and even involve one of the game’s greatest young players in Ramsey. Garoppolo is so unique in that he is one of highest-paid players in history despite only seven career starts. On one hand, Garoppolo’s displayed skills and ability that suggest he could be one of the game’s best and most productive quarterbacks in 2018; at least some of that will have to do with executing Shanahan’s scheme. On the other hand, he has fewer career pass attempts than what Packers backup QB Brett Hundley had last season alone. There’s nothing about a small sample size that precludes a quarterback from expanding that success out to a full season or a long career, it’s just that we also know that players have had success in small sample sizes and then not built upon that when given more time.

Remember this:

That doesn’t mean that there’s a comparison to be made between Garoppolo and Billy Volek ... but it does mean that someone got to this part of the article and felt a lava bubble ascend through their body and eventually reach their head and create steam that shoots out of said person’s ears because ... “YOU’RE COMPARING GAROPPOLO TO VOLEK?!?!”

That’s how people feel about quarterbacks. Rationality goes out the window. “That’s my quarterback.”

As Warner agreed to in that segment with Ramsey, it is a big deal that Garoppolo hasn’t played a lot yet. As Ramsey said in that segment, he will likely get to that upper echelon of quarterbacks soon, even if the version that the Jaguars saw was mostly moving them down the field in smaller chunks with passes to his running backs and tight ends — a totally legal NFL play. As fans of Garoppolo said, “Shutup.” As fans of Bortles said, “Shutup.” As fans of Wilson will often say, “Shutup.” As fans of Andrew Luck and Cam Newton and Eli Manning have said to me countless times over the years, “Shutup.”

That’s the quarterback and you don’t talk about him. Unless, you know, you’re on TV and the hosts specifically ask you to talk about him. Just know that you’re being setup for controversy.