Two teams with very, very different 2019 seasons entered the 2020 NFL season with relatively lofty expectations.
The San Francisco 49ers were fresh off of a 13-3 season that landed them in the Super Bowl, where they ultimately lost the big game to the Kansas City Chiefs. High expectations, thus, were warranted and were held across the fan base entering a matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. Those expectations, to put it bluntly, were not met, as the Niners stunningly fell to their division rivals in a 24-20 contest.
The Cleveland Browns, on the other hand, were trying to forget everything from a 6-10 campaign in 2019. They ditched head coach Freddie Kitchens in favor of Kevin Stefanski and aimed to start off the season with a shocking upset of the Baltimore Ravens. Not only did they lose to the Ravens, as expected, but they lost by an astounding 32-point differential and were pretty tough to watch across the board.
Obviously, the quarterback bears much of the responsibility in these situations, and in the cases of the 49ers and the Browns, it was no different. San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo was unexceptional with 259 yards and two touchdowns, but was made to look even worse when compared to his opposing quarterback, Kyler Murray. Cleveland's Baker Mayfield couldn't say the same as Murray, as he finished with only 189 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
And in both cases, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wasn't too optimistic about the quarterbacks' futures with their respective teams. Florio discussed these story lines, among others in Week 1, on WFAN's "Moose and Maggie."
First, speaking on Garoppolo's performance, Florio was disappointed with how the 49ers played as a whole and equally as impressed with the Cardinals.
“For them (the 49ers) to get smacked in the mouth at home to start the season by a Cardinals team that gave them a pair of tough games last year, that was jarring," Florio said. "And it says as much for the Cardinals as it does for the 49ers. The Cardinals are a team to pay attention to... Kyler Murray is the real deal. Kyler Murray is a superstar already, and it’s just a matter of time before more people realize it.”
“I would take Kyler Murray 100 out of 100 times over Jimmy Garoppolo at this point. Kyler Murray’s got it. And I think that unless Jimmy Garoppolo dramatically changes what we saw from him on Sunday, this is gonna be his last year with the 49ers.”
Garoppolo is currently on the third year of his five-year, $137-million deal with the Niners.
Murray posted similar stats to Garoppolo through the air against the much stronger 49ers defense, going for 230 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but where he really impressed was on the ground. The 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year shredded San Francisco with his legs to the tune of 91 yards on 13 carries.
Florio was similarly wary of Mayfield's prospects of hanging around in Cleveland. The offseason coaching change may have hinted at this from the start.
"Rarely, if ever, do you walk into a situation… where you’ve got a franchise quarterback, because there’s not gonna be a coaching change if the quarterback is performing at a high level," Florio said. "When I look at Kevin Stefansky walking into that job, Baker Mayfield was a major disappointment last year in comparison to what he was the year before.
"They have Case Keenum on the roster in Cleveland -- Keenum was with Stefansky when Stefansky was the quarterbacks coach in Minnesota in 2017, they took the NFL by storm, they had the Minneapolis Miracle, they were on the brink of the Super Bowl -- so there’s familiarity there between Keenum and Stefansky and I can’t help but wonder at what point the leash gets a little shorter on Baker Mayfield."
Florio even referenced a question he received that made him think, regarding whether he'd prefer former No. 1 overall pick Mayfield or former sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew at this point of the 2020 NFL season.
A Thursday night matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals may be exactly what Mayfield needs to break out of his slump and prove that he has the type of stuff that can bring victories to the Browns. For that reason, I selected him as a sneaky streaming option in fantasy football for Week 2.
Check out more of our picks from the RADIO.COM Sports Fantasy Football show below.
Florio also addressed a quarterback who pleasantly surprised many critics and Chicagoans. Though Mitch Trubisky threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a victory over the Lions, Florio doesn't feel that it was a career-defining performance by any means.
"He’s built up some poker chips after what happened on Sunday with the comeback win," Florio said. "Does he squander them or does he build up more? And you know he’s staved off a potential benching until October at least… but pulling the rabbit out of the hat -- or some other orifice -- on Sunday helps Mitchell Trubisky at least in the short term.
"But it doesn’t save his career, it just holds off the point at which he gets the hook."