Thursday’s NFL: Garoppolo gets shot to shine with 49ers

Associated Press

Los Angeles — With Todd Gurley, Jared Goff and other stars with the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams sitting out to rest up for the playoffs, Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers could turn into the Jimmy Garoppolo Show.

The Rams (11-4) have clinched the division title and a home playoff game in their remarkable turnaround season, and aren’t overly concerned whether they’re the third or fourth seed.

So Gurley — making a strong case for NFL MVP — Goff, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are among the stars who will sit.

That’s OK with Garoppolo, who has led the 49ers (5-10) to four straight victories, providing a rare sense of excitement for a team locked in last place.

“You try to every week say that you’re facing a faceless opponent,” said Garoppolo, who had been Tom Brady’s backup with the Patriots until being traded to the 49ers on Oct. 31.

“No matter who it is you want to have the same mindset. No matter what type of game it is, first game of the season, last game of the season. I think we’ve done that pretty well the last couple of weeks; just coming in, preparing every day, practicing hard, going through the little critiques of certain plays and I think if we keep doing that we’ll be good on Sunday.”

The 49ers’ play behind Garoppolo — including a 44-33 victory against playoff-bound Jacksonville last Sunday — has given the 49ers such hope that running back Carlos Hyde thinks they’ll win the Super Bowl next year.

Giants hire familiar face

The Giants have hired former Panthers executive Dave Gettleman as their general manager.

The Giants (2-13) announced the hiring of the 66-year-old Gettleman on Thursday and planned to introduce him at a news conference Friday.

Gettleman has a history with the Giants. He spent 15 seasons with the franchise before becoming Carolina’s general manager from 2013-16, a span in which the Panthers played in the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. He was fired after the following season when Carolina missed the playoffs.

Gettleman will be the Giants’ fourth general manager since 1979, following George Young, Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese, who held the job for 11 seasons before he was dismissed on Dec. 4 along with coach Ben McAdoo.

Chiefs starting something?

Alex Smith is spending this week helping to prepare Patrick Mahomes II to make his NFL debut, since the Kansas City Chiefs have already locked up the AFC West title and have nothing to gain from beating the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The awkward part? Smith also might be preparing Mahomes to replace him.

The Chiefs traded up to snag Mahomes with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft, the first time the franchise had used a first-round pick on a quarterback in more than three decades.

And with that kind of investment, the assumption has been Mahomes would spend a season learning the craft under a consummate pro such as Smith, then jump into the starting role next season.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid would never acknowledge such a succession plan, but with Smith’s contract becoming prohibitive next season and the franchise in salary cap purgatory, it would make sense to trade or release the veteran in favor of the future.

Thomas unsure of future

Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas says Cleveland’s coaching situation will have no bearing on his decision whether to keep playing.

Thomas played in just seven games this season before tearing his left triceps on Oct. 22 and undergoing season-ending surgery. Before that, the 10-time Pro Bowler never missed a snap in his NFL career, playing 10,363 consecutive offensive snaps.