It was supposed to be a brief offseason joke. In March, Rita Carvalho began drawing a photo a day of Jimmy Garoppolo until the 49ers traded him. At that point, it seemed like an inevitability that the QB would be moved as Trey Lance took over the reigns in San Francisco. Plenty of teams around the league were in need of a solid quarterback.
But by August, the 49ers still hadn’t moved Garoppolo, and the list of teams in need of a quarterback was dwindling. At the end of the month, the team signed Jimmy G to a one-year deal with a no-trade clause.
“When I began this journey, I think I thought I’d be doing it about two months. Then it became six months,” Carvalho said, “Now I’m probably going to do it a whole year.”
A strange saga took yet another strange turn when Trey Lance suffered an ankle injury that will sideline him for the entire season. Meaning impossibly, improbably, Jimmy Garoppolo is the starting quarterback in San Francisco again.
Carvalho has hardly had time to think about it. “I think that was the one outcome we hadn’t predicted. I really thought he was going to get traded or cut. It’s all gone so quickly, I’m still processing it.”
A serendipitous 49ers fan from Portugal, Rita discovered football through her boyfriend, who around a decade ago landed on the team while channel surfing and began following the team.
As Rita began doing more digital illustration, she found inspiration in the sports world, and when a digital ‘thank you’ card to Jimmy G got significant attention on social media, she conceived of the idea to keep drawing him as long as he remained on the team.
Over 230 days into this two month project that most likely has another 150 or more to go, she admits that the idea well was running dry.
“At the beginning it was easier, I just focused on references from the players and the team. And then I turned to pop culture references, movies I’ve seen and memes. Now every day is kind of a struggle to come up with an idea because I think I’ve covered all of them by now.”
But with the beginning of a new season comes the soap opera drama of the NFL, complete with it’s own memes and storylines. “Something is always happening in the NFL or with other teams so I think that will make it easier for me,” Carvalho said, “On ideas, I can always go and make some reference about what’s happening now.”
Maybe the finest piece in her portfolio to date came the day after the Trey Lance injury, when she drew Garoppolo as the Undertaker, rising from the dead in his coffin.
With her plans for the final drawing in the series now on hold for the season, Rita said she’s focusing on brainstorming new drawings, and planning something “bigger and totally different” should Garoppolo lead the Niners deep into the postseason.
And when asked if she’ll make a sequel series featuring another yet-to-be-traded star, perhaps Shohei Ohtani or Russell Westbrook, Rita doesn’t hesitate: “Of course. That’s totally in my plans for the future. My goal in the future is to continue to draw sports in general.”