Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Max Kellerman explains how Jimmy Garoppolo can become a top-10 quarterback

Jul 2, 2020 at 12:37 PM--

Stephen A. Smith has been very critical of those who are quick to praise San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. That's not to say that the ESPN personality feels Garoppolo is a bad quarterback. He's repeatedly stated that isn't the case. The First Take host, however, doesn't believe Garoppolo belongs in the discussion of the league's best quarterbacks.

"That defense, that running game, Travis Kelce (Note: he meant George Kittle), and Kyle Shanahan are people you think about before Jimmy G ever enters your head," Smith said on Thursday, "and you're the quarterback for the team. Stop it. I mean, please. Is he ready to be a star? He's ready to look like a star because he's got stars around him."

One 49ers player, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, responded to Smith's take on whether or not Garoppolo is ready to become an elite quarterback, saying Garoppolo is "already elite," and is hoping for the discussion to end.

RELATED 49ers' Deebo Samuel responds to Jimmy Garoppolo criticism, saying his QB is 'already elite'

Smith's co-host, Max Kellerman, believes Garoppolo is capable of being a top-10 passer in the league. But can he become an "elite" quarterback?

"When we say 'elite,' we mean do we see in them a regular-season MVP?" explained Kellerman. "Not just a guy who can turn it on in the playoffs because he's in a great organization or on a great team. And so, no, that level of talent is not there ... But could he be elite in the sense that he's a top-10 quarterback? Sure."

Kellerman explains that will be determined by Garoppolo's future performances when it counts most — in the playoffs. He does, however, note that the 49ers quarterback has made a difference in San Francisco when he's on the football field.

"You can give Shanahan all the credit you want," Kellerman continued. "The bottom line is if he's so great at scheming guys open and all that, why without Jimmy G are they 4-and-20? Four-and-20 without Jimmy G. So, they can't find a replacement guy good enough to get them more than four wins out of 24 games?

"With Jimmy G, you ask? Twenty-one-and-six. The same franchise. They reverse records. They are basically the worst team in football without him. They're basically the best team in football with him. Everything else is the same. You can't just give the credit to his teammates."

Garoppolo passed for 3,978 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2019. He led the 49ers to a division crown, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and a Super Bowl berth in his first full NFL season as a starter.

"He doesn't have the arm of a Cason Wentz or anything like that," Kellerman added. "He's not as accurate as Drew Brees. But he can throw it well enough, he's pretty accurate, he's been clutch. Until that fourth quarter in the Super Bowl, he's been clutch throughout his career. He gets rid of the ball quickly, he leads, and he wins.

"His reputation will be made or broken on precisely the moment you picked out, Stephen A. Had he hit Emmanuel Sanders (in Super Bowl LIV), he'd be celebrated today. He missed him, they lost, and so the question is: Can he be elite? Jimmy G can move into the top-10, and be considered a great player if he comes through in those situations."

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