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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Why did ESPN and PFF name Jimmy Garoppolo as 49ers’ bounce-back candidate for 2020?

Aug 8, 2020 at 9:12 AM--

Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 69.1 percent of his pass attempts. Most would agree those are pretty good numbers for a quarterback who just completed his first full NFL season as a starter.

Add to that a division championship, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and a trip to the Super Bowl, and you might be scratching your head as to why ESPN and Pro Football Focus identified Garoppolo as their 49ers bounce-back candidate — a player who "struggled in 2019 but could bounce back in 2020."

A lot of the reasoning has to do with Super Bowl LIV. Pro Football Focus notes that Garoppolo's grade through the first three quarters of the league championship game was 77.1. His grade in the fourth quarter? 42.6.

"As much criticism as he faces, he has more upside than most people think," noted Pro Football Focus. "He ranked 13th of the 32 starters in regular-season passing grade in 2019 and limited how many uncatchable passes he threw over the course of the season. He'll overcome the Super Bowl loss in no time."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that he believes the best is yet to come from Garoppolo, now that the quarterback is another year removed from his devastating knee injury.

"The thing that people have to always understand with Jimmy is that last year was his first season playing the full season as a quarterback," Shanahan said this week during a KNBR interview. "He's never gone past five games, and that was all his first year with us. And the next year, he only got two games. So, this was his first time going through a whole season.

"To look at what Jimmy did this year, to look at his numbers, to look at his consistency, how efficient he was on offense and some of the plays he made ... I know he got a hard deal toward the end of the Super Bowl ... but Jimmy played pretty good in that game, also. There was a lot of good things happening.

"What I want Jimmy to do is take all of last year in, understand how good he did, understand how it ended ... don't stop there. Keep getting better. Jimmy did some real good things, but he's just getting started. And that's why Jimmy's not a finished product. He's almost a second-year quarterback with a lot more mental experience because he's been around the league."

Garoppolo told reporters this past week that he is no longer concerned about his knee, which wasn't the case a year ago when he was still working his way back from the torn ACL and wondering what it would be like in a live pocket with defenders closing in on him.

Said Garoppolo: "We're past that. I haven't really thought about it in a long time."

"Last season, Garoppolo was coming off a torn ACL, and it took him a while to get his legs back under him as the Niners' running game and defense carried the freight," wrote Nick Wagoner of ESPN. "But Garoppolo improved as the season went on and delivered some big games as injuries hampered the defense. It's San Francisco's belief that having a full season of starting and being another year removed from the knee injury should position Garoppolo for his best NFL season in 2020."

While Garoppolo's regular-season numbers, which were among some of the franchise's best ever, are nothing to scoff at, ESPN and Pro Football Focus both agree that the 49es quarterback is ready to turn the page on the 2019 season.

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