Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Film Room: Breaking down new 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo

Nov 5, 2017 at 2:36 PM

Three weeks ago, I wrote an article ushering in the CJ Beathard era. I thought he displayed enough traits to earn the starting job over the long term, but the last couple of starts have shown that he is a limited passer independent of the problems on the offense (drops, poor pass blocking).

In the short term, it still appears to be the Beathard era. But that is all likely going to change very, very soon...again.

On Monday this past week, the 49ers traded their own 2018 second-round draft pick to the New England Patriots for back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The 49ers still have the Saints second-round pick which figures to be a mid to late round pick depending on where the Saints finish.

Soon after, the 49ers released quarterback Brian Hoyer, who soon signed a three-year deal with his former team, the Patriots.

Acquiring Garoppolo was a long time coming for head coach Kyle Shanahan, who reportedly had him atop his draft board in Cleveland before the Browns ultimately selected Johnny Manziel. Almost immediately, Shanahan proclaimed that Garoppolo isn't here to save the 49ers season and plans on integrating him slowly into the offense. It's unclear whether or not we will see him take the field this season with absolutely nothing on the line.

For now, though, Shanahan has a quarterback who seemingly perfectly fits what he wants to do on offense. He displays the traits of a Shanahan quarterback with his ability to aggressively push the ball downfield, his quick release and decision making, and his pocket presence and mobility. However, it is unclear just how good Garoppolo is at this point with a small sample of throws. He struggled to throw deeper passes and tends to run into pressure or not feel it as well.

The best approach for fans to take right now with the acquisition is to temper their expectations going forward. As I mentioned, we may not even see him start a game this season, and behind the current offensive line, that might not be a bad thing. Fans should also temper their expectations for the simple fact that we do not know just how good he is or can be with throwing fewer than 100 passes. There is a reason to be optimistic though, as his tape shows he is by no means a bad quarterback.



Kyle Shanahan's playbook places a premium on deep passing and taking advantage of miscues and mismatches by the defense.

On this play, from week one of 2016 against the Cardinals, Garoppolo completes a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Hogan. The Cardinals roll to a cover three shell right before the snap with the free safety playing the hash to the two receiver side.

The inside receiver to the two-receiver side runs a short post that briefly occupies the attention of the Cardinals safety. Garoppolo's eyes also hold the safety in place as he drops back, while Hogan runs an "alert" route on the opposite side (alert routes are options for the quarterback if he likes the matchup more than the playside concept). The Cardinals blow the coverage when Hogan's defender Brandon Williams gets caught looking in the backfield for no apparent reason as Hogan runs right by him. Garoppolo notices this error right away and immediately takes advantage of the lapse in coverage. He drops a nice throw into Hogan for the score.

Again displaying this aggressive nature downfield, in week two against Miami in 2016, Garoppolo again looked to Hogan for a 24-yard completion downfield. With the Dolphins in a cover three shell and the Patriots in a 2x2 bunch, Garoppolo is again looking to manipulate the deep safety with his eyes as the receivers attack downfield with three vertical routes.

At the snap, Garoppolo drops back and starts his progressions to the right. The free safety must respect this quarterback movement and so he begins his drop-back to the right side of the offensive formation. This opens up the seam just enough for Garoppolo to immediately snap back to his left and deliver a throw into a small window 24 yards downfield.

Garoppolo feels the rush and steps around and shuffles up fluidly to avoid it, all the while never dropping his eyes and delivers a strike to Hogan again.


One of the underrated aspects of Garoppolo's skill set is his quick release. A quick release isn't necessarily defined by when the quarterback throws the ball after the snap, but how he throws the ball or his throwing motion. Time to throw can be determined by a range of factors including play selection and quality of blocking from the offensive line. But a quick release enables a quarterback to effectively beat the coverage and throw into tight windows with defenders closing.

Some quarterbacks have a more elongated motion due to having a weaker arm (Blake Bortles). Some, like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, have a much more compact and refined throwing motion. A quarterback may stare down a receiver and draw the attention of a closing safety, but his release can get him out a jam quick if it enables him to beat that defender.

A play from this past preseason illustrates this perfectly for Garoppolo. Preseason performance should be taken with a grain of salt, but preseason games are still useful for analysis in that they provide you at least a glimpse of what players do and don't do well. You want to see players at least be able to execute their assignments, make the right reads, rush the right lanes, and execute tackling fundamentals since practice time is at a premium. For a quarterback, you at least want to look for mechanics and decision making.

Against Jacksonville, the Patriots line up again in a 2x2 formation here. The play concept is a Patriots passing game staple, the "sail concept" with a backside deep dig/flat combo in case of man coverage.

The play side concept is a similar concept to the one the 49ers currently run. The "sail concept" is a three-level passing play that overloads one side of the defense, while stretching the coverage vertically. It is a combination of a deep 9-route (fade) or deep post from the outside receiver, an intermediate corner route or crossing route from the inside receiver and a short out route to the flat by a running back or tight end. This sets up a three-level read for the quarterback, with receivers at 20, 15 and five-yard depths.

The defense pre-snap shows cover 2 that looks to be more of a quarters/pattern match coverage where defenders match-up on receivers depending on the route stem into their zone. This immediately gives Garoppolo a look he wants to the right side. On this particular play, he is reading the drop of the outside linebacker.

The defense's post-snap movement confirms what Garoppolo diagnosed pre-snap as the corner carries the deep fade route up the sideline, opening the sail route combination underneath. The underneath curl-flat defender drops into a zone with his eyes on the flat route rather than on the slot receiver. He is immediately put into conflict by the route combination. The curl-flat defender plays the flat route, while the deep-9 route pulls the corner and safety, if but for a brief moment, to get wide receiver Austin Carr open on the deep out route.

From the pocket, Garoppolo notices this but is forced off his spot, shuffles back onto a stable throwing platform, resets, and delivers a strike to wide receiver Austin Carr with the safety closing in.


Perhaps the best trait he brings with him is his pocket presence. And behind the current iteration of the 49ers offensive line, it may serve him well. He is certainly the most athletic quarterback the 49ers have carried since Colin Kaepernick, and although he won't burn a team with his running ability, he has certainly shown he can work both within and outside the structure of a play.

From the pocket, he displays what you want to see from a quarterback working through his reads.

In this play against Miami in week two of 2016, he stays light on his feet and keeps them moving with his eyes as he scans the field for a receiver. He stays upright and square to his target, never dropping his eyes and never panicking. He delivers a 20-yard strike to Martellus Bennett for a touchdown. This throw is as routine as they come from a clean pocket and it's not one that we have seen with any regularity this season from either Brian Hoyer or CJ Beathard.

Once things get muddy in the pocket, though, many quarterbacks simply become unable to function, either due to a lack of mobility (Hoyer) or suffer from bad decision making or bad accuracy (Beathard). With Garoppolo however, these flaws don't really show up on his limited film.

He could certainly develop these bad habits, but quarterbacks that suffer from those traits usually do very early on, and the Patriots helped Garoppolo manage and minimize his flaws by slowly introducing more concepts he was comfortable with over time.

Once outside the structure of the play, Garoppolo shows poise and accuracy when forced to move outside the pocket.

In week one of 2016 against the Cardinals, late in the 4th, the Patriots call a fake wide receiver screen. The Patriots throw a lot of bubble screens, so the next natural progression is to fake the bubble screen and release the other receivers on the trips side out into vertical routes to take advantage of the defense's aggressive pursuit of the screen player.

At the snap, Garoppolo fakes the screen, and steps up and pump fakes the deep vertical crosser when he sees the safety close the receiver immediately. The timing of the play forces him to vacate the pocket and move to his left.

The pump fake buys him time before he shuffles out of the pocket and opens a wide open throwing lane on the move for wide receiver Danny Amendola. Garoppolo throws an accurate pass on the move just before he takes a hard hit.


Garoppolo doesn't have too many flaws that are overly concerning. He did miss on several deep throws, but it appears to be more of a timing issue than
anything. One thing that should be familiar to him though, is that the Patriots run similar deep passing concepts as the 49ers. Sometime in the season and offseason training camps should solidify this timing issue.

From week two of 2016 against Miami, the Patriots run their version of the "yankee concept."

The "Yankee" concept route combination is a common concept used by teams with speedy wide receivers. It is a two-wide receiver deep-crossing combo, with the underneath receiver running a deep over-the-middle route, and the other executing a deep post over the top. It is usually run out of play action and most often with a split zone sift blocker. In Shanahan's offense, the 49ers will run it with a jet sweep action to the backside of the play.

The Patriots will usually run it with the sift blocker, but in this variation, the after snapping the ball, the center peels back around to block the back side edge rusher.

At the snap, Garoppolo executes the play action fake to draw in the underneath defenders. This action clears out the intermediate area of the field for the deep crossing route and freezes the safety long enough for the deep post receiver to run right by him.

Garoppolo throws the deep post but overthrows wide receiver Matt Slater by about two yards. Slater isn't a regularly featured receiver for the Patriots, and Garoppolo presumably had very little time with the first team offense heading into training camp after Tom Brady's suspension was announced. If he had waited for just a tenth of a second longer, he probably could have hit Slater in stride for a touchdown.

For more in-depth breakdowns on Jimmy Garoppolo, see this article by Derrik Klassen of Football Outsiders, and my Twitter breakdowns here, here, and here.


It remains to be seen if and when Garoppolo will get the nod to start in place of Beathard. The offense is not equipped to take full advantage of his skill set and can barely protect the quarterback they have now. At the skill positions, the 49ers lead the league in dropped passes with 18. Barring injury to Beathard, the very earliest we could see Garoppolo is after the bye against Seattle at home.

For now, it's best to assume that Garoppolo is the quarterback for the future of the franchise and fans should expect a deal to be done sooner rather than later to keep him around. Shanahan presumably got his guy at the most important position on the team, and it's one that he's been fond of for a long time. It should also be a relatively easy transition for Garoppolo in this offense as shown above, since there are similarities in schemes.

How good Garoppolo truly is at this point is going to remain a mystery until we see significant playing time. Even with the above-outlined skill-set, there is still some room for improvement, but the small sample of the film looks promising. But being a quality quarterback paired with Shanahan is something all fans, hyped and skeptical, should be looking forward to.

All gifs and images courtesy of the NFL.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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