Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Filmroom: Takeaways from Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start

Dec 7, 2017 at 11:02 AM

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Last Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that the Jimmy Garoppolo era would begin, thus ending the C.J. Beathard era. For now, Beathard finishes with a meager 54% completion, 1,430 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions provided he isn't called upon again this season.

Early on it appeared that Beathard might have at least been the short-term answer at quarterback to finish the season and appeared to play decently enough to hold the job after his first game and a half. But the problems continued in the ensuing weeks as Beathard continually failed to miss hitting open receivers, running into pressure, and throwing some wildly inaccurate passes. The issues were apparently enough for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch to actively pursue a trade for Garoppolo again after trying to trade for him sometime around the draft last spring.

Beathard would have a decent showing against the Giants, but a hit late in the game against the Seahawks caused the 49ers to insert Garoppolo with less than a minute to play and who threw a touchdown pass on the very last offensive play. Two days later, the 49ers announced him to be their new starter.

In a homecoming game of sorts for Garoppolo (who hails from just west of Chicago), the 49ers would collect their second win of the season behind a quarterback who threw 26 for 37 and 293 yards with one interception. Though he threw no touchdowns, it was apparent the offense has not moved that well for a 49ers quarterback all season. And it's exceedingly difficult to throw touchdowns when you take needless penalties that move you back in the red zone once you are inside the 10, like the 49ers were on several drives.

Still, the performance this past Sunday confirmed several things Garoppolo does well. It was apparent that while Shanahan gave him throws that he was comfortable making in the short-to-intermediate passing game, Garoppolo still displayed a good command of the offense. He was able to do several things very well, chief among them 1) making tight window throws, 2) blitz recognition, 3) pre-snap adjustments, and 4) and extending plays.


The first drive of the game showcased a glimpse of Garoppolo's efficiency and skill set. As LockedOn49ers and 49ers Webzone writer Chris Wilson has shown, Garoppolo is an extremely efficient 3rd down quarterback.

This was no different in this game for Garoppolo and the 49ers, who finished 10-for-18 on 3rd downs, including a couple crucial 3rd downs on the final drive.

On 3rd-and-10 from their own 25, the 49ers come out in 10 personnel (1 running back, 0 tight ends, 4 wide receivers). Garoppolo motions fullback Kyle Juszczyk over to the right of the quarterback, revealing to Garoppolo that the Bears are in a zone defense. Motioning Juszczyk also gives him an extra blocker to the right side of the formation to ensure there is enough time behind the protection to get the throw off.

The Bears drop into a 3 deep zone as one safety comes up into a hook zone and the other bails to the middle of the field. Garoppolo holds the hook zone defender in place in his zone drop just long enough to rip a pass to receiver Marquise Goodwin on the right who runs a deep curl, showing off some great anticipation to throw it before Goodwin comes out of his break.

As soon as Garoppolo winds up to throw, Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller breaks off his zone drop and breaks on Goodwin. Garoppolo's' quick release is too much though, as he puts the ball on Goodwin's outside shoulder just over the hand of Fuller who has inside leverage on anything outside the numbers. It's a throw that if it's one inch inside or more, Fuller tips the pass or picks it off going the other way. Instead, Garoppolo recognizes the coverage and Fuller's positioning and places it perfectly in a spot where only Goodwin can catch it.


Late in the 3rd quarter with the 49ers driving down to what would be their 4th red zone trip of the game, the 49ers line up in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) on a 3rd-and-8 at the Chicago 35-yard line.

The 49ers are running a variant of Shanahan's cross-country dagger concept (deep dig by the outside receiver, inside crosser/post) and the Bears are showing a blitz look with six defenders in the box, plus a widened nickel defender splitting the difference between receiver Trent Taylor in the slot and left tackle Joe Staley. Garoppolo brings in tight end George Kittle to the backfield for delayed route out to the right flat after checking the pass rush.

At the snap, the Bears send Fangio's staple tackle-end stunt with a blitzing nickel defender from the two-receiver side as the edge rusher on the right drops into a zone. Garoppolo looks right briefly before noticing the blitz from the left and the vacated area across the middle. This brief look to the right holds the dropping zone defender from dropping into the middle to take away the slant.

As Garoppolo comes back to the left, the edge rush who stunted around the defensive tackle runs free through the A-gap. Garoppolo quickly processes this and knows that he has Taylor open for a brief moment across the middle and side-arms a beautiful pass around the blitzer into the void for Taylor. As he releases, Garoppolo gets hit but not before the play goes for a gain of 15.


Early in the 4th quarter, Garoppolo showcased an ability to make the necessary pre-snap adjustments to get a favorable match-up on 1st down.

The 49ers come to the line with trips right initially, but Garoppolo shifts Celek and Bourne over to create a favorable 1-on-1 matchup with Goodwin on the slant. The shift over by the offense causes the defense to shift over to the strength of the formation and from a cover 2 to a cover 3 shell with off-coverage. The concept on the right is a basic slant-flat concept.

At the snap, Garoppolo holds the defense in place with a quick look off to the left that holds the middle hook defenders in place before coming back to the right and throwing a bullet to Goodwin on the slant. The look-off holds the linebackers just enough, preventing them from getting into the throwing lane and allowing Goodwin to catch it, showing that Garoppolo understands the leverage used by the defense and using it against them.


Garoppolo's ability to extend plays was on display in this game as well.

This play began at the 49ers 8-yard line and would become a 92-yard game winning drive. If the 49ers don't convert on this set of downs, and this particular play, the odds of winning the game would have significantly dropped. And for a few seconds, it looks as though they might not convert.
However, Garoppolo had other plans.

The 49ers are again running the cross country dagger concept, but this time the Bears disrupt the timing by jamming Goodwin off the line. As Garoppolo surveys and waits for someone to come open, Goodwin starts to cross the field.

Pressure up the middle forces Garoppolo to exit the pocket to the right as Goodwin comes open. Rolling to his right through the end zone, Garoppolo sees Goodwin come open near the opposite hash, and he rifles a pass back across to him in stride.

The play goes for 13 yards, and Garoppolo's ability to extend by moving out of the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield is a big reason why the play was successful and the drive stayed alive.


The main issue with Garoppolo this game and last year in New England was nailing down the timing of specific route concepts. Whether needing to wait just a tenth of a second before unleashing a deep pass or throwing with bit more anticipation, we saw a couple of those issues on display on Sunday.

On the first drive, Garoppolo looks to Celek on the quick out route but does not throw it until Celek breaks toward the sideline. The delay allows Fuller to break up the pass. If he throws with a bit more anticipation before Celek breaks out toward the sideline, Celek likely walks in for a touchdown or at the very least is down at the goal line.

On this next play, Garoppolo just overthrows Celek on the corner route. Garoppolo threw the pass with some nice touch and an excellent understanding of the leverage used by the cornerback. The corner is playing with low shoulder leverage as he trails Celek and Garoppolo puts it on Celek's upfield shoulder and leads him to open space. The pass is just out of reach, and it's nothing to really worry about as the timing issues are ironed out over the coming weeks.

Garoppolo's overall sample size is extremely small for a quarterback who has been in the league since 2014, but the film on him is very encouraging and should give fans some hope that the 49ers have hopefully found the next franchise quarterback at a bargain. With the quarterback situation solved, the 49ers can, and likely will turn those high draft picks into more draft picks with the hopes of building a solid offense around him. In the short term, the timing issues should be worked out and this offense will keep humming along with their new quarterback.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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.


  • Nick
    Wow I was right you are still an Asshole. And no I'm not pretending to be a red blooded American because I'm Canadian and damn proud of it ! Happy Holidays Asshole !
    Dec 15, 2017 at 11:03 AM
    Response: Look man, I'm not really interested in your critiques of my writing, especially when you offer nothing of substance and aren't really interested in what I have to say about certain players. But my writing generates clicks for my editors and there's 10s of 1000s of fans who enjoy reading it and are capable of refraining from the nasty criticisms you levy here. So unless you have something useful to say, I suggest keeping your opinion to yourself.
  • Nick
    Thanks for the obvious insight there Bill Walsh. If im not mistaken you were the arrogant Asshole that was so defensive in your commentary about Kaepernick in your article back in April.
    Dec 15, 2017 at 6:56 AM
    Response: LOL you are extremely mad online. It's kind of cute. Yes, I was that Asshole who wrote the Kaepernick article (thanks for reading it! and thanks for recognizing my authority by capitalizing "asshole", or maybe you just made a grammatical error, who can really know?). And whatever I wrote there and here still got you to click each article, so you're definitely welcome for my Walshian insights. Happy Holidays! (If you're a PC SJW type, which I think you are) and Merry Christmas (If you're pretending to be a red-blooded American, because you sure aren't avtough guy, no matter how hard you try online).
  • mbniner
    It's amazing that he looked so polished in his first start with limited exposure to Shanahan's complicated offense. I think that you could look at any QB in any game, including Rogers, Brady, Breese, and see as many errors as he showed. Impressive. I also think that Beathard should be acknowledged for his progress. He is a Rookie! Yes, he's still trying to improve his reads and release, but this is a year where he was supposed to sit and learn behind Hoyer. JG has had 3 1/2 years of learning behind Brady and it shows.
    Dec 8, 2017 at 10:27 AM
  • Jon and Jed aint no ED
    Were LUCKY to have Graoppolo. Enough said.
    Dec 7, 2017 at 3:07 PM

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