Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


Jimmy Garoppolo After Week 1: Why the Worry May Not Be Warranted

Don Atkinson
Sep 11, 2019 at 9:00 AM3


With the first Sunday of the NFL season barely in the books, the molten lava of dissatisfaction and fretting over the strength of Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers' quarterback of the present and future has started once again to bubble to the surface.

Garoppolo, it seems, has never been quite free of the doubters after his honeymoon of five inspired wins to finish off the 2017 season came to a halt on the field at Arrowhead stadium in the third game of 2018. Garoppolo's season-ending injury in that game gave detractors fodder to chew on for the next fourteen months, and some less than brilliant practices before this 2019 regular season began provided all the spice the naysayers needed to keep the negative chatter going.

But while many are ready to disembark from the Garoppolo train after just one game, though clearly an unimpressive one offensively, an objective look at the facts bears out a different conclusion.

To be sure, Garoppolo looked off. He threw over and behind receivers on several plays, most notably on an out route to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin that might have brought some big yardage. But to lay the blame for an underwhelming performance at his feet is a bit like blaming the waiter for carrying a plate of undercooked halibut to the table. Maybe we should first look into the kitchen on this one before stiffing the guy on his tip.

Record of Performance


Garoppolo is now 9-2 as a starting quarterback, with a respectable 7-2 record leading the 49ers. Those within the group of panicky fans and football critics deriding Garoppolo's worth will wail about his lack of shine in the preseason, a horrid afternoon practice in Denver and his long stretch of inactivity due to a season-ending injury in that third game of 2018. All of this may be true, excepting a decent showing in the third preseason game this year in Kansas City, the only game where Garoppolo was permitted to stay on the field more than a series or two.

Yet as unfounded as knighting Garoppolo the next Joe Montana based on his 7-2 record in San Francisco may be, implying his value has dropped based on a couple of brief preseason outings and a meaningless practice session in Colorado is equally as silly. Garoppolo is a quality quarterback who has yet to make a truly significant mark because he hasn't yet had much of a chance. The Patriots' Bill Belichick anguished over letting Garoppolo leave New England as Tom Brady's heir-apparent, and 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan fought hard to get him here; both men know a little something about quality quarterbacks. That's a point not to be taken lightly.

Quiet Passing Game


Garoppolo threw 18 for 27 on the day with one touchdown and a single interception. Not awful numbers, but that's not a lot of passing for a team boasting some flashy young receivers going up against an arguably lukewarm group of Tampa Bay defensive backs. True, Garoppolo didn't send it downfield much, other than a fairly slick line-drive throw to Richie James, Jr. that the speedster took into the endzone in stride, and he clearly was off on separate throws to Goodwin and tight end George Kittle. But the lack of deep routes is more a commentary on the team's play-calling than Garoppolo's ability or willingness to air it out.

The sole interception shouldn't have happened, if Garoppolo had kept his focus, but it's certain he has already schooled himself for that mistake and likely that he won't suffer from similar mental errors moving ahead.

Bonehead Penalties


Three 49er touchdowns were called back because of blocking or formation penalties on the offense, two of those touchdowns coming on nice endzone throws to Kittle. Again, that circumstance is not the quarterback's fault, and it raises the question of whether Garoppolo's sole interception would look all that disturbing if it had been balanced against the three touchdowns he actually threw instead of just the one that made it onto the scoreboard.

The 49ers looked very undisciplined at times against the weaker Bucs, but that was a team issue and not exclusive to the quarterback.

Play Calling


Let's put this one where it belongs: at the feet of the coaching staff. Garoppolo's responsibility rests on effectively checking down his receivers, and he paid the price for an amateurish read in that second quarter interception that put the Bucs up early. But setting the offense into a series of bubble routes and ineffectual screens isn't the quarterback's fault.

Ultimately, Shanahan is to blame for what ended up being some fairly sheepish play choices at times, and for never really giving Garoppolo the chance to open up the offense down the field.

The O-Line


While the front five did a decent job of protecting Garoppolo in the pocket, holding the Bucs to just one sack, their run blocking was less than impressive and the running game, lead mostly by Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida, looked spotty at best as a result. This then complicated the situation for Garoppolo, who had to routinely face obvious passing downs, teeing himself up for a stiffer pass rush that almost certainly forced him to alter his rhythm.

Again, the Bucs didn't get to the quarterback much, to the credit of the offensive line, but the ability of Tampa's defensive front to disrupt runners in the backfield didn't allow Garoppolo to then take some timely shots farther down the field.

Missed Opportunities by the Defense


This may seem a bit counter-intuitive since the defense played well, sacking Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston three times and forcing four turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, but the defensive rear seven still whiffed at least twice by dropping easy interceptions, one by linebacker Kwon Alexander and another by safety Tarvarius Moore, that would have given Garoppolo a chance to start working with far better field position than his own 10 or 15 yard line. Convert just one of those picks into another score, and just one of the two touchdown passes Garoppolo threw but had called back by offensive penalties, and you are looking at a 45-17 win. And are we really ridiculing the Garoppolo-led offense based on that result?

Excuses for a tough and obviously unattractive first outing? Maybe. However they point not necessarily to bad quarterbacking, but rather to a young team that's still working out the kinks and jitters of Week 1 in the NFL, combined with a coaching staff that seemed more intent on getting their guys out of the oppressive Florida heat and onto the plane to Ohio without significant injuries.

Mission accomplished, and with the "W" as a bonus.

One final takeaway, perhaps, is this: Superior NFL teams find a way to win, even when they aren't playing well. That's not to say the 49ers are yet a superior team. They are young, and it's simply too early to tell. And in today's pro football league, no team is beyond getting a beat down on any given day. But it's also too early to blackmark any part of the team, or any individual player, which is exactly what Garoppolo's detractors are doing.

Obviously, Sunday's flawed fistfight against a Tampa Bay team that is still trying to figure out whether it's improving or among this year's bottom feeders isn't much of an encouraging note, and it was an ugly win as victories go. But it's a win, nonetheless, and those don't come easy these days in the NFL.

In the end, a slew of ugly wins has gotten teams into the playoffs before, ala the New York Giants of not so many seasons ago. There's much to work on for the 49ers in the coming weeks, and they must, because the schedule clearly won't get any easier as the season moves along. But after one week, they are in the win column.

Maybe for a few days, at least, we can let that be enough to build upon.
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.


3 Comments

  • Tony
    we have to move on. my concerns are the penalties(some questionable) and the run game. i don't understand, like lining up offsides-REALLY? illegal formation. come on man. If we don't fix the RUN game, Jimmy G will not last the season. simple as that. Our d-backs & linebackers will be tested against Bengals. they will be passing tuff against the 9ers. teams are not respecting our passing D. YET
    Sep 12, 2019 at 2:58 PM
    0
  • Kappy49er
    Shanahan's play-calling irked me from the very start. During the game I was telling those around me that he was calling plays as if he was protecting a 30 point lead. Maybe it was because he figured out early that the Bucs were a bit outmatched by our defense. Maybe it was a combination of that and Jimmy throwing that pick and being off on a few other throws. He definitely needs to let Jimmy cut it loose more, especially when our run game is as ineffective as it was.
    Sep 11, 2019 at 12:55 PM
    2
  • William Bruneau
    While this article makes some valid points, the score should have been 53-17, and perhaps more considering the two dropped interceptions. Yes the team was raw and made lots and lots of mistakes, left way too many points on the field, Jimmy included, but his four touchdown passes were representative of the team's overall success
    Sep 11, 2019 at 10:31 AM
    3

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