It pains me to say this but the biggest culprit for the San Francisco 49ers' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV is the 49ers starting quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo had multiple chances late in the game to permanently silence his critics. He failed every time.

It is what it is. There's no sugar coating it. Receivers were open, the opportunities were there but the ball wasn't delivered. The 49ers should have won. All they needed was one typical scoring drive. It never came.

The 49ers were in the driver's seat following their second interception of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. They took over possession leading 20-10 with 11:57 remaining in the game. A touchdown drive ends it. Instead the offense goes five plays and punts.

On the ensuing possession the defensive dam began to break and the Chiefs scored making it 20-17. No matter. The offense is getting the ball back and will be able to put the game away with a TD or a long drive that takes practically all 6:13 remaining in the game. It didn't happen.

Instead the offense went three and out forcing a defense that had just given up an 83-yard touchdown drive no time to adjust. The 49ers' possession lasted just 1:03 in game time. The dam burst on the next drive as the Chiefs had figured something out and the defense couldn't adjust.

Still, the 49ers had been in this situation before and won. They were getting the ball with 2:44 left. Plenty of time for some Jimmy magic.

It started well. The 49ers gained 41 yards on the drive's first three plays. It was going to happen. Garoppolo was going to win the game and silence the doubters.

Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Sack. That's how it all ended.

The third incompletion is the worst one, especially for Garoppolo. This is the play that will stay with me for years. This is the missed opportunity that should have been. This is the play wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders got behind both his primary defender and the safety. Garoppolo saw him and threw deep.

Garoppolo has an excellent deep ball with fantastic accuracy. Sanders comes into view and he's behind the defense. I, and countless others I'm sure, yell in excitement with the assumption it will be completed for the winning touchdown. It quickly faded as a second later it became apparent that it was not only incomplete but Garoppolo had overthrown Sanders by a hefty distance.

The game was 24-20 at that point and the missed throw ended the game for all intents and purposes as Garoppolo got engulfed on fourth down before anything could develop. The 49ers had collapsed and lost Super Bowl LIV. The Chiefs had made the comeback the 49ers couldn't quite complete against the Baltimore Ravens seven years earlier.

Garoppolo, and the 49ers, had three drives to win the game. They combined for 49 yards, two punts, one turnover on downs and just 5:29 of possession time. Add in the last 49ers drive, which was two plays, zero yards and an interception, and it gets into laughable range.

Some want to blame head coach Kyle Shanahan's play calling. I don't. Shanahan wasn't great in this game but he called the plays that gave his team and his quarterback a high probability to win. Players got open. The ball never got to them. That falls on predominantly one person.

Garoppolo's fourth quarter statistics were three completions on 11 attempts, 36 yards, no touchdowns, one interception. Garoppolo's ESPN QBR was just 5.6 out of 100.

So what do the 49ers do from here? Nothing. I was a believer in Garoppolo before the game and remain so. He is not a Mahomes-, Tom Brady-, Drew Brees- or Peyton Manning-level quarterback. He has flashes of greatness but not consistently enough.

Garoppolo is a top 8-12 quarterback in the NFL at this moment. He can still be more. This was his first full year starting despite how long he's been in the league. There was brilliance. There were clutch plays (lead the league in fourth quarter comebacks). But there were too many mistakes too. He's an Eli Manning, Matt Ryan or, to use a reference 49ers fans know well, a Jeff Garcia.

Those names are not to say he has a style like theirs (Eli is similar though). It is to say he is of a similar talent. He can win big games, he can put up super star numbers in spurts but will also make a mistake that the truly elite quarterbacks don't.

Simply put, Garoppolo had the worst fourth quarter he could possibly have had in the worst game he could possibly have had it, but he's good enough to lead a team back to that stage. The 49ers can win a Super Bowl with him as the quarterback.

Until he does, the doubters aren't going to be silent. It is what it is.
  • Levin T. Black
  • Written by:
    A graduate of Ball State University in 2009, Levin was a full-time sports journalist for a few years until he transitioned into a more lucrative career. He began writing for Webzone in 2018 in order to scratch his journalist itch.