Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


49ers’ Rich Scangarello: The Garoppolo Whisperer

Jan 19, 2021 at 11:37 AM


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Jimmy Garoppolo's career with the San Francisco 49ers has been called into question recently. 49er fans and media speculation have various quarterbacks replacing Garoppolo under center, ranging from a trade for the Texans' Deshaun Watson or the Lions' Matthew Stafford, to trading up in the 2021 draft to select a QB from the college ranks.

While all of these scenarios are still on the table, I believe the recent hiring of Rich Scangarello as quarterback coach, a return to the role he had on Kyle Shanahan's staff from 2017-2018, is all the evidence needed to convince me that Shanahan and Lynch want to run it back with Jimmy & Co. one more time. At first glance, this may not seem like a big deal, but if we look back at how Garoppolo played in the final five games of the 2017 season with Scangarello as his coach, we can see why this may be a significant impact.

In December of 2017, Nick Wagoner of ESPN wrote an article entitled, "QB coach Rich Scangarello a key to Jimmy Garoppolo's hot start for 49ers." In the article, Garoppolo is quoted saying, "Rich doesn't get enough credit, in my opinion. There's a lot of moving pieces, but Rich has been with me since I first got here. Literally the first day I walked in here we were going over stuff after I did all the interviews and whatnot. I think a big part of our relationship was that bye week, though. A lot of one-on-one time. We only had a couple of receivers here so we got to know each other pretty well. He's a smart coach and he makes it a lot easier for me to go through my reads when he explains things how I understand them."

This quote came after a dominant Garoppolo performance in a 44-33 victory in Week 16 over the eventual AFC runner-up Jacksonville Jaguars. In the following game, this time against the playoff-bound Los Angeles Rams, Garoppolo would lead the once 1-9 49ers to their 5th straight victory, finishing the season at 6-10, giving him a 5-0 record as the starter, and jump-starting the Jimmy Garoppolo craze in Santa Clara.

Garoppolo finished the 2017 season leading the team in passing yards (1,560), passing touchdowns (7), yards per attempt (8.8), yards per completion (13.0), yards per game (260), and QBR (82.7). Here is the breakdown of his 2017 season vs. his 2019 season (his only full healthy season with San Francisco), when he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance:

2017
Record as a Starter: 5-0
Completion %: 120-178 (67.4%)
TD vs INT: 7 TDs vs 5 INTs
Avg. Yards Per Attempt: 8.8
Avg. Yards Per Completion: 13.0
Yards Per Game: 260.0
QBR: 82.7
2019
Record as a Starter: 13-3
Completion %: 329-476 (69.1%)
TD vs INT: 27 TDs vs 13 INTs
Avg. Yards Per Attempt: 8.4
Avg. Yards Per Completion: 12.1
Yards Per Game: 248.6
QBR: 60.8

At first glance, these numbers don't seem terribly different; however, there is some context we need to take into consideration. Garoppolo's 2017 numbers were outstanding at the time because he was learning an extremely complicated Kyle Shanahan offense, on the fly, with inferior talent around him. That 2017 team had Carlos Hyde and undrafted rookie Matt Breida as its lead rushers, and the WR corps consisted of Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garçon, Aldrick Robinson, Louis Murphy, and rookies Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne. There was also a rookie TE by the name of George Kittle, but he didn't break out until the following season.

In 2019, the talent level around Garoppolo was significantly better. The backfield was dominant with RBs Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Matt Breida. George Kittle had developed into the best all-around tight end in football, and the WR corps had stud-rookie Deebo Samuel, mid-year trade acquisition Emmanuel Sanders, and solid contributors Kendrick Bourne and Richie James, Jr. Garoppolo's numbers should have been drastically better than those from 2017, but they were not. He also seemed to struggle at times with his reads and progressions, often overlooking players who were wide-open in the pattern.

Let's focus on that last sentence from the ESPN article: "He's a smart coach and he makes it a lot easier for me to go through my reads when he explains things how I understand them." This is what excites me about the possibilities in 2021. Speaking as a former college quarterback, finding a coach who speaks your language is a godsend. Jimmy has spent extensive time with both Kyle and Mike Shanahan, learning their offense, but there has always been a sense of a disconnect between Jimmy and his reads and progressions since Scangarello left. His return may finally get Jimmy over the mental hump and allow him to reach his full potential within the offense.

Garoppolo's performance in 2019 was good enough to find the 49ers leading in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl. Bringing back Scangarello, along with the emergence of WR Brandon Aiyuk, and whichever new weapons they add in the draft and free agency, should provide Garoppolo the boost necessary to take his game to the next level. The 49ers shouldn't waste any draft capital on the quarterback position this offseason. They should bring back Josh Rosen to backup Garoppolo and allow Rich Scangarello to work his magic in the QB room.

With Garoppolo as the starter, Rosen as the backup, and Scangarello acting as the Quarterback Whisperer, the 49ers' offense should be dominant in the 2021 season.
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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