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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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Why the 49ers should be comfortable with Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021

Jan 29, 2021 at 2:30 PM0


What a difference a year can make in the NFL.

This time last year, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was preparing to start Super Bowl LIV. Garoppolo was coming off a strong 2019 regular season, during which he ranked among the top twelve quarterbacks in many statistical categories. It had appeared the 49ers made the right decision trading for the former New England Patriot, as he was already living up to the high expectations set forth by the organization. Just a short year later, the narrative has flipped on Garoppolo as he is finding himself surrounded by rumors and speculations that the 49ers should trade him for another quarterback, or simply cut ties with him to free up salary cap space and draft a quarterback for the future.

The primary concern for Garoppolo is his inability to stay healthy. Since 2018, Garoppolo has missed 23 regular season games, and spent the majority of the 2018 and 2020 seasons on injured reserve. Garoppolo's performance on the field has also been called into question. He has been plagued with inconsistent play and turnovers, which are being attributed to poor decision making and a lack of development. It is safe to say the overall confidence in his ability to become a franchise quarterback has dwindled.

So, is Jimmy Garoppolo an injury-prone quarterback who will never live up to the expectations his salary warrants? Or has he had a run of unfortunate injury luck, and a narrative driven by recency bias?

In 2018, just months after signing a monstrous five-year, $137.5 million contract deal, Garoppolo tore his ACL in a Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The disappointing injury caused him to miss the remainder of the season. In 2020, Garoppolo suffered two high-ankle sprains, the first of which came in a Week 2 win at the New York Jets and kept him sidelined for two games, then again in Week 8 against the Seattle Seahawks. The second injury caused him to be placed on injured reserve and to miss the rest of the season after making only six starts.

Anytime a player suffers devastating, season-ending injuries in such a short time span, it is going to exaggerate the situation. Regardless of how people want to link the injuries together, there appears to be a lack of correlation between them and no reason to logically assume more injuries will happen in the future based on past events.

Regardless, in 2019, by starting all 16 regular season games, as well as an additional 3 postseason games, Jimmy Garoppolo proved he was able to bounce back from an ACL tear and stay healthy. Not only was he able to stay healthy, but he proved to be an efficient signal caller in Kyle Shanahan's system. Garoppolo ranked:

  • 3rd in NFL in Yards Per Passing Attempt (8.4)
  • 6th in TD Passes (27)
  • 8th in QB Rating (102.0)
  • 12th in Total Passing Yards (3,978)
  • 13th overall in PFF rankings with a grade of 77.3

These stats are especially impressive when you consider the 49ers boasted the 2nd overall rushing attack in the NFL. Garoppolo balanced out the offensive scheme well, made plays when he needed to throughout the season, and deserved more credit for the 49ers' success.

Despite running one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL, most people will merely recall the dreadful 4th quarter of the Super Bowl. After outplaying Patrick Mahomes for three quarters, Garoppolo failed to make critical throws to seal the 49ers' victory. With a 20-10 lead, Garoppolo went just 3-of-6 for 36 yards and an interception. In the final moments, Garoppolo overthrew Emmanuel Sanders and succumbed to a fourth-down sack that clinched the win for the Chiefs. As quickly as the 49ers felt the Lombardi Trophy slip from their grasp, the story changed for Jimmy Garoppolo. While he deserves a share of the blame, there were defensive miscues as well that allowed the Chiefs to comeback in the fourth quarter.

The 2020 season was supposed to be a story of redemption for the 49ers and their quarterback. However, like most things in 2020, their plans were thwarted before they could even get started. Critical injuries to key personnel doomed the season from the start and forced the 49ers to face an uphill battle they wouldn't be able to overcome.

Though only starting six games, Garoppolo accounted for three of the 49ers' six wins as the starter, while registering a quarterback rating of over 100 in half of those starts. As the rest of the season would reveal, the 49ers were a much better team when Garoppolo was on the field, as he completed 67% of his passes for 1,096 yards and seven touchdowns. Garoppolo appeared to be finding a nice groove after impressive wins against the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, during which he went 43-of-58, completed 74% of his passes, and threw for 545 yards in the two victories.

Garoppolo has made the 49ers better since he joined the organization, and head coach Kyle Shanahan understands how important Garoppolo is to this team. The 49ers are 22-8 with Garoppolo and just 7-26 without him. He brings a level of leadership and poise to the offense that is not easy to replicate, as Shanahan has discovered.

"I can't tell you how much our players are different, too, with just having Jimmy out there" Shanahan said.

His teammates have also expressed how his leadership and presence make a positive impact on their performance. According to George Kittle:

"Our team is different when he's out there, and that's why it's fun to play football with him because I think we both have big-time changes to our huddles when we're both on the football field.

"I can't say enough about the leader Jimmy G is, and how his presence changes how the team is feeling, how the team is going about its business and how the team practices every day. Jimmy G is our quarterback, and moving forward he's our quarterback, and that's all I really have to say about it.

"I'm going to go with the guy that took us to a Super Bowl and played at a high level the entire year. That's my case for Jimmy G and I think it's a decent one." via NBC Sports

There is no reason to assume that Garoppolo will not be able to return healthy and start another 16 games in 2021, and the notion that we have seen his talent peak may be a tad premature. Garoppolo has only played in 48 games as a pro, and at 29 years old, there is room for him to improve and continue to develop. The 49ers and their fans should trust that Jimmy Garoppolo can take them to another Super Bowl, just as his teammates and coaches believe he can.

As the offseason continues, Garoppolo will continue to be the focus of many trade rumors, and the 49ers' decision as to whether to stick with him or not will undoubtedly be highly scrutinized and will have a dramatic impact on the 49ers heading into 2021 and beyond.
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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