After the 49ers suffered a heart-breaking loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football, one thing is painfully obvious: Jimmy Garoppolo is running out of time in San Francisco.
The clock began ticking for Garoppolo’s 49ers career this past offseason when John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan both enthusiastically agreed to trade the house in order to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft and select Trey Lance with the third overall pick. Moreover, Lance just so happens to possess a completely different skillset to Garoppolo. It could not be more obvious, the writing was on the wall.
Flash forward to Week Three of the 2021 regular season and Garoppolo has a chance to demonstrate in primetime why he deserves to play quarterback for the 49ers. The best version of Garoppolo is a quarterback that is both decisive and fearless, possesses a lightning-fast release and a tendency to fit the football into impossible windows. The worst version of Garoppolo is a quarterback that is indecisive and scared to stand in the pocket, possesses an inaccurate arm and a tendency to throw the ball directly at opposing defenders. It was the latter who showed up Sunday night.
Against the Packers, Garoppolo dropped back 40 times, completing 25 passes for 257 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Garoppolo averaged a meagre 6.43 yards per attempt (Y/A). Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Garoppolo did not have a completion over 15 yards. The vertical passing game is literally non-existent with Garoppolo. Defences can just sit on underneath routes and dare the 49ers to take shots deep, and they can’t.
Per Sports Info Solutions, through the first three weeks of this season, Garoppolo has an average throw depth of 4.7, the third-lowest out of quarterbacks who have at least 25 completions. Garoppolo ranks above Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan and below Mac Jones and Carson Wentz. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if San Francisco had an efficient passing offence similar to Dak Prescott in Dallas, but they don’t. When the run game breaks down, this offence becomes extremely ugly.
When the offence is solely on Garoppolo’s shoulders, he misses simple passes on mesh concepts, his throws become erratic and uncatchable, forcing Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk into making circus catches on what should be easy completions.
PFF measured a quarterback’s big-time throw rate versus their turnover-worthy play rate. The aim is to be as close to the bottom right of the graph as possible, near quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray. Instead, Garoppolo finds himself near Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Jameis Winston.
The Jimmy Garoppolo experiment has gone on long enough. This 49ers team is nowhere near as talented as the Super Bowl runners up of 2019, a team that succeeded in spite of Garoppolo and had more talent. With Garoppolo helming the ship on the 2021 49ers, the team in red and gold is heading for the rocks.
This decision does not come lightly. For all Garoppolo’s faults, the former Patriot has shown flashes of competent-to-elite quarterback play throughout his tenure in San Francisco. He’s a proven NFL veteran and there is a lot to be said about that.
The Steelers would be in contention to win the AFC North with Garoppolo under centre.
Moreover, carelessly throwing Trey Lance into the fire does not scream a recipe for success.
However, Garoppolo has simply out-stayed his welcome with the 49ers. Patience is wearing thin and the supercharged rookie on the bench is only going to heap more pressure onto Garoppolo. I wouldn’t be surprised if Garoppolo strings together some competent, clean games with a Y/A of 6.3 and the 49ers pull off some gutsy wins, because that is what Garoppolo does; he strings you along, constantly making you believe he’s turned a corner or made the leap.
But the 49ers need to stop settling for mediocrity. Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco is almost up and these things always end ugly.