Jimmy Garoppolo Is Not A Good Starting Quarterback

Jimmy Garoppolo's injuries are not the reason Trey Lance is here.
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Why did the San Francisco 49ers mortgage three first-round draft picks and a third-round draft pick to replace Jimmy Garoppolo?

Consensus has been that Garoppolo can not stay healthy. Garoppolo, after all, has missed 25 of his scheduled 57 starts. Although this may be a contributing factor, the narrative has been off base overall.

Let's take an in-depth look at Garappolo's only full year as a starter -- 2019. Being a division foe, the Arizona Cardinals are a team that Garoppolo had the luxury of facing twice. The Cardinals passing defense ranked dead last in the league in 2019. Here is what the Cardinals passing defense allowed: 4,510 yards, 38 touchdowns, they intercepted seven passes and allowed a 71 completion percentage. 

If the Cardinals defense was a quarterback, they would have been the league's most valuable player. Removing those two games from Garoppolo's schedule, his numbers versus the rest of the league are anemic. He averaged 231 yards passing per game, had 20 total touchdowns and 16 total turnovers. Amortize those numbers over 16 games season and Jimmy would have ranked behind rookie Kyler Murray in passing yards. He also would have ranked behind rookie Daniel Jones in passing touchdowns (Jones played in just 13 total games that season).

One oft heard excuse for Jimmy is the poor offensive line play he has endured. Let's look further into that notion. In 2019 Jimmy had 2.4 seconds pocket time on average. He took 36 total sacks that year. Compare this with Ben Roethlisberger in 2021. Ben had just 2.1 seconds pocket time while taking only 13 sacks. In 2021 the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints were regarded as having top tier offensive lines. They managed to give their quarterbacks 2.3 and 2.4 seconds pocket time, respectively.

When breaking down the 2019 49ers, it is clear they were a quick-hitting offense that relied on yards after the catch to be effective. A statistic that backs this is the average intended air yards per pass. Garoppolo ranked second lowest of all quarterbacks who played at least 10 games in 2019. Only Drew Brees ranked behind Jimmy. Despite this, Jimmy had the fourth highest adjusted interception rate in the league of quarterbacks who played at least 10 games in 2019. I can hear the critics already. "His receivers accounted for a lot of those interceptions!" they cry. Well Mr. Critic, the interception rate statistic I referenced above removes tipped passes from the equation.

Overall my assessment of Garoppolo is that although he is a starting-caliber quarterback, he is not a good one. I know, I know: "When Jimmy plays, the 49ers win." But this is a flawed way to look at things. Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard are third-string quarterbacks at best. If Garoppolo is the 26th-best quarterback in the league I would expect his record to dwarf one that is compared to, say, the 61st best quarterback in the league. 

Garoppolo has had flashes and played well at times, but when he drops back to pass, my stomach turns. I know his weak decision making haunts him. Add in his arm strength being average with a lack of decisiveness, and this is a recipe that makes for Garoppolo to always be turnover prone. If you take my assessment as hate, then look no further than the 2019 playoffs when Kyle Shanahan took Garoppolo out of the equation for six straight quarters against the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Like me, Shanahan has zero faith in Garoppolo as a positive difference maker for the 49ers long term.