Does Jimmy Garoppolo Deserve All the 49ers Blame?
Does Jimmy Garoppolo really deserve the backlash he has gotten from the 49ers fan base for the week 1 loss?
Let me explain why.
Kyle Shanahan knew in camp he was short on wide receivers, and the 49ers didn't do anything about it. They could have brought in a veteran receiver like Mohamed Sanu, Dez Bryant or Justin Hardy. None would have cost any draft capital. They decided to roll with who they already had on the roster. Fair enough.
Kyle Shanahan had to utilize who he had. He opted to throw the ball 33 times throughout the game. The 49ers had the second-ranked rushing attack last season and yet they decided to rush the ball just 25 times. With an already depleted receiver room, why wouldn't Shanahan decide to run the ball more often with Raheem Mostert and Jerrick McKinnon?
Also, Shanahan had Garoppolo in shotgun way too much. Garoppolo's footwork looked bad and he was out of rhythm. Shanahan never tried getting Garoppolo comfortable until late into the fourth quarter when he ran a play-action pass while leaking Kyle Juszczyk on a wheel route out of the backfield. That is the only drive after the first quarter that Jimmy looked comfortable.
Shanahan could have called a much better game than what he called knowing he had four receivers with only one who they could really trust in Kendrick Bourne. He lost Richie James during the game due to a hamstring injury. That leaves Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis as the other two options. Taylor is a slot intermediate route specialist and Pettis is Pettis. Tough to do much when you don't have any outside receivers and your main target, George Kittle, got hurt, which was Garoppolo's fault.
Shanahan should've used a bit more play action to freeze the linebackers. This would've allowed Garoppolo to get his feet right in his drop and not be flat-footed. When in shotgun and its a three-step drop, you don't take the drop as its a quick developing play. That led to Jimmy being flat footed way too often. He needs to be able to get his feet going. It's muscle memory -- your feet go and they keep moving in the pocket. Shanahan's offense looked like a preseason offense.
Everyone will point to the play Garoppolo missed and say Kyle called good play. Garoppolo underthrew Kendrick Bourne on a wide-open stutter and go in the end zone. If you don't know what a stutter and go is, it is a route where the receiver pushes on the corner, stutters like he's going to break or come back to get the corner to bite down, just for the receiver to go as the corner bites down.
Yes, Jimmy under threw Bourne, but as a receiver, you are taught to attack the ball at the highest point, if the ball is under thrown to come back to it. You can't wait for the ball to get to you in the NFL, it allows the defender to catch up. If Bourne attacks the ball he most likely draws a defensive pass interference or catches an amazing touchdown.
We know the offense was bad, but it wasn't just Jimmy. Kyle was equally as bad.
Now to the defense. The defense was good against the run as long as Kyler Murray didn't have the ball. Saleh didn't take away the only target Murray had tunnel vision for. At some point, you must take away the best receiver in the NFL, Saleh. You let Julio Jones beat you last year and you just let DeAndre Hopkins beat you Week 1. Adjust the gameplan and run a bracket coverage on Hopkins or try something different. Your game plan wasn't working.
In the 4th quarter, the 49ers took the lead 20-17. The Cardinals got the ball with eight minutes left and Saleh's defense completely lost Hopkins when the game was on the line. This cannot happen from the defense tired or not.
So the answer is NO, this loss was not solely on Jimmy Garoppolo. The entire team, as well as all the coaches, need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask how can they get better.