If you’ve tuned into sports media at all over the last couple of weeks, you’ve undoubtedly heard the barrage of criticism being hurled at Jimmy Garoppolo, the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback. It’s arguably been more criticism than any quarterback has faced amidst back-to-back playoff wins. It has been said that it’s Garoppolo’s last year in San Francisco, that he isn’t the reason the 49ers are winning, and Stephen A. Smith even did an impression of him handing off the ball every play.
Whether or not this criticism is warranted, it’s been so constant that his teammates have felt the need to respond. “Can’t say enough about that guy,” said George Kittle earlier this week. “The shit that he takes, excuse my language. Consistently just, people try to pull him down and all he does is try to deliver. He leads this team. He’s the sense of calm in the huddle. He’s the sense of calm in the storm and he allows us to play football at a high level.”
One piece of praise immediately backfired though. During the broadcast of last night’s NFC Championship game, Fox put up a graphic of a Deebo Samuel tweet. “[Crazy] how y’all have so much to say about our quarterback…. Check his win percentage…. Okay I’ll wait. Pure winner.”
The very next play, Garoppolo had a poorly-placed throw to Deebo that led him right into an oncoming defender. Deebo was hit so hard that the referees initially threw flags on the field, thinking the hit was illegal. As the broadcast went to commercial, Deebo had his helmet off, still lying on the field, being examined by the team’s training staff. His ears weren’t so much ringing as they were playing the theme from Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Deebo was ultimately okay and kept on playing, and one bad throw doesn’t define a quarterback, but it was an instance of immediate irony worth mentioning.
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The writing has been on the wall for Jimmy G for some time now, since San Francisco took Trey Lance third overall. No one takes a quarterback third overall to be a backup. It would’ve taken a Super Bowl victory to save his job, and even then I’m not so sure. If the 49ers did win the Super Bowl, people, at least in the media, would still be saying, “Yeah they won the Super Bowl, but imagine how good they’d be if they actually had a good quarterback.”
I don’t doubt for a second that his teammates’ comments about him are sincere, but regardless of how they feel about Jimmy G, he still has problems. Kittle, who heaped praise on his QB earlier this week, had two catches for 27 yards on five targets in their NFC Championship game. One of those was a terrible miss as Kittle was wide open, streaking down the middle of the field.
His accuracy isn’t the only problem though. He’s also made some questionable decisions this postseason. On their last offensive play of the season, Garoppolo tried a back-handed shovel pass as he was being spun to the ground by Aaron Donald that was tipped by the receiver and intercepted. You might be thinking that since it was 3rd and 13 he had to make a play, and it actually hit the receiver in the hands, but if you’re down by 3 points with just over a minute to go in the game, you’re in four-down territory anyway. Plus trying to throw a pass as the best defensive player in the league is in the middle of tackling you is never a good idea.
Never really considered a criticism of Garoppolo, but he’s also not a good running quarterback, which is a useful skill if you’re not going to beat the defense by passing. In clutch-weighted expected points added through rushes, Garoppolo ranks 27th out of 31 qualified QB’s with -0.7, right between Mac Jones and Davis Mills. Kind of shocking for the QB of such a run-focused team. Trey Lance’s skillset is probably more in line with what the team wants to do.
I trust that Jimmy G will land on his feet though. There are plenty of teams with a good defense and no quarterback who just need someone to game-manage them to the playoffs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.