While it seems like a foregone conclusion that the San Francisco 49ers will move on from Jimmy Garoppolo and start 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance next season, the situation becomes more complicated the further the team advances in the postseason
One AFC analytics executive put it best to PFF: “I was going to say I don’t envy their situation, but they’re in a conference championship.”
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Garoppolo has been the 49ers’ starter since 2017 and has led the team to two NFC Championship Games — including this season’s against the Los Angeles Rams — over the last three years. Wins are certainly not explicitly a quarterback statistic, but the 49ers now have a 35-15 record with Garoppolo as a starter, and people within the NFL have a hard time ignoring that .700 winning percentage despite the QB's limitations. There's a strong possibility that Garoppolo will be moved after the season, but players, coaches and executives around the league aren't as confident that it's the clear choice to turn the offense over to Lance in 2022.
“For a guy that all he does is win, (Garoppolo) sure gets shit on a lot,” an NFC quarterbacks coach told PFF.
There might not be a quarterback more maligned on social media than Garoppolo (though Carson Wentz has a case), but feelings around the league are much more forgiving.
“None of these guys are perfect,” the QB coach said. “Guy wins. Period. The 49ers should check their record without him.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers are just 8-27 without Garoppolo since 2017. They went 1-1 with Trey Lance as their starter in 2021 and 9-6 with Garoppolo under center.
49ers players also rave about Garoppolo publicly.
“Jimmy G, you can’t say enough about that guy,” tight end George Kittle told reporters after Saturday’s win over the Green Bay Packers. “The shit he takes. Consistently people try to pull him down and all he does is try to lead this team. He is the sense of calm in the huddle, he is the sense of calm in the storm. He allows us to play football at a high level.”
49ers players have also expressed confidence in Lance as a potential starter, but it’s Garoppolo starting playoff games right now despite playing through a sprained shoulder and torn ligament in the thumb of his throwing hand.
The criticism, however, isn’t coming from thin air, and the reason San Francisco wants to upgrade at quarterback was on full display Sunday when Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen battled it out in a thrilling AFC divisional-round playoff game. The 49ers keep winning with Garoppolo, and their offense remains efficient, but the team would carry more potential with a higher-level QB, and Lance provides that upside (without assurances) due to his arm talent and rushing ability.
How Jimmy Garoppolo ranks in key metrics
|Metric||Since 2017 (Rank)||2021 (Rank)|
|PFF Grade||81.2 (23rd)||73.9 (18th)|
|EPA/Play||.186 (6th)||.173 (7th)|
|Big-Time Throw %||2.5% (60th)||2.2% (34th)|
|Turnover-Worthy Play %||3.7% (40th)||4.9% (36th)|
|aDOT||7.7 (64th)||7.7 (29th)|
|Accuracy %||59.1% (25th)||59.3% (18th)|
|Accuracy Plus %||19.1% (6th)||18.7% (9th)|
The 49ers’ offense has continued to find success with Garoppolo under center, but it’s also clear that Shanahan doesn’t fully trust his quarterback. Garoppolo is accurate and carries an impressive winning percentage, but he has a low big-time throw rate, a high turnover-worthy play rate and a low average depth of target. Overall, that’s not an ideal combination and limits the overall productivity of the offense.
“With a long-term horizon, I’d be doing as much as I can to get a top-eight QB,” the AFC analytics executive said. “That’s pretty challenging, and a hard route to sell when the team is doing OK, though.