How big a difference Jimmy Garoppolo made for the 49ers in 2017

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Expectations for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are awfully high entering 2018. And by looking at his detailed impact from last year, we can see why.

The San Francisco 49ers were a one-win team in 2017 before starting Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13.

They haven’t lost since.

Not surprisingly, the buzz surrounding the Garoppolo-led Niners has swelled to massive proportions heading into 2018. Three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman recently revealed he wanted to play with Garoppolo after the former Seattle Seahawk became a free agent this offseason. And NBC Sports’ Peter King called Jimmy G the “most compelling story in the NFL this year.”

But just how big a difference did Garoppolo make during his five-plus game stretch last year?

Looking at his in-game stats from last year, Garoppolo’s efforts were right in line with excellent quarterbacking:

Jimmy Garoppolo 2017 Regular-Season Table
12017-11-2611SEAL 13-2422100.001810143.709.0019.00
22017-12-0312@CHIW 15-14*263770.272930182.427.926.70
32017-12-1013@HOUW 26-16*203360.613341192.2210.129.36
42017-12-1714TENW 25-23*314372.0938110106.838.869.33
52017-12-2415JAXW 44-33*213070.0024221102.418.077.90
62017-12-3116@LARW 34-13*203360.612922284.408.857.33
6 Games5-1-012017867.4215607596.288.768.29

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2018.

Solid numbers, for sure. But are those the kind of numbers one should get as hyped up about?

The point is the NFL is such a “hand in glove” sport, any player’s true impact is almost impossible to take completely out of context. Garoppolo’s 96.2 passer rating last year would have ranked ninth had it stretched over the entirety of 2017 — just behind the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (97.2) and ahead of the Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (96.0).

Again, great numbers. But what actually matters is how Garoppolo changed the entire nature of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Here’s how.

Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers’ Ability to Score

Overall in 2017, Shanahan’s squad finished as the league’s 20th-best scoring offense. On the whole, that’s not good. But it’s also why splits are so important.

Prior to Garoppolo seeing the field in Week 12, the 49ers scored on just 29 percent of their offensive drives — tied for seventh worst in the NFL, per Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson.

With Garoppolo, however, that number jumped to 62 percent. By far, the best mark in the league:

It gets better too.

Per Graham Barfield of Fantasy Guru, the Garoppolo-led Niners offense ranked second in points scored per drive (2.59), yards gained per play (6.1) and also had the best first-down rate (33 percent) out of all teams.

And you can get the idea what San Francisco’s offense was like without Garoppolo too:

Needless to say, the difference Garoppolo made on the stat sheet was pretty incredible. But let’s dive a bit deeper and look at the not-so-traditional stats one would think the quarterback would be associated with.

How Jimmy Garoppolo Made His Offensive Line Better

It’s hard to win football games if your team isn’t winning up front. And for most of the year, the Niners offensive line wasn’t exactly doing the job well.

Overall on the season, San Francisco’s O-line ranked 14th last year with a pass-blocking efficiency rating of 79.0, according to Pro Football Focus. Looking at those final five games, though, this same unit had a PBE rating of 84.9 — third best over that span.

A case example is left guard Laken Tomlinson, whose 95.2 PBE rating on the full year ranked 49th out of 61 qualifying guards. From Weeks 12 through 17, though, Tomlinson’s PBE jumped to 97.4 — 20th out of 58 players during that stretch.

Taken over the context of an entire season, there’s this from PFF’s Jeff Deeney:

Garoppolo’s poise within the pocket and ability to deliver the ball quickly ultimately helped his O-line improve over that period. And while there were certainly other factors at play, it’s impossible to overlook how crucial Garoppolo’s presence helped improve this unit as a whole.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

49ers Defense Should Thank Jimmy Garoppolo

A good offense can make a so-so defense look much better. It’s Football 101, really. Offenses that stay on the field longer help keep their defenses fresh and rested.

Such was the case for the 49ers.

Per Football Outsiders, the Niners defense finished 26th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) over the full year. Right before Garoppolo started, though, the 49ers were ranked 29th in this same category. Jumping three spots over those final five starts is notable. But let’s take a look at the yardage breakdown.

Prior to Garoppolo starting in Week 13, San  Francisco averaged 374.2 yards allowed per game. Enter Garoppolo, and that number drops notably to 301.8.

That’s a massive difference.

Garoppolo’s ability to help extend offensive drives resulted in the 49ers defense being on the field much less than the Brian Hoyer- and C.J. Beathard-led offenses in weeks prior. In correlation, opponents’ offenses saw less of the field too. And when they did, San Francisco’s defense was generally much fresher and more rested.

It’s a win-win.

Heading into 2018, this will be the trend the 49ers hope to continue with Garoppolo under center. The quarterback’s traditional stats don’t have to exactly reflect this. What matters more, rather, is his ability to truly impact the other 52 players on the roster this season.

Next: 5 reasons why Jimmy Garoppolo gets even better in 2018

Judging by the sample size, it all should work out very well.