Jimmy Garoppolo: So, how good is the 49ers quarterback?

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can generate a lot of takes, back and forths Just how good is Jimmy G?

Nothing like a hyperbole-type question about Jimmy Garoppolo, the San Francisco 49ers‘ franchise quarterback who, despite a distinguished 2019 campaign — his first full year as a starter — somehow has worked his way into the throngs of merely being “OK” after a less-than-distinguished fourth-quarter effort in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Let’s have a little fun exercise, shall we? Go on your Twitter account and search “Jimmy Garoppolo.” Scroll through the top tweets.

Interesting. Polarizing.

So, where does one draw the line for how good Jimmy G is?

It depends on how you want to look at it. And if you’re a Garoppolo fan, you can find any sort of evidence, stats and highlights to suggest he’s on the pathway to elite-dom. If you want the positive spin, Niner Noise already put together an in-depth piece for you right here.

But if you’re lazy, here are some quick-take stats and numbers for you:

  • 3,978 passing yards in 2019 — fourth best in 49ers franchise history
  • 69.1 completion percentage in 2019 — fourth best among all qualifying quarterbacks
  • Four fourth-quarter comebacks in 2019 — tied for most in the NFL
  • 27 touchdown passes in 2019 — tied for fifth most in the NFL
  • First among qualifiers for third-down passes for a first down — 65-of-130, 50 percent

In contrast, however, stats never tell everything. Or, at the very least, there are contradicting stats to suggest Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t in the category of the elite:

The last stat is interesting, as it tells two tales, much like a Garoppolo evaluation. The NextGen stat indicates Garoppolo, on average, hits his targets 2.5 yards short of the first-down marker, thereby relying on his receivers to make plays to get first downs. While it’s good quarterbacking to target players capable of creating yards after the catch, it also inflates Jimmy G’s third-down success shown earlier.

And there are those bone-headed throws, too, particularly between the hash marks:

Granted, not all of Garoppolo’s 13 interceptions thrown were his fault. A number bounced off the hands of his intended receivers. Yet there were instances, such as the video above, where Garoppolo got away with an interceptable pass.

So, we’re back to the original question: How good is Jimmy Garoppolo?

It’s important to recognize Garoppolo just completed his first full year as a starter and still has only 26 pro-level starts under his belt. In contrast, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, four years younger, has 31 pro-level starts. The Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield, who just completed his second pro season, has 29.

Tiering Jimmy Garoppolo in comparison to other quarterbacks helps, but…

It’s nice to tier quarterbacks. Doing so gives you an idea where each signal-caller ranks in comparison and contrast to others.

For this simple evaluation, let’s argue there are five tiers here:

  1. Elite: Quarterbacks carry a team regardless of talent levels
  2. Not Elite, but Excellent: Quarterbacks who can’t carry a team but do everything else
  3. Good: Quarterbacks who need help, generally winning when they have it
  4. OK/Game Managers: Quarterbacks who won’t win games on their own, but they don’t lose them either
  5. Placeholders: Teams simply don’t have a better option available

Reading through the tiers, it’s easy to see why it’s hard to gauge someone like Garoppolo in this manner. Why? Because the tiers are so subjective. It would be the evaluator’s opinions alone. One could put Mahomes or the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson into the elite category. Same with the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees, and few would argue.

The gray area starts between Tiers 2 and 4. Where would someone like Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson fall? He’s spectacular, and the Texans would be infinitely worse without him. But can he carry a team regardless of the supporting cast? If not now, soon? Tier 2 seems to be the spot.

How about Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady? He was perennially in Tier 1, yet his non-New England Patriots context now will reveal where he stands in 2020. And it’s a sharp drop-off from Tier 1 to, let’s say, Tiers 4 or 5.

Just ask former Denver Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning in 2015.

The harshest critics likely think Garoppolo belongs in Tier 4, citing what happened late in the Super Bowl as a prime example of why he can’t win games when it counts the most. Garoppolo boosters will point out Jimmy G’s clutch efforts in a must-win home game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16, which saw consecutive 3rd-and-16 completions on the same drive to set up a game-winning field goal.

Yet those same fans would probably hesitate to put Garoppolo into the top tier. He could get there, yes. But he’s not there yet. And he may never get there.

Tier 2? Maybe, but even some optimists would find reasons to disagree. Tier 3? Definitely above the threshold of that category.

Next. 3 ways Jimmy Garoppolo can improve numbers in 2020. dark

See the gray area? Have fun and discuss all you want about that, right?