49ers vs. Lions: Who has the edge between Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff?

Quarterbacks Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Quarterbacks Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers head to Detroit to take on the Lions in Week 1 of the 2021 season, setting up a matchup between two quarterbacks who have a history.

Week 1 of the NFL season is finally upon us, and the San Francisco 49ers will start their campaign with a road contest against the Detroit Lions, a franchise that has basically hit the reset button heading into 2021.

The Lions not only have a new head coach in former New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins assistant Dan Campbell and a new general manager in Brad Holmes, previously a trusted member of Les Snead’s front office with the Los Angeles Rams, but also a new quarterback in form of another ex-Ram, Jared Goff.

Goff had an up-and-down career during his tenure in Los Angeles, from the highs of a trip to the Super Bowl to the lows of losing the trust of his head coach during his final and tumultuous season under Sean McVay.

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The former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick was shipped to the Lions along with three draft picks in exchange for now-Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford during the offseason, and while the feeling is that the Lions are OK to move forward with Goff for now, Detroit is very clearly sliding into the skid of a rebuild.

By comparison, the 49ers’ quarterback situation is a veritable bed of roses, with the position group looking the strongest it has been since head coach Kyle Shanahan came to town. The starter, at least for now, is Jimmy Garappolo, fresh off an injury-plagued 2020 season, while 2021 NFL Draft No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance is the clear quarterback of the future, even if he isn’t right now.

Garoppolo is a veteran in years (he’s entering year eight in 2021) even if he’s not in games played (just 48, 31 of which have come in San Francisco), and with Lance in town, he’ll be looking to prove himself in 2021, even if this season is essentially the longest audition of all time.

So while Garoppolo is in an arguably hotter seat than Goff is in Detroit (no offense to backup David Blough intended), the question of who has the edge in Sunday’s game between the two starting quarterbacks has a relatively simple answer.

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has the edge over Lions QB Jared Goff

It’s Garoppolo, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that the 49ers quarterback is necessarily more talented than his opposite number for the Lions.

Garoppolo’s edge comes down to two very uncomplicated elements.

The first is his head coach who is also his play-caller and chief player designer. Kyle Shanahan is one of the great offensive minds in the NFL and has shown the ability to make offensive lemonade out of less than stellar quarterback lemons throughout his career. Garoppolo is far from the top tier of NFL quarterbacks, but he’s better than most of the other QB’s Shanahan has had.

On top of that, the two have already shown they can be successful in this league, even if that season fell a little short of the ultimate goal at the end of the 2019 season.

So even though Goff may have more arm talent or higher pedigree due to his draft position, Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn doesn’t compare to Shanahan as a play-caller or designer.

The second element is the comparison of skill position players that the 49ers’ quarterback has at his disposal far exceed those that Goff has in Detroit.

D’Andre Swift is a solid NFL running back, tight end T.J. Hockenson has been fine but ultimately a disappointment given his draft position, and rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St.Brown out of USC is an interesting prospect.

But outside of that, the skill position players in Detroit is a series of unknowns.

While the 49ers are quite top-heavy when it comes to key contributors like wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, All-Pro tight end George Kittle, and running back Raheem Mostert, that quartet is significantly better than anything the Lions have, even if the group behind these staters begs a lot of questions as well.

All things being equal in that regard, Garoppolo has a decided edge over the Lions’ Jared Goff simply because of the team the former is on and the weapons, including his head coach and play-caller, he has at his disposal.

The final nail in the coffin here is that Shanahan has found a way to flummox Goff on more than one occasion during the quarterback’s tenure as a Ram. In fact, since Shanahan arrived in San Francisco, the 49ers have played the Rams and Goff eight times with the Niners winning five of those games, and only one loss coming outside of the Rams run to the Super Bowl in 2018.

More importantly, Goff is in the middle of a four-game losing streak to Shanahan and the Niners (the most recent of which gave us this big man touchdown), a number the 49ers will hope to push to five straight on Sunday:

Overall, the 49ers are the better team and should be able to handle the Lions, but even when focusing just on the quarterbacks, the edge goes to Garoppolo over Goff.

Next. 49ers roster: 4 rookie backups who’ll be starting by end of 2021. dark