Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a key component to the San Francisco 49ers’ 13-3 season and coinciding Super Bowl 54 run. Now that they’re there, however, he’ll have to contribute even more if the 49ers are to win.
According to Pro Football Network’s exclusive Offensive Share Metric (OSM), Garoppolo was the 15th highest-graded quarterback in 2019 for passing production responsibility. Due to low averages in intended air yards and a less than stellar aggression percentage, Garoppolo finds himself in the middle of the pack when it comes to carrying an offense.
Furthermore, thanks to the third-highest expected completion percentage and given his conservative style of play, Garoppolo finished fifth in the NFL in completion percentage (69.1). But despite taking limited risks, he was somehow exceedingly effective in tough matchups throughout the regular season.
In five contests against top-ten pass defenses, Garoppolo completed 70.9% of his passes for 953 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions, including a 107.9 QB rating. With that said, Super Bowl 54 pins Garoppolo up against the 14th ranked pass defense and the fourth-ranked offense. So, the key won’t be whether he can find success but rather if he’ll be able to have the continued success required to keep up with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Against the New Orleans Saints, Garoppolo completed 26 of 35 attempts (74.3%) for 349 passing yards and four touchdowns. Hardly the production of a game manager. Unless, of course, the results were boosted by his teammates. Luckily, OSM not only examines an offensive player’s entire season but each game throughout the year.
In Week 14, Garoppolo recorded his second-highest OSM grade of 2019. His 34.59 was the second most of any quarterback that week, and the fifth time Garoppolo recorded a grade of 30 or more during the regular season. To put his performance into perspective, the average overall grade for the 39 qualifying quarterbacks in 2019 was 23.02.
The takeaway from Week 14’s shootout was how the 49ers offense was battle-tested. The defense, while ranked in the bottom half of the league against the pass, allowed the Saints to gain 465 yards and score 46 points. Furthermore, Drew Brees’ numbers were nearly identical to Garoppolo’s, completing more than 70% of his throws for 349 yards. The 49ers secondary also surrendered five scores through the air, but it proved insufficient as Garoppolo, and the 49ers prevailed over the Saints’ explosive offense, 48-46.
So the question becomes, given his lack of usage in the postseason, could Garoppolo lead the 49ers in a potential Super Bowl shootout? The short answer is yes. The Kansas City Chiefs’ quick striking offense does pose a similar threat as Brees and the Saints, and we saw how that turned out.
In addition to having done it already, the analytics also prove Garoppolo is as capable as any current NFL quarterback. But what of the tape? How will Garoppolo find success against the Chiefs’ defense?
It’s key that Garoppolo remains as judicious and precise in Super Bowl 54 as he’s shown in, albeit, limited action this postseason. And remember, we can realistically state we’re yet to see Garoppolo’s true ceiling. While he’s in his sixth NFL season, believe it or not, Jimmy Garoppolo started more games in 2019 than in his previous five seasons combined.
Although the 49ers’ offense has been heavily praised for their recent running success, Garoppolo enjoyed a sneakily productive regular season. Could he sneak up on Kansas City?
Garoppolo’s 27 touchdown passes in 2019 tied for fifth in the NFL. He’d register a passer rating of 102.0 for the year, good for eighth-highest among all quarterbacks. So while his PFN OSM ranked him middle of the road, it was actually 1.42% higher than Mahomes’. And his 3,978 passing yards are the fourth-most by a 49ers quarterback in a single season, and the most since Jeff Garcia threw for a franchise-record 4,278 in 2000.
Procured on Halloween amid the 2017 NFL regular season, the 49ers’ perception was that Garoppolo would be the team’s franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future. The decision, in the first season under the head coach/general manager tandem of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, proved transformative in the franchise’s trajectory.
Garoppolo quickly proved he could be the team’s first transcending quarterback since Colin Kaepernick (2011-2016). Just two-and-a-half seasons since his arrival and Garoppolo has the franchise primed for their sixth Super Bowl win. Hats off to Lynch and Shanahan.
Another key storyline here is how Garoppolo, a two-time Super Bowl champion, could reasonably want to win Super Bowl 54 more than the two championships he was already a part of. Also, how will his previous Super Bowl experiences affect his first opportunity to win one as a starter?
Jimmy Garappolo was Tom Brady’s backup for two Super Bowls. Here’s what he learned from it: “He treats it like every other game. You can see it his body mannerisms and how he prepares for it makes him confident on Sundays, so I’m going to do the same thing and see what happens.
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) January 23, 2020
There you have it. Garoppolo played with the best. Because of this, he’ll prepare like the best. And I, for one, believe we’ll get his best. I’m just not so sure we’ve seen it yet.