Arguably, there’s been more written about what San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t done, which presents a mystery.
Is it a lack of respect? Or a lack of reps?
Perhaps this is the bottom line. How much is really known about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as an NFL player?
What? He’s the starting signal-caller for Kyle Shanahan’s club and is about to lead the NFC champions against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. He was a second-round draft choice by the New England Patriots in 2014 from Eastern Illinois. He was dealt to the Niners in 2017, ironically, for a second-round selection in ’18. And roughly two years ago, he inked a five-year, $137.5 million deal with his new team.
C’mon. He’s Jimmy G! He’s a six-year NFL veteran.
Well, kind of…And that’s where the mystery comes in. This past season for the 13-3 NFC West champions, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound pro started all 16 games for the first time in his career. The talented performer was also at the helm for the playoff wins over the Minnesota Vikings (27-10) and Green Bay Packers (37-20). A little quick: That’s 18 games and starts for the 28-year-old Garoppolo.
In his first five seasons, there were 27 total contests – including a cameo in the 2014 AFC title game vs. the Indianapolis Colts – and 10 starts spread out over three seasons and two franchises. With Tom Brady suspended for the first four games in 2016, Garoppolo got the nod and led the club to wins over the Cardinals and Dolphins. But he was injured in that second contest, albeit he would appear in four more games that season.
Then came the deal to San Francisco, where the promising prospect played the final six weeks and started the final five games. The Niners would win all of those contests, hence the new contract the following offseason.
Then came the 2018 season. A loss at Minnesota was followed by a home win over the Lions. But late in a Week 3 tilt at Arrowhead Stadium, Garoppolo awkwardly made his way out of bounds and would up tearing his ACL. He was gone for the season and Shanahan and company wound up a 4-12 team.
So call it a comeback. But there were issues this summer. During a mid-August practice, the San Francisco quarterback was passing out his share of treats. “He threw it to the wrong team five plays in a row,” explained Shanahan to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (via NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman). “I was a defensive coach today, so I was pumped. But no, the defense did great today and obviously he struggled.”
“You hope to never have a day like that, but I don’t think it’s never not happened to anyone. When you do that, you hope you can practice long enough and give him a chance to play out of it and use it as an opportunity that hopefully, you can do in a game. Hopefully, you don’t have five in the game, but you can play yourself out of two in a row or something like that.”
As it turned out, there would be no five-interception game. But there would be three outings in which Garoppolo was picked off twice. And the still-learning signal-caller committed a total of 18 turnovers (13 interceptions, 5 lost fumbles) in 16 regular-season outings. Garoppolo also threw a ball to Vikings’ linebacker Eric Kendricks in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Of course, there hasn’t been a lot of passing by Shanahan’s 49ers since that miscue. And in the conference championship game win over Green Bay, Garoppolo connected on 6-of-8 passes for 77 yards while the Niners’ ground attack finished with 285 yards on 42 total running plays – including three kneel-downs at game’s end.
So is there really any mystery here when it comes to the 49ers’ quarterback. The bottom line is that Garoppolo is still in the midst of learning his craft. And while he gets his on-the-job training, the team has thrived thanks to its relentless running game and a fierce defense. There’s nothing in the NFL handbook that says that the quarterback has to rack up big numbers to lead a team to victory. In fact, quite the opposite.
On Super Sunday, there will be a lot of attention on Garoppolo and Chiefs’ signal-caller Patrick Mahomes. The latter was a first-round pick in 2017 and entered the league three years after Jimmy G. But the 2018 NFL MVP has actually started more games (35, including 4 postseason contests) than his opposition this weekend. When it’s all said and done, it’s a team game. And there’s certainly nothing mysterious about that.