We got a brief glimpse of the San Francisco 49ers starters during Thursday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, and none could be more curious than quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. With an undefeated streak and a full offseason to study Kyle Shanahan’s playbook, all eyes are on the signal caller. Garoppolo played only nine snaps before getting pulled. Time to take a look at all nine snaps.
Snap 1: First and 10 on San Francisco 25 (ish)-yard line
Garoppolo hands off to Jerrick McKinnon for what may be McKinnon’s best gain of the night rushing: Two yards.
Snap 2: Second and 8, San Francisco 27-yard line
McKinnon takes another handoff but is stopped at the line of scrimmage.
Snap 3: Third and 8, San Francisco 27-yard line
Garoppolo takes it out of the gun and takes two steps back. When he sets, the Cowboys come running for him and he heads to the right side doing what will be his iconic finger point to the sky. Once out of the tackle box, he throws a ball to Richie James. James goes with the momentum of the pass and circles his body forward with a Cowboys defender latched onto him, managing to pick up the first down.
This was more of a James catch than it was a Garoppolo throw. From what I saw, it looked a bit late and mistimed. Had Garoppolo gotten that ball out a bit better, James could have avoided the defender and taken off for a nice chunk of yardage after the catch. While running to the sideline on his route, James had to move his upper body the other direction to catch the ball, which slowed him down. The catch just turned him all off and he fell to the ground after picking up nine yards.
Snap 4: First and 10, San Francisco 35-yard line
Garoppolo takes a snap under center and fires it over the head of a covered Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin leapt into the air in an attempt to get some hands on it, but it was to no avail. The Cowboys defender was right behind Goodwin ready to slam him. Had Garoppolo hit Goodwin between the numbers, Goodwin wouldn’t have gone anywhere. These are the nickel and dime throws you can’t miss.
Snap 5: Second and 10, San Francisco 35-yard line
Similar to the last play. Garoppolo goes under center and fires to the opposite side of the field from last time where Goodwin is waiting. It again sails over Goodwin’s head. Goodwin doesn’t even try to catch this one and watches it fly out of bounds.
Snap 6: Third and 10, San Francisco 35-yard line
A high snap from shotgun gets Garoppolo in the air and he lands, takes two steps and nails a wide open Goodwin for 15 yards. Goodwin gets another three yards before the nearby Cowboys defenders get him to the ground. Besides the snap (which is on Weston Richburg), the throw was nice and the basic bread and butter offense that Kyle Shanahan drove uses to drive defenses nuts.
Snap 7: First and 10, Dallas 47-yard line
Another handoff to McKinnon which ends abruptly in the backfield with a six-yard loss. This isn’t on McKinnon, this is on the offensive line for not even blocking. They may as well have pulled the entire left side and put tackling dummies up there. The moment the handoff is complete, Cowboys are waiting for McKinnon. This was the same thing that happened to Carlos Hyde way too much in the regular season last year.
Snap 8: Second and 16, San Francisco 53-yard line
Garoppolo takes another shotgun snap and throws a deeper pass to George Kittle, that again goes right over his head. This is one Garoppolo probably wishes he had back. Kittle had three defenders homing in on him, but a nice window for the catch. Unfortunately all three of them came slamming into Kittle turning him sideways and forcing the separated shoulder that will keep him out until the start of the regular season.
Snap 9: 3rd and 16, San Francisco 53-yard line
Garoppolo takes another shotgun. Looks around for a second and dumps off to McKinnon, not even close to getting the yardage needed.
Not a good day for the offense
As you know, Nick Mullens would have to come in and get everything straightened out, but for Garoppolo, he was not having a good day. Now remember, the 49ers are not game planning, and Garoppolo himself admitted in his press conference he was trying some different things Thursday, which may have had something to do with the strange throws. It is a scrimmage after all. Whatever he was trying he probably wouldn’t do in a game-situation. If you play golf and want to see if you can drive over the lake rather than laying up like usual, you’d give that a few shots in your practice rounds, but if you’re in a tournament, you wouldn’t even try it if you weren’t successful practicing it. Garoppolo is doing the same thing. He said as much when asked about those high throws in his post-game press conference:
“Yeah, just different things that we’re not used to throwing. Just kind of try some new things. That’s what preseason is for, see what works and see what doesn’t and move on from there.”
No need to panic yet on Garoppolo. The blocking though — McKinnon couldn’t do anything — that’s another story entirely.