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PFF ranks Jimmy Garoppolo as the 18th best starting QB

Let’s talk about PFF

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Jimmy Garoppolo and Jalen Ramsey after 49ers-Jaguars game

About a month ago, ESPN’s Mike Sando released his annual quarterback rankings, where he ranked San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the third tier. Pro Football Focus did the same today, and they had the Niners gunslinger at No. 18:

While Garoppolo has looked like a top-half-of-the-league quarterback when on the field the last two years, his lack of availability has been a concern. At his best, his quick release and accuracy lead to some of the league’s best play in the short and intermediate range, though the downfield passing game has been a work in progress. Garoppolo takes care of the football with one of the lowest turnover-worthy play percentages in the league, despite some interception luck during his strong 2017 run in San Francisco. Garoppolo is in a good position to produce as Kyle Shanahan’s system has consistently elevated quarterback play, it’s just a matter of staying healthy and putting together a full season of action.

It’s tough to get too upset about the ranking after reading through that. There are plenty of positives, but this is more of a “wait and see,” which is okay. In reference to his quick release and accuracy, that will go a long way now that he has receivers that can create for themselves after the catch.

Some of the interceptions Garoppolo had are just part of the game. Passes were bouncing off a wideouts’ hand and into the lap of the defender, or a tipped pass. Those happen. The process for Garoppolo is consistent, and that’s why his win/loss record is what it is. As far as Garoppolo’s downfield passing goes, I think it’s about allowing his players to make a play.

About PFF

In the comments late last week, I discussed some of my experiences with PFF from the past, and how the “PFF analyzes every player and every play of every game” isn’t 100% accurate. This isn’t to say that the site is worthless. I use them every day. They have incredibly valuable information.

A few years ago, when I was working on a project for Bleacher Report, that’s when I started to notice a difference. I was charting everything from coverages to missed tackles, and our numbers weren’t adding up. I found out that their “broken tackle” stat was exactly what it sounded like. So, if a player got juked, but didn’t make any contact, that didn’t count. I believe they’ve evolved from that, as now they have an “avoided tackles per rush stat.” They deserve credit for changing their process.

You can pick apart plenty of the grades, however. Using quarterback, for example, you can only grade the result. If Jimmy G throws to Matt Breida in the flat, but the call was supposed to go to George Kittle—who is wide open—on a ten-yard crossing route, how do you grade that? I was watching Josh Rosen play the other night. He didn’t audible out of a run play three times and ran directly into a blitz. We can’t grade for that, but the team does.

It goes on, and on. You are kidding yourself if you think they are watching every route a receiver runs. That was another part that came up. We even argued it. One of their writers told me a few years ago that “cornerbacks don’t try as hard when they aren’t targeted,” which, wow. There are, what, 50 coverage plays a game? If a player gets beaten a few times, he’s going to have a bad game. There’s not enough nuance. I attempted to chart as many “chartable” stats as I could, and it still felt like that wasn’t enough. This is from Week 2 in 2016:

The reason I did this was one of the arguments we had was a cornerback would be in a perfect position, but the wide receiver made a catch, or the quarterback threw a money ball. Good offense beats good defense. That’s just how it goes. The cornerback would receiver a negative grade, but he was still in position. Throughout the season, that negatively impacts his grade, obviously. Whereas if I logged the “in position,” that would separate the actual “blown” coverage, which was clarified as more than an arm’s length away.

Again, there is plenty of value. Time to throw stats, telling us where a player lined up and how many times, I could go on and on. I would understand that the grades, like with anything, should be questioned if it looks funny. It’s all going to be subjective, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m going to grade Richard Sherman differently than I grade Emmanuel Moseley. This isn’t me attempting to act like everything I do is going to be correct, either. I thought Ross Dwelley was Kaden Smith for an entire practice, so there’s that.

If I have time this year, I will try and chart as many numbers as I can and compare them. Blown blocks for offensive linemen were fun to compare. PFF is continuously in an argument with the offensive line community. Those have become unbearable. It’s football. We are going to disagree on a lot, and that’s okay.

That’s enough ranting. What are your thoughts on PFF?