What’s the deal with Garoppolo’s mechanics?
A discussion of what Garoppolo does well would not be complete without a discussion of his throwing mechanics. It is my personal view that he has elite mechanics, but that is not the conventional view because he does not throw and set like a traditional pocket passer.
I spoke with quarterback coach and film analyst and contributor for SB Nation College Football and the SB Nation site And the Valley Shook (covering LSU sports), Seth Galina, to get his take on Garoppolo’s mechanics.
To sum it up, Galina believes that “he has elite mechanics” and “some of the best mechanics” he’s ever seen.
Jimmy Garoppolo has some of most advanced mechanics I've seen. He has a lightning quick release (seen in the clip below), can throw accurately from difference arm angles but what gets me are his hips and balance: pic.twitter.com/N2tAkJsRNt— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) February 1, 2018
The discussion arose after fellow SB Nation contributor to the Texans page, Battle Red Blog’s Brett Kollman, released a video where he took apart Garoppolo’s mechanics. The video circulated far and wide and concluded that Garoppolo’s footwork is the main thing holding him back.
Footwork can be tied to a host of issues, mainly affecting what Kollman believed is the aim point at the target. I don’t like critiquing a quarterback’s mechanics if I am not sure if it’s affecting his ability to play. Some current quarterbacks have unconventional mechanics like Philip River’s throwing motion (he’s very accurate otherwise) and Patrick Mahomes’ footwork (MVP who makes ridiculous throws due to his overall athleticism).
The point is mechanics are not make or break for most of the league’s quarterbacks. Garoppolo is no exception.
So what is unconventional about Garoppolo? It’s the way he generates power in his core from the hips up through his torso to his throwing arm. Galina explains further: “New QB teaching is all about dissociation between hip and chest to create spiral sling tension through the core, the follow-through is relatively unimportant after that.”
What is “spiral sling tension?”
“It’s the tension that’s created when the hips stay forward-facing the target, but the chest/ribs are pulled back. For a right-handed thrower, it’s from the left hip to the right shoulder, and this allows the upper half to eventually whip forward to create power.”
Here’s a visual from Galina about what this looks like:
Jimmy G's hips are able to dissociate from his chest. This allows his chest to stay behind for a longer time and create almost a slingshot mechanism from his left hip all the way to his right shoulder. You can see how his hip hires open while his chest is still lags behind pic.twitter.com/eBecO2MLqC— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) February 1, 2018
It helps him make throws like this where he can’t set his feet:
Footwork does play a part, but as you can see above, it’s not always the most important factor, especially if a quarterback physically can’t set his feet due to an impending hit. A quarterback still must have a stable throwing platform to throw from and be oriented in the direction of his target.
But think about the time it takes to hit the top of the drop, plant, possibly hitch, and pull the trigger to throw. It can take longer than 2.5 seconds, especially if the quarterback labors around in the pocket like CJ Beathard or Brian Hoyer.
Quarterbacks rarely have more than 2.5 seconds to drop back and throw. That’s where this new style of training assists the thrower. “Less wasted movement from the decision to make the throw and then the ball releasing from his hand,” Galina said. It contributes to his quick release.
So what does this look like on film?
Here the 49ers are running a sail concept. Sail is usually a corner route by the #3 receiver, a quick out/flat route by the #2, and a clearing route by the #1. The progression is the corner to the flat. The corner route is a route that is meant to be thrown in rhythm on time on the hitch step of the quarterback’s drop.
However, the pass rush gets to Garoppolo quicker than he anticipates. Most quarterbacks would throw this, but the hit would make the pass fall short and either be incomplete or intercepted because they are used to relying on the plant foot follow through. Not Garoppolo, as he gets hit, he throws but is unable to plant and follow through.
However, because he can generate so much power through firing his lead hip (left hip) and “rotating around his spine” as Galina calls it, he can put enough juice on the ball to hit Kittle on the corner route for a big gain.
Here against the Chiefs again in preseason last month is another example of how his mechanics work to make him more effective as a passer.
The trips to the right are running what Shanahan calls the “shadow” concept with tight end Ross Dwelley the #3 receiver running a deep post route. An added benefit as Galina said above was that the throwing platform creates less wasted motion. Garoppolo drops back in a controlled manner scanning his progressions, and when he hits the top of his drop, he doesn’t have to hitch to look because he already knows where he’s going.
With the running back covered in the flat, Garoppolo knows Dwelley will be open behind the route on the post. However, he can’t step into the throw because there are linemen in his lap by the time he’s ready. But since he’s balanced and not off his platform, it doesn’t matter. He rotates his torso around again and slingshots a pass into Dwelley down the field for a 23 yard gain.
But it’s not just within the pocket where this mechanical advantage benefits him. He can do it outside the structure of the play as well.
Let's go thru this one from yesterday, and compare it to other plays. After a quick 8 yard pass, JG gets the team set at the line with 4 seconds left. At the snap, the pocket collapses to his right as he sets and resets his feet looking for a throw. Escape for a throw. #49wz pic.twitter.com/UYjsBv8b16— rich madrid (@richjmadrid) November 27, 2017
In the above thread, you can see some examples, but most notably, the first touchdown he ever tossed in a 49ers uniform is a prime example. Where most quarterbacks would be off-balance as they throw, Garoppolo remains in control because he doesn’t have to set his feet to throw the touchdown pass to receiver Louis Murphy. He can rotate through his hip to throwing arm and generate enough velocity and accuracy for the throw.
Rolling to his right is even more efficient as with just barely any rotation, he’s able to zip a pass into Trent Taylor for a first-down gain. His chest isn’t even pointed downfield, and he still generates enough power to fit the throw in.
Really adept at changing the arm angle on several of his throws to account for defender positioning and this epitomizes that perfectly. On the run to his right and gives a quick flick of the wrist and side-arms the pass into Taylor for a TD. #49wz pic.twitter.com/yM5aidG6sD— rich madrid (@richjmadrid) December 26, 2017
And here, that torso rotation just has enough of an effect on his sidearm throw that he can generate the power to zip it under and through the defenders.
It doesn’t appear that the injury will slow him down to start the season though I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. Where he’ll benefit is making better decisions with his passes as he eases back into playing shape. But it cannot be stressed enough that his mechanics aren’t an issue and from the preseason, it doesn’t appear that he’ll regress to poor movement patterns as the season trudges along.