The overreactions will be plentiful this week after the San Francisco 49ers have lost back-to-back games against opponents where they were a touchdown favorite. Fire everyone! Blow it up! Hashtag Tank for Trevor! Let’s talk about some of the biggest overreactions, starting with the elephant in the room.
Jimmy is not the answer
Garoppolo’s QB rating Sunday was 1.4. His expected completion percentage was -25.9. You’d be hard-pressed to find worse numbers than those, and even those stats don’t factor in how ugly his interceptions were. In an offense that is one of the best-designed offenses in the NFL that gets receivers open, Jimmy G was a let down for the second time in three starts. There were plenty of opportunities Sunday where Garoppolo could have made a throw to the intermediate or deep parts of the field to a receiver, but Jimmy couldn’t get enough on the throw or refused to attempt. His lack of anticipation and arm strength severely limits what this offense can do, despite being full of playmakers. Furthermore, there were too many throws where Garoppolo’s feet weren’t married to his eyes, which were the real reasons for his inaccuracy, not his ankle.
We need nuance here, however. By now, you know I’m the last person to make excuses for Jimmy. If a player plays well, we’ll talk about him in a positive light. If he performs poorly, we’ll show you how and why. It was evident that Garoppolo attempted throws against the Dolphins that he normally wouldn’t. The ball was sailing on him, and you’re correct to assume that’s thanks to an ankle injury. The 49ers won’t give up on Jimmy G after Sunday’s disaster, but I’ve always said this year will be a tryout for Garoppolo’s future. That tryout includes staying healthy. If these shotty performances continue, there will be a different starter under center next season. After five games, the 49ers appear to have a quarterback problem.
Bosa made Saleh
Sunday was further proof that sacks matter. San Francisco pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick nine times, but the 49ers only hit him twice and sacked Fitzpatrick once. Fitzpatrick’s EPA on the afternoon was 29.1, compared to Garoppolo’s -12.7. Fitzpatrick was successful in 67% of his throws. He knew he would get hit, but that didn’t stop Fitzpatrick from hanging in there and making plays. That was the difference on Sunday. One quarterback wasn’t affected by the pressure. The 49ers blitzed Miami 12 times, and Fitzmagic went 10-12 with two touchdowns and a first down. I love Kerry Hyder Jr., but he’s making hustle plays. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but Nick Bosa finished plays.
The secondary was banged up, but they’ve been the same all season and remained unchanged from last year. The difference is the defensive line. Bosa was a big loss, but Javon Kinlaw hasn’t come close to the production of DeForest Buckner, who some feel like is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. Kinlaw’s growth was always going to take time, so it’s not fair to blame him. Arik Armstead isn’t playing poorly—he’s actually playing pretty well—but he’s not sacking/hitting the quarterback. After five games, Fred Warner has one fewer QB hit than Armstead. He’s rushed the passer 118 fewer snaps than Arik. That’s an issue.
Ronald Blair and Jullian Taylor are needed in a big way. Saleh will have to continue to manufacture pressure in a big way. This season feels like it’ll be on the secondary to bail out the defensive line, and not the other way around, as was the case in 2019.
Trent Williams doesn’t deserve an extension
Remember after training camp, or even Week 1, when fans felt like the team should extend Trent Williams? After the last two weeks, many 49ers fans have done a complete 180 on the left tackle. Whenever a lineman gives up a sack, the world ends. Williams has done that a couple of times in the past couple of games. Perhaps more importantly, he’s not on the same page as everyone else. You could say that for the entire offensive line. On the sack Williams allowed, he went left, expecting help, but the defender came free.
If anything, the 49ers should get Williams at a better price next year. As a run blocker, and even on most of his pass pro reps, Williams is still a dominant player. It’s easy to be down on a guy if you only pay attention to one rep, but Williams has been a lot better this season that fans are willing to acknowledge. The Niners should still extend Williams unless his price range is too high.
Shanahan should be fired!
There will always be wild overreactions after a loss, but wanting to fire your head coach after he made the Super Bowl with an offense that wasn’t terribly talented is quite the take. After you watched yesterday’s game, as a play-caller, what could Kyle have done better? Over and over, I saw people complaining about the play calls. One big complaint was going shotgun on 4th & 1. Fans are stuck in this mindset that you have to be under center to get one yard. Williams was pushed back a little bit on that play, and Jerick McKinnon could have cut it back. That’s an execution issue, not a play-call issue. You could argue that Raheem Mostert should have been in the game, but going under center would not change how the blocking was on that play.
On the next drive, Garoppolo took a sack at 3.85 seconds. That’s on the quarterback. The offense went from 2nd & 10, assuming Jimmy throws the ball away, to 2nd & 18. Good luck digging yourself out of that hole. Shanahan made some personnel mistakes, but the play-calls were fine. If you’re in the mindset that Kyle should be fired, I’m not sure how to help.
Buckle up; we’ve got seven playoff teams in a row.