Okay, okay, here we are again, back in the Silverado for another session and ride. Thanks for joining me, and it’s most definitely good to see you again. As always, it’s safety first, so buckle up, and we’ll get to it. And as usual, I’m going to brief (prepare) you for the ride.
I will also say this. Now, based upon how you feel about, believe in, and pull for Jimmy Garappolo, this ride may tug at your emotions a bit. So, do us both a favor for this ride, please....
Yeah, we’re going to need you to leave those emotions outside the Silverado for this one, as this is an emotion-free zone. The look on your face screams, “but why? Here’s the answer. I’m aware this subject may evoke some thoughts or emotions (good, bad, or indifferent), as it may go against your personal beliefs and may not be in line with your opinion about Jimmy Garoppolo.
So I ask for the sake of this conversation, remove any emotion and focus on facts and reality. I, too, am a fan of and supporter of Jimmy, it just so happens that I operate and think using what I like to call, objective optimism.
Meaning, be it Jimmy or any player on the team, I can remove my personal feelings (fanhood) to identify clearly, address, and analyze how and where the said player can improve, while simultaneously discussing the positives. Life is difficult enough and full of negativity as it is, no need to compile it with unnecessary negativity.
We’ll start with a quick trip back to 2017 before Jimmy’s arrival. I know it hurts a bit to relieve those dark times, but to truly appreciate how far the 49ers have come, it’s also important to appreciate the struggle and dark times it took to get here. I feel it needs to be addressed to appreciate the true value of Jimmy.
That said, let’s take a look at how saga started and how the offense looked before he stepped on the field.
The 2017 season (6-10)
Before Jimmy, the 49ers had no answer at quarterback and started the 2017 season with newly hired General Manager John Lynch, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, and veteran (journeyman) QB Brian Hoyer. Yeah, I scratched my head about that move too. But as I digress. Hoyer and the 49ers were 0-5 before a change at QB was made in the 2nd quarter of week six vs. the Washington Redskins.
Though CJ Beathard showed some grit and a bit of spark for the offense, finishing the day 19/36, 245 yards 1 TD, 1 INT, the 49ers ended up losing the game 26-24 on their way to nine straight losses. Yeah, it was truly hard to smile as a faithful. I can’t speak for how it felt as a player, but I can speak for how it felt like a faithful walking into work every Monday, not knowing what a win felt like.
But, 0-6 or not, us faithful kept our heads held high knowing who we were as a franchise and knowing someday a win would come and better days were ahead. Mind you, having lost every game at this point, it was unclear when a win or better days would come, but we just knew it would. One day, eventually, in due time, at least that’s what I was telling myself.
Then, out of nowhere and sitting at 0-8 looking up at the rest of the division, something happened. The 49ers made a trade for a quarterback that shocked everybody (and also provoked mixed feelings) when they traded a 2nd round 2018 pick to the New England Patriots for the unproven yet promising (with tremendous upside) backup signal-caller, Jimmy Garappolo.
Here’s the thing, even with Garappolo instantly becoming the best option on the roster he wouldn’t play right away as he’d only been on the roster a good 15 minutes, and to be fair, it would take continued sub-par quarterback play, more losses, or an injury (remember the word injury) for him to be inserted into the starting lineup.
Well, guess what? The sub-par quarterback play and losing continued. The 49ers would continue to collect loses and didn’t see their first win until right after the bye week in a 31-21 victory over the 1-7 New York Giants. You can say what you want about beating a one-win Giants team, but it was a win just the same, and it felt amazing to win, and the team was now 1-9!
Unfortunately, the winning feeling wouldn’t last long as it came and went faster than the weekend before it’s Monday again, and we’re back to work. The very next week, the losing started again as the 49ers go onto lose to the division rival Seattle Seahawks 24-13 and fell to 1-10.
CJ Beathard played up until he left the game with a leg injury with 1:07 in the game. This is where the Jimmy Garoppolo saga truly started as he replaced Beathard. Garoppolo saw three snaps and was 2/2, 18 yards, 1 TD, a 143.8 passer rating, and four yards rushing. His performance didn’t transform the L into a W, but it was definitely fulfilling to see the potential.
Garappolo would go onto win his first five starts and improve to 7-0 (5-0 with the 49ers) as a starter and provide the 49ers and the faithful with plenty to look forward to in the coming years. Keep in mind, he adopted arguably the worst offensive roster in the league at the time and went 5-0 with them. I don’t want to say it was as bad as doing a fantasy draft on Madden, but okay, yeah maybe it was. Either way, his performance was promising and provided some optimism.
In any case, here’s how the Jimmy G (yes, he even earned a nickname) hype train started as we view some of his best throws from his 5-0 winning streak to close out the 2017 season. The 49ers would end the season 6-10 thanks to new life from Garappolo, wait I mean Jimmy G.
As you can see, the 49ers and the faithful had all the reason in the world to believe in their new quarterback as he electrified and gave this offense CPR and could almost do no wrong. It could’ve just been me, but it seemed like all of a sudden, in an offense in which the receivers couldn’t create separation, EVERYBODY WAS OPEN! It was truly a breath of fresh air and a joy to see.
The 2018 season (4-12)
Entering the season still high on a season-ending 5 game hot streak from Jimmy, the 49ers started the season in Minnesota, where they experienced their first loss of the season and first loss with Jimmy G as the starter. He would also throw three interceptions in the season opener and also receive his first true criticism. Jimmy G would finish the day 15/33 261 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT’s and go onto lose 24-16. All of a sudden, some weren’t so confident in their new starter.
The next week, Jimmy would bounce back, throwing two TD’s to beat the Detroit Lions. With a record of 1-1, the 49ers then headed to Kansas City, where they’d not only lose but also lose Jimmy G for the season to a torn ACL. The 49ers would go onto finish this season with CJ Beathard and Nick Mullens at quarterback. That season ended with three wins between the two of them.
The 2019 season (13-3)
With Jimmy back in the starting lineup and primed to play his first full season as a starter, the 49ers would shock the world as they won their first five games with a retooled defense and healthy Jimmy back under center. Notice I added Jimmy after the retooled defense. I did that on purpose as the defense most definitely was a huge part of the newfound success of the 49ers this season, but like it or not, so was Jimmy.
I’ll admit I’ve had my moments where I spoke about Jimmy and how we’d need to accept him for who he is and discussed his flaws. Actually, for full disclosure and transparency, here is one of my tweets from early in the season.
When will people realize, this is the real Jimmy G. We just have to take the good with the bad. He's deadly accurate with good, quick decisions at times, then others he makes ill advised passes, is off target (normally due to not stepping into throws) missing high/rt, or behind. https://t.co/1smBr98Ie3— Silverado Kev (@Silverado_Kev) September 10, 2019
As I said in my tweet, Jimmy is who he is as we all are. Meaning, we all come with flaws and he’s no different. He often takes chances even try and write a check with eyes that his arm can’t cash. You know the throws he attempts at times outside the numbers from the far hash but doesn’t quite have the top tier arm, so they end up going the other way for a house call? Yeah, those type chances that cost the team points or possessions.
But soon as you blink and go to write him off for making donations to the defense, he’ll then turn around and make a throw or series of throws that wow you the very next play or series. As I said in my tweet, It’s like taking the good with the bad.
At his best (Good Jimmy), he can single-handedly win a game for this team (out-dueling Drew Brees in a 48-45 shootout on the road when the defense decided to stay in the locker room just for one example), and at his worst (Bad Jimmy) he can throw an interception so bad (and at the most inopportune time) it makes you wonder if the defender was the intended receiver.
Look, I don’t take back or try and clean up anything I’ve said about his abilities. I, for one, have no issues discussing Jimmy’s flaws and the Good Jimmy vs. Bad Jimmy dichotomy. It really comes down to just that.
Which Jimmy will show up and be most dominant? That said, let’s look at some of the accomplishments of Good Jimmy this season that helped make this season special.
Jimmy G in 2019:— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) February 6, 2020
- > passing yards than Deshaun Watson.
- > passing TDs than Patrick Mahomes.
- > completion % than Russell Wilson.
- > passer rating than Aaron Rodgers
- NFC champion
- Started in SB in first full year as a starter. #49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo joins Joe Montana and Steve Young as the only 49ers quarterbacks to throw for 400 yards and 4 TD in a game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 18, 2019
Prior to today, Young was the last 49ers QB to do that back in 1993. pic.twitter.com/d29r1ifQND
Jimmy Garoppolo improves to 13-2 in his career as a starter. He's just the 9th QB in NFL history to win 13 of his first 15 career starts.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 13, 2019
The 49ers are 5-0 for the first time since 1990. pic.twitter.com/yflOHUfCnZ
Jimmy Garoppolo had a 74.2% adjusted completion percentage on deep balls durnig the 2019 regular season.— PFF SF 49ers (@PFF_49ers) January 16, 2020
The next closest QB is at 54%
.#49ers #ChicksDigTheLongBall pic.twitter.com/Uiil3wCYHS
Jimmy Garoppolo didn't throw deep often this year, but was successful when he did.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 7, 2020
Only 6% of his throws were 20+ yards downfield this season (lowest in NFL).
But he completed 66% of those passes (19-of-29), the best for any qualified QB since ESPN began tracking that in 2006. pic.twitter.com/Nvpu9HDQ3O
This season was special, and as you can see, criticism and all Jimmy provided several moments that contributed to that. Jimmy finished the season with a 13-3 regular-season record, 2-1 in the (his first) postseason, 329/476, 69.1%, 3,978 yards, 8.4 yards per attempt, 248.6 yards per game, 27 TD’s, 13 ints. He also had 61 passes of 20+ yards and eight passes of 40+ yards. I’m not sure in what parallel universe this doesn’t constitute a solid season. Unless your name is Jimmy Garoppolo apparently.
Yes, the Super Bowl loss hurt and didn’t end the way we all had liked with the 49ers winning their sixth Super Bowl, but the season was indeed amazing, and I enjoyed every minute of it. And as full back Kyle Juszczyk mentioned in this clip on Good Morning Football, regardless of all else that happened, had Jimmy hit the deep shot to Emmanuel Sanders, the outcome and narrative would’ve been different.
Also, as discussed in the clip, for whatever reason, Jimmy gets this unwarranted scrutiny. I’m at the point where I feel perhaps he may have personally disrespected some of these analysts by saying something about their mother or spouse the way they consistently stay on his head. Even when he does play well, they find a way to on his head like a concussion. I just don’t get it.
And just as veteran cornerback Richard Sherman says here in this clip in Jimmy’s defense, for some reason they find a way to move the goalposts “nitpick” when it comes to Jimmy.
“Jimmy Garoppolo is our leader and we will follow him into the darkest of dark.”— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 25, 2019
Richard Sherman says the Niners have an obligation to fight for Jimmy G. pic.twitter.com/BphHoq7M4B
The doubters can and will continue to talk about what Jimmy can’t do, the plays he hasn’t made, or didn’t make (including the Super Bowl), and there is truth to what has been and will be said. But the fact of the matter is, despite all that, this team got better with Jimmy at quarterback.
Just to reiterate, though I did discuss some of his flaws, the purpose of this ride wasn’t to bash Jimmy at all. This ride was meant to appreciate what he’s done for this team as a quarterback, leader, motivator, stand up teammate, and celebrate his accomplishments to this point while also acknowledging there are definitely areas he can and needs to improve.
We have arrived
I was hard on Jimmy (because I know he can be even better) and still am, but when you consider this was his first full season since he’s been in the league and first full season under Shanahan, certain plays he didn’t make make more sense. Not excusable but understandable. Also, this was his first season post ACL surgery; what he did was very impressive. I mean, all he did was throw for just under 4,000 yards and 30 TDs.
Clearly, there are areas he needs to improve. It’s also a known fact he’s currently the best option on the roster and actually the best available option. I mean, give me a name that’s available and better (say Beathard or Mullens if you want, and you’ll walk back to Levi’s, and I may have to rethink our friendship. LOL.) to replace him, and we can have a discussion. Or wait, perhaps they can bring Hoyer back. As I digress. Until you can produce a better option, like it or not, Jimmy G it is.
Thing is, though, perfecting his flaws will come with (experience) and live repetition. The whole off-season should be filled with deep ball reps for accuracy, going through progressions vs. various looks/coverage (and vs. the blitz), and continuing to rehab that knee (believe it or not, it limited him mentally). He has the hardware; he just needs that final Shanahan software upgrade install to produce and even better product. Hence, Jimmy taking that next step.
Here’s my question, though. In and with all his ability, how much better will he play? He’s shown he can quarterback us to the Super Bowl. But will he improve his deep ball, ability to see the field (decipher coverage), learn to move through his progressions, trust what he sees when he has a man open, and process what he sees enough to get over the hump and win the Super Bowl? Guess we’ll see.
How fast he improves will dictate how fast this team makes it back to and wins a Super Bowl. Let’s just go into this off-season looking to improve and give them all the support they need as fans. I, too, want to see us win another Super Bowl and end the quest for six. Just keep getting better, Jimmy. GO NINERS!