On Monday, we listed San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the player with the “most to prove” instead of the likes of Dante Pettis, Solomon Thomas, or a few other players that are fighting for a role. Jimmy G was better than many outside of 49ers’ land are willing to give him credit for. What I’m saying is he can be a good player and also have something to prove. Both of these can be true.
General manager John Lynch said that Kyle Shanahan challenged parts of Jimmy’s game and explained where he needs to improve as a quarterback this year. Lynch also said Garoppolo needs to do a better job of taking care of the ball. That’s not just Garoppolo’s 13 interceptions. It’s the fumbles, the unnecessary sacks, and putting the ball in harm’s way where the defense didn’t capitalize. Which brings us to this Football Outsiders article about “adjusted interceptions.” Instead of using raw numbers, the article takes into account plays where a defender drops a pass that he should have caught, or when a wide receiver makes a big play to turn what should have been a turnover into an incompletion instead.
The box score rarely tells the entire story. Quarterback statistics, in general, are pretty fluky. Garoppolo and Drew Brees have sky-high completion percentages due to what they are asked to do in their respective offenses. Comparing them to a quarterback who throws a lot of deep routes is doing a disservice, and that’s a big reason why we should throw completion percentage out. What’s encouraging for Garoppolo is when you reference advance stats that take into account rushing, sacks, and “completion percentage over expectation,”—which allows us to compare all styles of quarterback play—he’s still in the top 8-12 range despite having to shake off the rust from season-ending knee surgery.
According to the article, which used Sports Info Solutions data, opposing defenses dropped eight of Jimmy’s passes, which was the sixth-most in the NFL. Garoppolo also had three throws that were tipped and were intercepted, with another pass that was tipped and dropped. When you factor in the few throws that 49ers’ receivers dropped, Garoppolo’s adjusted interception number goes to 17, which was tied for ninth in the NFL with Deshaun Watson.
Moving away from raw numbers, Garoppolo’s adjusted interception rate climbed 0.9% to 3.6%, which was the seventh-most in the NFL. There’s a reason Lynch said Garoppolo needs to take care of the ball more. Having a full season of experience under his belt should help Garoppolo. Now he understands what he can and can’t get away with. Jimmy G’s decision making and how quickly he can process what the defense is doing will be critical in his development. Ideally, Garoppolo’s mindset doesn’t change. To me, Jimmy is at his best when he’s aggressive and making confident throws.
Football Outsiders listed “interceptions over expectations,” where Garoppolo came out as -0.1, so pretty much neutral. The goal in 2020 for Jimmy should be to see that number climb into the positives. Not all interceptions are created equally, and that’s why referencing TD/INT ratios are silly. I’d also rather have a quarterback that is willing to make a throw into tight coverage as opposed to a “check down Charlie.” For Jimmy, we’re just looking for continued growth, and that starts with taking care of the ball better.