Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL by their deep passing. They used their grades and premium stats to judge how each quarterback did when throwing the ball at least 20 yards down the field in 2019. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ranked No. 8 on the list. PFF took a slight jab at Jimmy when talking about Deshaun Watson: “Only Jimmy Garoppolo — who benefits hugely from the scheme in San Francisco when it comes to deep shots — had a higher adjusted completion rate on deep passes than Deshaun Watson last season.” That was meant as a compliment, but the qualifier seemed unnecessary.
To be fair, they’re not entirely off. Jimmy is allowed to throw the ball to receivers running through zones wide open thanks to Kyle’s offense. Here is what PFF said about Garoppolo:
8. JIMMY GAROPPOLO, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
61.3% completion percentage, 21.0 yards per attempt, 105.2 Passer Rating
Jimmy Garoppolo has an excellent grade on these plays, but he attempted just 31 deep shots all season — the fewest among full-time starting quarterbacks. Even Mason Rudolph, who only started eight games, had six more deep shots than Garoppolo did all year. The San Francisco quarterback also benefitted from Kyle Shanahan’s scheme regularly presenting him with wide-open targets downfield, but to his credit, he hit them when called upon. He led the league in completion rate on these passes by over 10 percentage points and in adjusted completion rate by 20 percentage points.
By now, you know completion percentage isn’t how we should evaluate quarterbacks. When referencing specific throws, it’s tough to find other stats when trying to compare apples to apples. For Jimmy, he’s hitting these receivers so it’s tough to be upset at the results.
There are yards that were left on the field, though. To me, this is the area of Jimmy’s game that I’m most intrigued to see in 2020. How does he look throwing the ball down the field a year removed from injury? Of those 31 throws, I’d wager a good portion of them were under-thrown that caused the receiver to slow down. I’m not going to get into each example, but plays like the one below are what I’m referring to:
Does Marquise Goodwin have to catch that? Yes, and it affected Garoppolo’s completion percentage. Does a drop mean it’s a good throw? Nope. That flea-flicker was called at a perfect time, but should have been thrown closer to the 10-yard line than the 20-yard line. I’m curious how comfortable Garoppolo is with an offseason to study himself.