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49ers 90-in-90: Where can Jimmy G improve during his second full season as a starter?

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

What we’ve learned over the past few years, not that anyone argues against it, is that you need a quality quarterback to compete in the NFL. In 2018, the San Francisco 49ers only posted a positive offensive DVOA performance three times when Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play. In 2019, only three games weren’t positive in DVOA. Another big difference? The big play. After not posting a single game above 20.0% offensive DVOA in 2018, the Niners has four in 2019, including three that were above 40.0%. Jimmy made a difference.

Garoppolo is entering his seventh season in the NFL, though 2019 was his first full year as a starter. At times, his inexperience showed. Whether it was holding onto the ball too long, or not making the correct read, or simply not pulling the trigger, are all areas where Jimmy G must improve during his second full season as a starter. The majority of advanced stats rank Garoppolo anywhere from No. 10-12, which I feel like exceeded expectations coming into the season.

At some point, Garoppolo will be asked to carry the 49ers offense, whether for a game-winning drive or for four quarters because the defense is having an off day. What happens in the regular season is great, but Jimmy will need to do so in the playoffs before he gets the national respect many feel he deserves. The truth is Garoppolo made mistakes in the playoffs that forced Kyle Shanahan to limit his opportunities. In the Super Bowl, when Jimmy needed to make a few plays, he didn’t. Now that Emmanuel Sanders is gone, there isn’t a veteran wideout that Jimmy can rely on, which may make life a bit difficult this year. Early on, at least.

Basic Info

Age: 28 (He will turn 29 on November 2)

Experience: Six accrued seasons

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 226 lbs.

Cap Status

Garoppolo is under contract for three more seasons, though his salary is not guaranteed in 2021 and 2022. This season, Garoppolo’s cap number is just north of $26 million. The reason there is “pressure” on Jimmy to perform this year is that his contract is structured for the 49ers to release him and only eat $1.4 million in dead money while saving $25.5 million against the cap.

Garoppolo wouldn’t have to just plateau as a player, but he’d have to regress if San Francisco moves on. That, or if a quarterback that the front office feels gives the team a better chance to win a Super Bowl comes along. Those types of quarterbacks aren’t growing on trees, though. Next year’s draft class has a few high-quality quarterbacks, but the 49ers won’t be picking anywhere near high enough to select them.

What to expect in 2020

I’ve seen some concerns that have asked whether or not Jimmy has reached his full potential considering his age. I’m not buying that. If his coach would let him throw it more, I think we’d have a better idea of the type of quarterback Garoppolo is. The 49ers offense led the NFL in yards after the catch, and that also is used as an indictment on Jimmy. Using the Saints game feels like cherrypicking so that I won’t reference New Orleans. It’s possible to evaluate the quarterback outside of the system. I promise.

I’m expecting a more confident, assertive quarterback in 2020—no knee brace or rehabbing this offseason. Instead, there have been organized workouts and getting on the same page as the receivers. That may not seem like much, but when you’re working with new faces—Jalen Hurd and Brandon Aiyuk, both who expect to play a big role in the offense—chemistry is imperative. I don’t want to get caught up in a stats argument on whether or not Garoppolo will have better numbers this year, but I want to see a player who knows the offense and knows where to go with the football and does away with that one boneheaded throw a game. If that happens, championship.