Each season, The Athletic’s Mike Sando puts together his 2020 quarterback Tiers after surveying 50 coaches and evaluators. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo found himself in Tier 3, which is “a quarterback that is a legitimate starter but needs a heavier running game and/or defensive component to win. A lower-volume dropback passing offense suits him best,” per the article.
Garoppolo ranked No. 17 on the list, just behind Rams QB Jared Goff:
Tier 2 Votes: 12 | Tier 3 votes: 37 | Tier 4 votes: 1 | 2019 Tier: 3
Winning is the No. 1 goal, of course, but the manner in which the 49ers won this past season — with an elite defense and a dynamic offensive play-caller who minimized his quarterback at every opportunity, including famously in the Super Bowl — hurt Garoppolo among voters. The run-heavy system coach Kyle Shanahan runs is ideally suited for protecting the Tier 3 quarterback, which might be one reason why Cousins, the alleged “poster child” for the third tier, was a player the 49ers thought they could win with before Garoppolo became available.
“Garoppolo had a good season,” a coach from a rival NFC West team said. “I don’t know why people have a hard time giving him props. I think he is what he is and it’s OK. Not everybody is Aaron Rodgers. We haven’t given out a bunch of ones this year. Can he strap it on his back and win it if he has to? I don’t know if he is that, either. They had such a dynamic run game, he kind of hid in behind that. I think he’s a three and he’s gotta prove it. Last year was his first full year of doing it. That is a good start.”
The 49ers have a 19-5 record when Garoppolo starts. Pro Football Reference credited Garoppolo with four fourth-quarter comeback victories last season. No quarterback had more.
“He’s good, not great,” an exec said. “He does some good things with a good cast. You worry about the deep ball, the consistent accuracy, but he’s not bad. Just when you think he is going to be a two, he does something and you are like, ‘Damn.’ Even in the playoff game against Minnesota, he wasn’t very good. He got lucky a few times and they just ran the ball, played good defense.”
A veteran offensive coordinator said Garoppolo “truly is the closest thing to Cousins” and “a product of what they do” offensively.
“Super Bowl quarterback, he is doing something right,” a head coach said. “When he gets going, he is not bad. You can kind of tell what the coach is thinking with some of his calls.”
The voting Tiers stand out. Garoppolo didn’t receive any votes for Tier 1 but did receive one vote for Tier 4. Kyler Murray, who was No. 14 on the list and the first quarterback of Tier 3, received a Tier 1 vote.
Reading through what some in the NFL think about Garoppolo, and it’s pretty consistent: They think he’s a system quarterback propelled by Kyle Shanahan and a great defense. I’m not a big fan of the fourth quarter comeback stat. It’s more of a team stat than an individual one, but that goes for most stats. Take the Steelers game, for example. Pittsburgh is up three points, and they fumble in their territory. The 49ers offense takes over with 24 yards to go to score. Garoppolo’s longest pass on the drive is the first play of the drive, and it’s for nine yards to George Kittle. It was a two-yard pass, and Kittle made two defenders miss. Obviously, Jimmy G gets credit for the touchdown pass to Dante Pettis, but I wouldn’t call that drive a “comeback” drive.
There is a lot of context left out whenever we talk about Jimmy G, both good and bad. I know the smart football folks have never been fans of “quarterback wins,” but that’s something I’ll always be on board with. You can’t fake winning, and that’s what Jimmy does. Is it always pretty? Nope. The coach who said, “you think he’s a Tier 2, then he does something” was spot-on.
In Year 2, as a full-time starter, I’m looking for consistency from Garoppolo above all else.