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ESPN’s bounce-back candidate for the 49ers? Jimmy Garoppolo

They focused on the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

ESPN and PFF went through each NFL team to list a bounce-back candidate. The San Francisco 49ers have a few options. We’d love to see Dante Pettis return to his rookie form. Ahkello Witherspoon started the season off strong but certainly didn’t finish the way he would have liked. Instead of them, the websites focused on Jimmy Garoppolo:

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB

PFF overall grade in 2019: 77.5

What went wrong: Garoppolo’s grade through the first three quarters of Super Bowl LIV: 77.1. Garoppolo’s grade in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV: 42.6. As much criticism as he faces, he has more upside than most people think. He ranked 13th of the 32 starters in regular-season passing grade in 2019 and limited how many uncatchable passes he threw over the course of the season. He’ll overcome the Super Bowl loss in no time. — PFF

Outlook for 2020: Last season, Garoppolo was coming off a torn ACL and it took him awhile to get his legs back under him as the Niners’ running game and defense carried the freight. But Garoppolo improved as the season went on and delivered some big games as injuries hampered the defense. It’s San Francisco’s belief that having a full season of starting and being another year removed from the knee injury should position Garoppolo for his best NFL season in 2020. — Nick Wagoner

Bobby Wagner was on the list. As were Adam Thielen, Odell Beckham Jr., and T.Y. Hilton. Take this list with a grain of salt.

If we’re talking about where Jimmy can improve in 2020, let’s cite the parts of his game where he can grow instead of one quarter. Yes, he played poorly in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. If he’s truly a bounce-back candidate, it’s not due to one quarter after a season in which he played 19 games. I’m looking for Garoppolo’s timing to improve. Last year, it seemed like he was a tick late at times on throws, and that limited the yards a receiver could gain after the catch.

Not throwing to linebackers will help, but knowing when to take a loss will go a long way in Garoppolo’s development. Having a check-down option like Jerick McKinnon will as well. Garoppolo should also be more confident in his athleticism without a bulky knee brace. Last season was supposed to be a bumpy ride where Garoppolo goes through ups and downs, but more downs in his first full season as a starter. He outperformed expectations. That doesn’t mean Garoppolo doesn’t have areas where he can improve, but calling him a “bounce-back” candidate seems is a stretch. Garoppolo had the highest PFF grade out of any player on the list. What are we doing here?