The 49ers season has been a roller coaster ride. They are 3-1 in the last month but have gone from their lowest point in the season after an embarrassing loss to the Cardinals to riding high through a pair of blowout wins. Yet, as everything has gone up and down, one player has been quietly consistent: Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Niners starting quarterback has earned plenty of criticism over his tenure, especially early this season. However, since a bad performance in the 49ers 30-18 Week 7 loss to the Colts, Garoppolo has put together good performances against the Bears, Cardinals, Rams, and Jaguars.
Over his past four games, Garoppolo has completed 69.7% of his passes and is averaging a fantastic 9.2 yards per attempt. Most importantly, he has committed just one turnover, an interception in garbage time of the 49ers’ embarrassing loss to the Cardinals. In almost every traditional metric, Garoppolo has been vastly more productive than he was earlier this season.
Even these numbers leave a part of his production out. Garoppolo has rushed for two of his three rushing touchdowns this season in the past four games. He has also stopped putting the ball on the ground. Jimmy G fumbled five times in his first five games of the season, creating three turnovers. In his past four games, though, he has not fumbled once. It’s the first time in Garoppolo’s career that he has gone four consecutive starts without at least two turnovers.
Quarterback counting numbers can tend to be a bit deceiving. But prominent advanced metrics like PFF grades, QBR, and NextGen Stats’ completion percentage above expectation (CAE) are all in agreement that he’s not only taken a huge step forward over the past four weeks but is playing some of the best football of his career.
Per these metrics, Garoppolo has bounced back from a terrible start to the season with arguably his best four-game stretch as a pro. It’s the first time in his career that he’s received at least a 75 PFF grade in three consecutive games. It’s the first time since 2017 that Garoppolo has gone four games without posting a Total QBR below 60. Additionally, Garoppolo has had a completion percentage of at least nine percentage points above expectation in the past three games. Per NextGen Stats, it was just the third time in his career that he’d had a positive CAE in three straight games. He had never done it before with such large margins.
While the 49ers mostly dinked and dunked their way down the field against the Jaguars and Rams, Garoppolo successfully pushed the ball downfield against the Bears and Cardinals. In fact, Garoppolo’s two deepest thrown completions over the past two seasons came in those games, highlighted by a beautiful downfield pass to Deebo Samuel late in the first half at Soldier Field.
From downfield success to short-range efficiency, Garoppolo has been producing at some of the highest levels of his career. Doing so while avoiding turnovers makes it hard to argue that Garoppolo has ever had a better four-game stretch as a professional. Now, as the 49ers prepare for a big game against the Vikings, it’s worth wondering how long he can keep it going.
How could Jimmy G’s improved play change the 49ers’ plans?
Inconsistency has mired Garoppolo his entire pro career. Even amidst his impressive recent stretch, our own Kyle Posey has already pointed out several ways Garoppolo left yards on the table against Arizona.
Still, if Jimmy had performed at this level throughout his tenure with the 49ers, the organization probably would not have been so aggressive trading up to draft a quarterback this offseason.
All signs point to Garoppolo donning another uniform in 2022. It has begun being mentioned that the 49ers could keep Garoppolo in San Francisco next year. However, with Trey Lance waiting in the wings, and Garoppolo due a non-guaranteed $24.2 base salary, it’s hard to believe such a scenario is likely. As head coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this week, “I think we made it pretty clear that Trey [Lance] is our guy of the future.”
Even with that in mind, Garoppolo’s improved play could go a long way towards the 49ers recouping some draft capital in a trade this offseason. When Garoppolo was playing poorly, it seemed like the 49ers might have to release Jimmy G without getting anything in return. It now seems reasonable that they could receive at least a mid-round selection—a valuable piece for a team that has already traded several future picks.
For now, Shanahan is focused on getting the most out of Garoppolo this season. Luckily for him, the better Garoppolo looks, the easier it will be to find a deal this offseason that helps the 49ers next season. Now the only question is, can Jimmy G keep this level of production going?