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Kyle Shanahan on Jimmy G versus LA Rams: ‘He played pretty good’

Niners head coach seemed pleased with Garoppolo’s performance against the Rams

Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

The general public has access to All-22. That allows folks like myself to play Monday morning quarterback and second guess everything that happened the day before with the benefit of watching each play in slow motion.

We’re overly critical of quarterbacks. When we see a wide receiver running open down the field, our immediate reaction is, “Jimmy/Trey, throw it here!” I’ve done it and will probably do it again this season.

But as I re-watched the 49ers offense against the Rams, and I saw some clips circulate on social media, I didn’t feel like Jimmy Garoppolo had any egregious misses down the field in Week 4.

Today, let’s recap some of the plays Kyle Shanahan mentioned during his Tuesday conference call and use context to illustrate how difficult playing the position can be.

Shanahan said, “Jimmy came out on fire. We had a couple mistakes, especially, I think on that second play of the game with a protection issue.” On the first drop back of the game, a 2nd & 9, the 49ers leave the best player in the sport unblocked:

The first thought you have when you see this is, “here we go again,” especially after the line had breakdowns last week. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but not taking a sack on that play saved the drive. That play is an excellent example of Garoppolo feeling the rush. Ideally, he doesn’t throw it blindly, but he knows his check-down option is somewhere in the vicinity.

Spencer Burford, the right guard, tweeted after the game that there was a miscommunication between him and center Jake Brendel. This would be the final hiccup of the game for the line.

On the ensuing play, the offense had to convert a 3rd & 9. During his Niners tenure, Jimmy versus an underneath defender has resulted in him often losing, usually by TKO. He’s usually in such a hurry to get rid of the ball that he fires an unnecessary throw into the first window of the defense, which is precisely what they want to happen.

On this third down, and another example later in the first quarter, Garoppolo waits for his receiver to clear the initial window and then hits him in the second window for a first down:

It seems simple, but allowing routes to develop will go a long way in the offense staying on the field and making big plays.

When Shanahan said, “And then kept us on the field with some big third-down throws,” those were the ones he was referencing, in addition to a scramble where he gained a couple of yards to keep the drive alive.

Garoppolo finished Week 4 second in adjusted EPA per play but only 20th in success rate. He had the fourth-highest big-time throw percentage but always leaves you wanting more. There were three throws in a row in the second quarter where the offense left yards on the field. Here’s Shanahan explaining each play:

We took a shot to [TE] Charlie [Woerner] down the sideline. Just missed him. Charlie could have made a tough catch. Jimmy could have made it a little bit easier, but they just missed each other. The next play had a real good look to [WR] Ray-Ray [McCloud III] on the screen, but [Los Angeles Rams CB] Jalen Ramsey’s a pretty talented long player and he got in the passing lane and tipped it. And then on third down, Jimmy just shot a rifle to [WR] Jauan [Jennings] and it just sailed a little bit over his head. Those were probably the few that he missed in the game, but overall he played pretty good.”

Jimmy missed Woerner. Why that target wasn’t to 85 is another topic, but Woerner did his best to adjust and make a last-second over-the-shoulder grab. If the ball is placed inside, it’s an explosive play:

The only way you don’t fault Garoppolo here is if you believe Charlie should keep fading, and by that, I mean widening toward the sideline and catching the ball over his right shoulder. That’s a big ask.

The final two plays Shanahan mentions included a great play by Ramsey that would have led to a significant gain and a throw to Jennings that would have led to points if it was on target:

Jennings is 6’3. These missed opportunities did hurt the offense Monday night, but the theme has been consistent all season.

And to be fair to Jimmy, it’s not just him. There was a play later in the game where the concept is perfect. The line gives Garoppolo time, but Jauan trips, and now the play is over, and Jimmy has to throw the ball away.

There has been a lot of discussion about the overturned touchdown in the end zone to George Kittle. Watching from the eye in the sky, Brandon Aiyuk ran a great route, left Jalen Ramsey in the dust, and wanted the ball. Watch Aiyuk below. He doesn’t even look at the result of the play. He’s so ticked off he wasn’t targeted:

This play is a prime example where multiple things are true. Aiyuk should be upset, as he did his job. Could you imagine if Jimmy threw that ball, Ramsey undercut it, and now all of a sudden, the game is tied? I would not fault a quarterback for not testing the best corner in the past decade near the goal line.

On the other hand, this throw was perfectly layered over the outstretched arms of the linebacker and in front of the defender guarding Kittle. This is a dime and a pass your All-Pro tight end has to come down with.

If Kittle gets his second foot down, we’re not talking about Aiyuk or Shanahan deciding to kick a field goal. If you watch the clip from above, I wonder how much of Kittle stumbling off the line of scrimmage had to do with him being even a half-step too deep, thus, not getting that second foot down.

Through four weeks, the 49ers are fifth in point differential in the NFL. That stat tells you how dominant each team is. It’s remarkable San Francisco is so high, given how lackluster they’ve been on this side of the ball.

It also tells us that, despite leaving a lot of meat on the bone, this team is still among the best in the league. Eventually, they’ll click on this side of the ball. The offensive line continues to improve. Jimmy making those second window throws are a positive sign. Now, they need to put it all together.