"Everything in space obeys the laws of physics. If you know these laws, and obey them, space will treat you kindly."
Wernher von Braun. Time, February 17, 1958
After two games at quarterback, the Jimmy Garoppolo hype-train is a complete failure.
A train is failed, pale description of the vehicle ripping Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers’ offense from the sun’s orbit and into the Oort Cloud. If you’re not already onboard the interstellar starship, then beam up, grasp the railing and let’s engage the Gemon-4 ion engines.
The past two weeks certainly made the three-year black hole of pain and suffering feel light years away.
However, the laws of physics will eventually bring all objects, including Garoppolo’s play, back to the surface of our planet. He’s bound to have a bad game, throw an ill-timed interception or take a loss to at least one of the three remaining teams on the schedule.
For now, we’re space truckin’. Through two games, Garoppolo has survived a make-shift offensive line – including Zane Beadles blocking Jadeveon Clowney – run 139 plays in a new offense, and battled back from poor play.
Remember, he finished the first quarter against the Texans 3-of-7, 25 yards with one interception. Those aren’t such stellar statistics.
There are limits to success, but how long can Garoppolo make it last?
The Warm-Up is Over, Here Comes the Test
Consider this: before Garoppolo’s last-minute touchdown pass in Week 12, he hadn’t thrown a regular-season pass since September 18, 2016. Quarterbacks can age like fine wine, so long as they face a live defense more than twice in 15 months; it’s rare to see any quarterback keep his field vision sharp and pocket senses honed standing on the sidelines.
Call it luck or divine intervention, but Garoppolo couldn’t have faced two more perfect teams to begin his career with the 49ers – the Bears and Texans have average defenses, but nothing like what’s looming over the distant horizon.
Indeed, those of you reading this never thought your eyes would glaze upon the following sentence: Jimmy Garoppolo’s most significant test comes against the Jacksonville Jaguars who currently have the best defense in professional football.
The Jaguars’ defense allows quarterbacks to complete 57.1% of their pass attempts, is a full percentage point better than Blaine Gabbert’s career completion percentage. Jacksonville is a team so starved for success they are ready to destroy lesser teams and make a mockery of the quarterback while doing so.
If Garoppolo plays poorly against Jacksonville, it’s important to not read too much into it. The 49ers are still a team that lacks a quality interior offensive line, and a receiving corps that uses Pam cooking spray on their gloves instead of pine tar.
But if he can scrape together 21 points, and the 49ers’ defense can prove that Blake Bortles is a false prophet, then it might be a sign of what Garoppolo could do with a fully powered football team.
Garoppolo Isn’t Without His Flaws
At live speed, Garoppolo looks like he has his game on point. While the interception he threw against Chicago wasn’t his fault, the interception against Houston was ugly. There was an apparent miscommunication between Garoppolo and Trent Taylor, but these things happen in the course of a football game.
Further film study shows Garoppolo isn’t fantastic throwing the deep ball, has had some bad throws/miscommunication with routes over the middle and despite his arm strength, and he floats footballs to his receivers when he shouldn’t.
Additionally, I’ve watched him make some dangerous throws into bracketed receivers or triple coverage. Don’t get me wrong; it’s fantastic to watch him fit these throws into some tight spaces.
But, if you play with matches long enough you’re going to get burned.
At some point, coaches will have enough film on Garoppolo to figure out his kryptonite. An opposing coach will notice his tendencies – say throwing a slant route on third down, and set up a tricky coverage that drops an outside linebacker into the throwing late. It’s simple, but it’s adequate and enough to rattle the confidence of any quarterback.
I can see the Los Angeles Rams batting for a playoff spot and crafting defenses that force Garoppolo to make poor choices in the pocket.
The Goal: Level Out at a High Orbit
The DNA of sport is bonded together with repeating nucleotides: heart, size, speed, coordination, brains, and luck. Garoppolo has all these elements amplified today, but at some point, he’s going to run out of luck. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
Frankly, I want Garoppolo to play an ugly game to see how he bounces back and how the team rallies around him. It’s important to watch a leader deal with adverse situations, learn from them and ultimately rise above.