Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
"No matter what I do/ It's never enough."
-- Peter Steele
The San Francisco 49ers sit comfortably in the NFC’s royal suite, a throne room with floors of flesh and silk, with a conference-best 10-1 record. Even the most positive Faithful fan was not guessing the team would be winning games with the wave of a golden hand this deep into the season.
49er Twitter is usually the place to turn a pleasant winning buzz into a three-day hangover. Thankfully, that vibe seems to be dying down bit by bit.
What shocks me more is so-called NFL experts, the men and women who get paid to talk about football, continue to find fabricated reasons why the 49ers are winning, and that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t a good player.
Take, for example, the following:
“That Niners front won this football game. That’s all it was. Again, Jimmy Garoppolo – I want to give him credit, he played very, very well. But he didn’t have to play well because of how great that Niners D front was.”
If this is where you’re getting your analysis, I highly suggest changing the channel.
Before we get to Garoppolo’s stats from Sunday’s win over Green Bay, let’s lay out clear facts.
Garoppolo is a six-year pro, with only 21 starts on his resume. The football deities dealt him an intricate hand – playing three years behind Tom Brady and sustaining two injuries. But in those 21 starts, Garoppolo has 18 wins. He’s found a way to defy the fate of the gods, much like a heroic figure from Greek mythology.
Garoppolo is not the second coming of Joe Montana. He’s not the second coming of Brady or Drew Brees.
Quarterback comparisons are for long-road trip discussions and bar room beers. Garoppolo is his own quarterback. Like a Greek hero, Garoppolo is not without his flaws. He’s not perfect, and he’s still learning.
Garoppolo has shown he can put the 49ers on his shoulders and win games. For reference, please see both games against the Arizona Cardinals this year, and hanging 51 points on Carolina.
“…he didn’t have to play well.”
The 49ers needed 48 offensive plays to beat Green Bay on Sunday. Garoppolo went 14-for-20, throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers rushed for two touchdowns and connected on two field goals.
Let’s cut some of those stats a bit and see how well the game might have been for the 49ers. Turn both of those touchdown passes into interceptions, and trim down the passing yards to an even 200.
Garoppolo finishes the game 12-for-20, 200 yards, and two interceptions. Monday’s narrative certainly would have changed if the 49ers were able to scratch out a victory with those passing statistics.
As much as I trust the 49ers’ defense, I also don’t like giving quarterback Aaron Rodgers the ball back for free.
“…because of how great that Niners D front was.”
Nobody doubts the greatness of the 49ers’ defensive line. It’s taken time, but the defensive linemen have come together and are the best in professional football. But they have their weaknesses, namely running quarterbacks.
In the two games against Arizona, they allowed Kyler Murray to gain 111 yards on the ground on 13 rushing attempts. That’s 8.5 yards per attempt for those scoring at home.
Before Week 12, the 49ers defense had allowed 565 rushing yards between Weeks 8 and 11. The defensive scheme is sound, but those teams found the soft spots in the defensive line.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh made the necessary adjustments to prepare for Green Bay, and it worked. The 49ers’ defense was on the field for 80 plays and made the Packer offense look limp and lost.
What’s missing from this week’s unnecessary criticism is how well the 49ers performed as a team. Offense, defense, and special teams played like a well-oiled machine. I’ve yet to hear praise for Raheem Mostert dropping Green Bay punt returner Tremon Smith twice for losses on two punts.
One-dimensional football teams do not have ten wins through twelve weeks of football. Football teams, from high school to the pros, cannot have a great defensive line and win games with a subpar quarterback or a running attack that barely scratches 80 yards per game.
The 49ers, for the first time in more than a decade, have a fully functioning football team. But it’s easier for the television analysts continue to recycle a tired narrative about Garoppolo.
Then again, we are in a fast-paced world of instant clicks and hot takes. Looking any deeper into a franchise’s success may require some effort.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
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