Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
As you have already seen, and will continue to see this week, Green Bay has a real chance at beating the San Francisco 49ers, mainly because it employs Aaron Rodgers at its starting quarterback position. You will also hear how the 49ers have to be careful that their QB1, Jimmy Garoppolo, doesn’t toss their Super Bowl chances away with an ill-advised interception. Garoppolo is the Rodney Dangerfield of NFL QBs right now, just can’t get any respect, so I decided to take a look at Jimmy GQ and compare this, his first full starting season, with some of the greats that have played and see if we could see that Garoppolo is truly all Italian suits and good looks, or if he can actually “Fire that pigskin” as Johnny Moxon’s dad would say.
Garoppolo vs Peyton Manning
Let’s start with one of the better rookie quarterback seasons. A straight Manning-versus-Garoppolo comparison isn’t really fair, as Manning was drafted first overall, had the starting position since day one and started all 16 games his rookie season, compiling a record of 3-13 that first season. Meanwhile, Garoppolo as we all know, sat behind Tom Brady for three years, and then has spent a year and a half learning Kyle Shanahan’s playbook before his first full season as a starter. So this comparison is actually rather pointless, but it is interesting to see that Garoppolo is ahead of Manning in every statistical category, completing more passes on fewer attempts for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions. It is also interesting, for those who have decided to bag on Garoppolo for interceptions, Manning, who some consider to be the greatest cerebral QB of all time, only once threw for less than ten interceptions in a season for his entire career.
Garoppolo vs Aaron Rodgers
A slightly better comparison here, but not perfect. Rodgers spent his first three seasons backing up the Hall of Famer Brett Favre before the Green Bay Packers moved on to Rodgers as their QB1. This would have been the exact scenario for Garoppolo if he would have stayed in New England and the Patriots would have sent Tom Brady in a trade instead of Garoppolo two seasons ago.
When looking at their stats, it’s obvious that Rodgers was in a more pass-first offense than Garoppolo, putting up about four more pass attempts per game, but for those sixty extra attempts on the season, he only completed twelve more passes, for 60 more yards, so he averaged about 4 more yards a game than Garoppolo. Rodgers also only threw one more touchdown and the same amount of INTs. Rodgers first season as a starter amounted to a 6-10 record and the Packers out of the playoffs.
Garoppolo vs. Tom Brady
Brady’s first full year of starting at quarterback for the Patriots came in his second season. This was, of course, in Week 2 of the season, after Drew Bledsoe was injured. All Brady did was go on to lead the Patriots to a 20-17 Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams after going 11-3 as a starter for the regular season. By all regards, Garoppolo has had a better first starting season up to this point, throwing more TDs (with a higher TD-per-throw percentage) and yards, with a higher completion percentage and lower interception percentage.
Garoppolo has more experience than Brady, being in his sixth season compared to his second and having eleven starts under his belt compared to Brady’s zero, but it is somewhat surprising that Garoppolo’s stats are so much better than Brady’s.
Garoppolo vs Joe Montana
This is the comparison that most 49ers fans are wanting to make: Jimmy GQ and Joe Cool. They both have spent three years in the offense of their respective head coaches -- both of whom were offensive geniuses. They both went 13-3 their first full season as a starter on the way to a NFC West Division crown and a first-round bye. Montana was leading a team that hadn’t won a Super Bowl before and Garoppolo is leading a franchise straining itself to get back there. Montana surprisingly threw eight more attempts than Garoppolo, but completed 18 fewer passes, for 413 fewer yards, and eight fewer touchdowns. They both seem to get better as the game gets closer, never worrying about the last drive or the last play, just focusing on what the next one needs to be successful. Montana was the greatest 49ers quarterback, and possibly the greatest NFL QB of all time, but Garoppolo’s first season of starting looks a tad bit better.
Garoppolo vs Steve Young
This is actually the comparison that makes the most sense even if their playing styles look nothing alike. I included two different Steve Young seasons. The first was his second year in the NFL, and he had earned the starting QB position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team was dreadful, going 2-12 with Young as the starting QB. I also included Young’s first season as the starter for the 49ers, which happened to take place in his sixth season in the NFL, after spending four years as Montana’s backup and the 49ers’ spot starter. This mimics what Garoppolo has gone through as a NFL QB as well. He got some spot playing time with the Patriots, then eight starts with the 49ers before he was able to start a full season.
Again, comparing these two quarterbacks, Garoppolo has the slightly better stats with a higher completion percentage and yards. Young has the highest TD percentage out of any of these QBs but actually threw for fewer total TDs than Garoppolo. Young led the 49ers to a 14-2 record with a NFC West crown, only to lose in the NFC Championship game to the Dallas Cowboys.
What Does It all Mean?
In all honesty? It all means nothing – except that the national media should probably be showing Jimmy Garoppolo a little more respect than they are. By all accounts, his first year of starting has been equal if not better than every single one of these current or future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. It looks like Shanahan and general manager John Lynch got pretty lucky when they were offered Garoppolo for a second-round draft pick. Only Montana and Brady were able to win or even go to a Super Bowl their first full year as a starter, so Garoppolo still has some work cut out for him, but he looks like the QB of the present and future, and he may wear a gold jacket one day.
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