Super Bowl Preview: Can Jimmy Garoppolo Carry the Game?
Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
When I started writing this article, I had the notion to simply type three letters (y-e-s) and send it in to our editors. If you don’t truly believe that Jimmy Garoppolo can’t carry this offense to a win against a defense ranked in the bottom half of the league (17th), then you just haven’t been watching football this season. In his first full season as a starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo has only led a team who hasn’t been in the playoff hunt for four years to a 13-3 record, two absolutely dominant playoff victories and an average of almost 30 points per game in the regular season.
Over the 16-game regular season, Garoppolo’s stats were: 329-of-476 (69.1 percent), for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He led four fourth-quarter comebacks (most in the league), including absolutely working the New Orleans Saints in a shootout to the tune of 349 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT. For the season his per game stats were: 20.6-of-29.75, 248.6 yards, 1.7 TDs, and 0.8 INTs. Which, statistically speaking, is the best throwing season the team has had since they had a Hall of Famer behind center.
Many, if not most, of the look-at-me-style pundits have tried to float and then hammer the storyline that San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has lost confidence and trust in Garoppolo, which is why Garoppolo has only thrown 27 pass attempts in the two playoff games this year, especially after he threw an interception during the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, and if you didn’t watch Garoppolo being the absolute key factor in the 49ers run to this year’s Super Bowl, one could see the thought process, illogical as it is.
Garoppolo’s situational stats are some of the best in the league. Everyone who is a fan should know by now that Jimmy GQ has ice flowing through his veins, seemingly getting better the bigger the stakes are –just like a rather “Cool” quarterback who led the franchise to its first four Super Bowl victories. Garoppolo has the best QB Rating in the league (115.7) when trailing. When his team was behind by anywhere from 9 to 16 points, something that didn’t happen very often, that number inflates to a 132.9 QB rating. So when teams know he is going to pass, and has to pass, he is even better.
His detractors have maligned his turnovers, making them out to be a problem, and Garoppolo has made some head scratching throws the past 18 games, but not a single one has cost his team a victory. When I go back and watch his interceptions, I don’t see a bunch of bad reads or bad throws, but a collection of a bunch of tipped passes by his receivers and Garoppolo trying to throw into tight windows –trusting his receivers. That’s confidence, not stupidity or bad quarterback play.
During Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers the 49ers turned the ball over five times, four of them attributed to Garoppolo (2 interceptions, 2 fumbles). When Garoppolo fumbled the snap, giving the team its fifth and final turnover, we all watched Garoppolo jog of the field laughing. Not the reaction that most NFL QBs would have after that botched exchange. Many QBs would be seen pouting, angry, and yelling on the sidelines, or even isolating themselves on the sidelines (think Aaron Rodgers during either of the 49ers vs. Packers games this season). Not Jimmy.
Garoppolo just has the swagger; that little bit of Kobe in him that shows everyone that even if he didn’t get this last one, he’s going to get the next one. His confidence in his teammates and himself is higher than 49er fans on April 20. Garoppolo brought his offense back out onto the field and beat that Steelers team. His deep throw to Deebo Samuel, a rookie, against the Seahawks in overtime, with the game on the line, shows that confidence.
This season the 49ers have lost three games, two coming down to last-second field goals and the third a last-second touchdown. Garoppolo has the defense to keep the game close, and as he’s shown all season, that’s when he shines the most.
So, the redundant question of whether Jimmy Garoppolo can carry the 49ers to their sixth Super Bowl title shouldn’t even be asked really. It’s an obvious yes. The better question is: Will he have to carry his team to their sixth Super Bowl title? Unlike the first question, the answer to this one is no. I fully expect the 49ers’ ground game to grind the Chiefs into the grass, tiring them out on the way. If the Chiefs are able to score some points in the third quarter and force Garoppolo to beat them, every 49er fan knows that Garoppolo will be there to ring the bell.
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