The talk of the town in San Francisco has long been centered around a Jimmy Garoppolo trade this offseason. But is it that simple?
Jimmy Garoppolo has been quarterbacking the Niners for five seasons and has put together a regular season record of 31-14 with two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance to show for it.
Winning games has not been the issue for Garoppolo and the 49ers. The issue has become Jimmy’s turnover prowess and inability to win the big game. Though his touchdown percentage is a remarkable 5%, his interception rate is all the way up at 2.7%.
He throws more TDs (percentage-wise) than the likes of Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Kyler Murray, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, and Carson Wentz, but he also throws more picks than all of those same guys not to mention some well-known turnover machines like Daniel Jones and Ben Roethlisberger.
His interceptions plagued the 49ers throughout all of 2019 when they made their Super Bowl run, and then it culminated in a blown 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of their Super Bowl versus the Chiefs thanks in part to two Jimmy G interceptions- one of which on the final Niners drive of the game.
For as much as Jimmy wins, when it came time to drive down the field in Super Bowl LIV down 24-20 with a chance to go back ahead, he failed on downs. When it came time to claw back from 31-20 after a Chiefs touchdown, he threw a pick on the second play of the ensuing drive that essentially ended the game.
When it came time to knock off a team he had beaten twice already this year in the Rams for a chance to get back to the Big Game, he threw another game-sealing interception on 3rd & 13 with only a field goal needed to tie.
The easy move for the 49ers to make this offseason is to find a trade partner and deal Jimmy Garoppolo so that 2021 number three overall pick Trey Lance can take the reins.
But after seeing both Jimmy and Lance play this past season, and after seeing the top two available quarterbacks come off the market in Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, I struggle to find enough reasons San Fran shouldn’t try to run it back with Jimmy G.
Let me try to take you through my thinking process on this….
First off, Trey Lance was my favorite quarterback in this past season’s draft outside of Trevor Lawrence. I was adamant the Niners had to pick him once they moved up from 12 to 3 and not Mac Jones, who, of course had a terrific rookie season with Bill Belichick as Trey rode the bench for the most part.
Lawrence couldn’t catch a break in Jacksonville and turned the ball over like crazy, Zach Wilson faced similar issues coupled with an injury that put him out for a number of weeks, and Justin Fields could not buy offensive support in Chicago.
I watched this 49ers team start off 2-4 and then 3-5 with four of those losses coming at home.
Kyle Shanahan then surprisingly found his way to the bubble and it looked clear that Trey was going to take over and quarterback this team throughout a playoff-less season prepping for a big run in 2022.
Then, out of nowhere Jimmy Garoppolo turned up the heat, won 5 of 6 games, threw for 1,740 yards from Weeks 9 to 15 with 11 TDs and a passer rating of 109.5.
He got hurt in the Titans loss in Week 15, which set the stage for Trey Lance to start his second game of the season.
I watched Lance start the first Cardinals game all the way back in Week 5, and he finished with 192 passing yards, no touchdowns, an interception, and a passer rating of 58.4 completing just 52% of his passes that day. He also rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries, but it resulted in just 10 points and a meager loss to a young Cardinals team.
I then watched him start week 16 against the Texans at home and go into halftime trailing 7-3. Lance and the 49ers wound up storming back in the second half to win the game 23-7 and Trey ended the day with a 70% completion percentage, 249 passing yards, 2 touchdown passes, and a passer rating of 116.
Looking back over the tape of that game, (1) his reads were not on-point like they should have been- the interception to Desmond King demonstrates that as Trey clearly did not pick up a wide-open Deebo Samuel on the opposite side of the field. He also had an interception dropped in the third quarter that was right to a linebacker.
(2) He was skittish in the pocket and forced dead plays when he had more time to throw than he thought he did.
(3) He threw a really crisp ball at North Dakota State and I saw several instances in this Texans game where the ball came out wobbly and clearly did not have much conviction behind it. Better teams would have made him pay.
(4) His run game was shut down to 31 yards on 8 attempts and the Niners play-calling put the ball in his hands to throw just 23 times to Elijah Mitchell getting his number called 23 times on the ground.
I know, I know, it was Trey’s second pro start. The more snaps he gets the better he’s going to be, he’s clearly going to be amazing, and I don’t know anything. I get it!
All I’m saying is this — the 49ers quarterback in that game appeared very much to need more time to develop before sticking him with the starting gig from day one in 2022.
I guess I just expected a little more from Lance than hanging tight with the Houston Texans and scoring a QBR of 31.4 in a dominant victory after watching Jimmy Garoppolo for 14 games and having learned so much by that point.
Don’t fret, Niners fans. I’m still on-board with Trey Lance. He’s still my second-favorite quarterback from last year’s draft. I still think he’s going to be a stud in this league. I do, however, believe it to be a very fair assessment that perhaps he may need a little more time.
With the NFC West in the state it’s currently in with Russell Wilson gone and Seattle rebuilding, the Rams not likely to repeat as champs based on the last nearly two decades of data to go off, and Kyler Murray feuding with his own team, a Jimmy G-led Niners team seems to be far-and-away the standout in that division come 2022.
When it comes to the dilapidated NFC as a whole, I see Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and not much else standing in the Niners’ way of getting back to a Super Bowl if they make the playoffs. Not to mention the fact that Jimmy has two playoff victories over Aaron Rodgers and flexes all the characteristics of an Eli-to-Brady 2.0 foil to the four-time MVP in Green Bay.
For as bad as Jimmy is, he’s also pretty damn good at the exact same time.
In winning percentage, he’s 4th among active starting QBs (70%) behind only Patrick Mahomes, Taysom Hill, and Lamar Jackson.
In completion percentage, he’s 2nd amongst the same qualifiers (67.7%) behind only Joe Burrow (68.2%).
In TD% (5%), he’s 9th behind Mahomes, Rodgers, Lamar, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, Kirk Cousins, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow.
In passer rating for 2021, he finished top ten (98.7) with better ratings than the likes of Mahomes, Herbert, Carson Wentz, Josh Allen, and Derek Carr.
And career-wise, Jimmy has a better passer rating (98.9) than all but 4 current starting quarterbacks- Mahomes, Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Joe Burrow.
Jimmy Garoppolo is the Niners’ best option right now from a veteran quarterback standpoint. The hopes of upgrading to an Aaron Rodgers have been shut down. It is now a matter of Jimmy vs. Trey Lance for who is going to be the 49ers starter next year. And I have to say, Jimmy might have the edge in that debate at the current moment.