Jimmy Garoppolo is the most photogenic quarterback in the NFL next to Tom Brady. But at least for the past two seasons, when they looked at Garoppolo, the San Francisco 49ers only saw the negative of the photo.
His focus was not what Garoppolo could do, but what he couldn’t.
He doesn’t have a Juggs machine for a right arm, and his passes don’t leave vapor trails. He would prefer to blend in the background rather than be a dominant voice. His ability to run doesn’t scare defenses. In Super Bowl LIV against Kansas City, as Patrick Mahomes began to take over, Garoppolo seemed to cringe.
The 49ers responded in 2021 by trading three first-round draft picks to move up and take North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance third overall. The team was determined to move on from Garoppolo, but was unsuccessful in its attempts to trade him this offseason.
However, situations can change quickly in football, and there has been a dramatic shift with the 49ers. After Lance suffered a season-ending broken ankle in the first quarter of last Sunday’s game against Seattle, a largely unprepared Garoppolo stepped in and helped guide San Francisco to a 27-7 victory.
Instead of relying on Brock Purdy, a rookie seventh-round pick, the 49ers have a quarterback who is 31-14 as a starter for them and helped them reach the Super Bowl after the 2019 season and the game. NFC Championship last season.
Considering he had shoulder surgery in March, had no spring ball, and pitched only side field apart from the rest of the team in training camp, it’s remarkable that Garoppolo was able to transition so smoothly back to the countryside.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan played down the idea that the playbook changed drastically for the more mobile Lance, though many found it strange to see Garoppolo holding on to the ball on those read-option runs.
“We put everything the same last year too, so it’s not as big of a difference as people think,” the coach said this week. “You really are running the exact same races. Do you just want to get into the gun and read someone, or do you want to hand it over and not read it? It doesn’t change as much as people think.”
It’s early days, but the pieces are in place for Garoppolo to save the season for the 49ers, who have prime-time games the next two weeks. They’re in Denver on Sunday night and host the Rams on Monday night in Week 4.
Just a few weeks ago, Garoppolo signed a reduced contract to stay with the team as a substitute. His old contract would have paid him $24.2 million this season. His New His pays you a guaranteed $6.5 million with the chance to win up to $16 million depending on playing time. With his performance on Sunday, he earned an additional $350,000 for playing at least 25% of the snaps in a 49ers win.
“You couldn’t ask for a better situation right now if you’re Jimmy Garoppolo,” said former 49ers quarterback JT O’Sullivan, who now hosts a digital platform, QB School, where he discusses the position and performance of quarterbacks. field.
“Just the opportunity to play on that kind of roster, with that kind of expectation for that organization… But it’s worth acknowledging that the problems remain. Regardless of what the 49ers thought were the reasons they needed to walk away from him, those issues are still there.”
Shanahan’s decision to transition Garoppolo is a bit reminiscent of the Rams’ Sean McVay leaving Jared Goff. Those offensive coaches saw the yards lost and the explosive plays that weren’t happening, and those gaps began to overshadow the good things those quarterbacks could do.
While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Garoppolo’s perception began to change, the 2019 playoffs are a good place to start. He threw some bad pitches in a 27-10 win over Minnesota in the divisional round and was essentially handcuffed the following week in the NFC title game against Green Bay. He threw the ball just eight times in that 37-20 win over the Packers. Then came the Super Bowl, a showcase for Mahomes.
Not long after that, the 49ers were considering the idea of signing Tom Brady. (Garoppolo began his NFL career as Brady’s backup in New England.) He set the stage for San Francisco’s big move in the 2021 draft to trade for Lance.
Garoppolo received the rock star treatment when he joined the 49ers via trade during the 2017 season and closed out the year by winning his first five starts. However, he suffered a knee injury in Week 3 of the following season and was sidelined for the rest of the year. His pendulum swings one way and then the other.
Now, he has the chance to redefine himself once again.