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The key to the 2019 49ers’ success is simple: Keep Jimmy Garoppolo healthy

© Stan Szeto | 2019 Jul 27

It’s been a long time since the San Francisco 49ers had a truly prolific quarterback. In fact, since 2001, the Niners are the only team in the NFL to not have a passer throw for more than 3,500 yards or 21 touchdowns passes in a single season. They’re also one of only three franchises to not have a single quarterback make the Pro Bowl since 2002.

A big reason for the lack of production has been the fact that there’s been little consistency. In the last 16 seasons, the 49ers have had a quarterback play all 16 games just four times (Alex Smith in 2006 and 2011 and Colin Kaepernick in 2013 and 2014).

It’s no coincidence that in the years the 49ers were fairly stable at the position, they had the most success. From 2011-2014, the team had a regular season record of 44-19-1, with Smith starting the first 25 games of that run and Kaepernick the final 39. In the other 12 years (2003-10 and 2015-2018) the team started 16 different quarterbacks and went a combined 63-129.

Looking at the current regime, it’s not far fetched to say that a big reason Kyle Shanahan has stumbled out of the gate has been the fact that he’s been forced to play musical chairs at quarterback. In all, Shanahan has started four different players and hasn’t been able to establish any real rhythm with any of them. If the 49ers are going to take the next step in 2019, it’s imperative that they have a consistent presence at the position, which means Jimmy Garoppolo staying healthy.

Due to the lack of sample size, It’s hard to really know exactly what Garoppolo is at this point. However, one thing that’s been proven is that when Garoppolo’s behind center, Shanahan’s offense is much more functional.

In his eight starts, Garoppolo has led the team to an average of 27.1 points per game and has scored 25 points or more in six-of-eight games. With all other quarterbacks, the Niners have averaged 19 points per game and have gotten to 25 or more just seven times in 24 games. When you take this into consideration, it’s not a surprise that San Francisco is 6-2 when Garoppolo starts and 4-20 with anyone else over the past two years.

As far as his numbers go, Garoppolo has thrown for 2,260 yards and 11 touchdown passes in his eight starts. Over a 16 game season, that would amount to 4,520 yards and 22 touchdowns, both of which would be the highest totals since the aforementioned 2001 season.

To keep their quarterback healthy though, the team must do a better job protecting him, and Garoppolo himself has to get rid of the ball quicker. In the three games prior to his ACL injury in 2018, Garoppolo suffered 13 sacks and was hit a whopping 22 times. In fact, 49ers quarterbacks have been hit 241 times since 2017, which is second most in the league. No quarterback can stay healthy under those conditions.

In many ways, 2019 will be the most pivotal season the franchise has faced in a long time. The results we see will go long way in determining where this regime, and it’s players, are ultimately headed. For it to all go in the right direction, the team needs its most important player, Garoppolo, available for all 16 games.


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