Has Jimmy Garoppolo been that bad? Garoppolo, understandably, has found the ire of 49ers onlookers, as the team has dropped four-straight games, and he is coming off what Kyle Shanahan admitted was his worst performance of the season.
But on Friday, Shanahan joined KNBR to respond to criticism of Garoppolo, and the idea that he has had a poor season.
“I would totally disagree with that,” Shanahan said. “I thought he played three well-played games the first two games, especially versus Detroit, Philly, our whole offense got off to a slow start. But I thought Jimmy played well overall. And Green Bay, I thought it was his best game. He led us on a big comeback, made some huge plays in that game on third down that gave us a chance to win it until Aaron took out from us with those last two plays of the game.
“Then he was playing at high level vs. Seattle until he got injured and then he went out and his first game back was in that rain game and had a rough game in that rain game. We’ll see how he bounces back this week, but to say that he’s been playing bad all year, I would say is inaccurate.”
That response won’t exactly be met with a resounding applause from fans given what they’ve seen from Garoppolo this season.
Garoppolo, before the Colts game, was executing the offense proficiently. The problem, though, is that he is, or has become, by the process of Shanahan displaying a lack of trust in him, a very conservative quarterback who doesn’t provide substantial upside.
This chart illustrates a metric from Pro Football Focus tracking big-time throws and turnover-worthy plays, as a way to roughly indicate the big-play upside that quarterbacks have. Garoppolo made his first big-time throw on Sunday, but is still marooned on an island of one.
Garoppolo’s average depth of target is fifth-lowest in the league at 7.0 yards per attempt.
His 37.9 total QBR rating from ESPN (among 32 quarterbacks) ranks 28th. His 56.8 PFF rating ranks tied for fourth-worst with Trevor Lawrence among 34 qualified quarterbacks. The other three quarterbacks in that bottom tier are Taylor Heinicke and rookies Davis Mills and Justin Fields.
Trey Lance, meanwhile, has 59.0 PFF rating, but has comes with the upside of big-play potential. His average depth of target of 9.0 yards ranks sixth-highest among quarterbacks with at least 60 dropbacks.
And in terms of sack avoidance, Lance is obviously more effective at escaping pressure. Nineteen percent of Garoppolo’s pressures become sacks, while 9.5 percent of Lance’s pressures become sacks.
There are myriad other ways to express the difference between the two quarterbacks, but Shanahan’s argument that Garoppolo has played well comes with the context of his upside being limited. Having gotten a glimpse of Lance’s game-changing play potential, it makes sense for there to be frustration in reverting to Garoppolo, coupled with praise of his performance.