Just four games into the Jimmy Garoppolo era, the young 49ers quarterback is starting to become a cult hero.
He’s taken a team that lost its first nine games and transformed it into one that’s knocking off playoff teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s gained national attention for a franchise that’s earned nothing but negative focus for several seasons. He’s unbeaten in his four starts for the 49ers and is 6-0 in his six NFL starts. He’s not only doing everything right, he’s inspiring his teammates. Many already are talking about how excited they are for 2018.
Sean McVay, first-year head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, who have won the NFC West title going into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the 49ers, told reporters this week that Garoppolo is a difference-maker.
“He’s been unbelievably impressive,” McVay said. “And you see why they’re winning a lot of games behind his leadership.”
In an analysis for SB Nation this week, Geoff Schwartz broke down what makes Garoppolo so successful. After reviewing film of Garoppolo’s four starts, Schwartz cites Garoppolo’s accuracy, quick release, decision-making and perfect rhythm in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He can adapt – note his sidearm TD pass on the run vs. the Jaguars last week – and buy time with his feet. Plus, he does things even longtime NFL quarterbacks don’t do well.
“What stands out the most is his ability to use his eyes to move the defense, then throw a dart to where he’s not looking,” wrote Schwartz. “This is veteran work, not someone who’s started six games.”
Mike Renner, an analyst for the website Pro Football Focus, wrote in the Washington Post this week that what Garoppolo has done – switch teams and play at an elite level – is almost unprecedented. Renner went back through Pro Football Focus’s quarterback grading history (2006) and found that Garoppolo’s instant impact over his first four games ranks second only to Jeff Garcia’s first four games with Tampa Bay in 2007. Garcia wasn’t brilliant in those four starts, but was efficient for a run-first offense.
Garoppolo has been slightly less efficient but actually more impressive, writes Renner.
“The general public is running out of superlatives for Garoppolo at this point,” wrote Renner. “He’s been unflappable and just spent his Sunday picking apart the league’s highest-graded pass defense. To take a roster that had only one win and rattle off four straight is once again, unprecedented.”
Renner noted, too, that PFF grades every throw a quarterback makes in a game. Garoppolo is consistently excellent.
“Over 35 percent of Garoppolo’s attempts have received positive grades,” he wrote. “That’s an unbelievable rate. Even Carson Wentz and Tom Brady both sit below 30 percent. That’s good company for the young QB.”
The 5-10 49ers are set for a 1:25 p.m. kickoff Sunday against the 11-4 Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum.