Joe Staley Pinpoints Glaring Flaw in Jimmy Garoppolo Criticism

Staley pinpoints glaring flaw in criticism of Jimmy G originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It has only been two games, but 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo already is under fire.

The 49ers are 2-0 after wins over the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles, but Garoppolo was unspectacular in Week 2 and his inability to effectively attack the Eagles' defense deep and at the boundary led many to criticize the veteran signal-caller and call for rookie quarterback Trey Lance, who did not play in Week 2, to get more snaps.

However, former 49ers offensive tackle and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Joe Staley sees a massive issue with the criticism that Garoppolo doesn't attack downfield.

“He didn’t have the huge plays down the field and that’s what I think everybody that loves fantasy football and the stats and all these stat patterns and stuff want to be like ‘well he’s not throwing the ball 40 yards downfield,'” Staley said Monday on KNBR. “Well, that’s not what he’s asked to do in this offense. It never has been. If you look at Kyle Shanahan’s offense it’s never really been that. It’s been about controlling the clock, moving the ball down the field, and doing what it takes to win.”

The fact that Shanahan, who employed a more vertical attack as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, has elected to handcuff his quarterback with the scheme, speaks to the limitations he knows Garoppolo has. 

Through two weeks, Garoppolo has thrown just two passes that have traveled 20 or more yards in the air, and the 49ers have only six pass plays that have been labeled as explosive. Garoppolo is averaging just 3.6 air yards per game and his average depth of target (5.2) ranks ahead of only Matt Ryan, who has a horrible offensive line, and Andy Dalton.

Against the Eagles, Garoppolo threw 11 of his 30 passes behind the line of scrimmage, five within five yards of the LOS and another seven within 10. He was 19-for-23 with a touchdown pass on those throws. He went 3-for-7 with two turnover-worthy throws and two other misses on throws over 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.

The 49ers did focus on the screen game in the second half which is a factor in Garoppolo's low air yards and average depth of target. And he did make a pretty throw to Deebo Samuel on what turned into a massive gain.

RELATED: Schrock's observations: 49ers' offense must get more explosive

But if you look at Garoppolo's passing chart through two weeks, he has been unable to attack two-thirds of the field. His inability to beat teams vertically and at the boundary puts more pressure on Shanahan to scheme open Samuel, George Kittle and ideally Brandon Aiyuk for big runs after the catch.

Through two weeks, though, the 49ers' passing attack has lacked explosiveness outside of two big catch-and-runs from Samuel, one of which was the product of an underthrown ball from Garoppolo in Week 1. This forces the 49ers to rely on perfect execution, good turnover luck and their opponents making mistakes. While that formula likely will be good enough to get them to the playoffs, it might not be as effective when facing teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, and others, who are known for putting points on the board.

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