If Sunday’s Super Bowl were a quarterback talent contest, the odds would be heavily on Patrick Mahomes to get more votes than Jimmy Garoppolo.
Mahomes is a video game QB who throws often, throws deep and is the ultimate game-changing passer of this generation. Garoppolo is talented, but works within the system of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
But, of course, it’s not a battle of quarterbacks Sunday. It’s a battle of teams.
And Garoppolo, in his team’s scheme, can be just as effective as Mahomes at producing victories.
In the 49ers’ NFC Championship Game victory over the Packers, Garoppolo threw the ball just eight times while handing it off 42 times. He said afterwards he was perfectly fine with running the football because it produced a victory.
But in the past, Garoppolo has been called on to pass the ball – a lot – and also has produced victories.
He threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Saints this season. He threw for 253 yards and two TDs vs. the Packers. He threw for 296 yards and three TDs vs. the Bengals. He threw for 317 yards and four TDs vs. the Cardinals in one game, and 424 yards and four TDs in another.
As Steven Ruiz of USA Today wrote this week, Garoppolo suddenly is being referred to as a "game manager," but is in no way that kind of a quarterback – the type who is limited in talent and is asked only to do the bare minimum. Ruiz says Garoppolo is an extremely talented passer who is capable of doing whatever is necessary.
"That man can throw a football," wrote Ruiz. "His release is Marino quick. … His mechanics are basically perfect."
And, says NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks, when the 49ers decide to test the Chiefs deep, chances are that Garoppolo will be extremely effective.
Brooks notes Garoppolo was the NFL’s most efficient deep passer in 2019, leading the league in completion percentage (58.1) and yards per attempt (20.3) for seven touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 102.6 on long throws. It’s just that San Francisco’s offense is built to attack defenses with a running attack and short passes, so Garoppolo’s deep-pass rate was the lowest in the league at just 6.2 percent.
So, Brooks contends Garoppolo could produce some game-breaking long-ball plays Sunday against the Chiefs, especially on play-action and rollouts after the Niners have established the running attack early.
Wrote Brooks: "I would expect Shanahan to attack the Chiefs’ defense with a handful of well-designed shot plays that mirror outside zone runs."
Shanahan’s offense is full of motion, shifts and play-action passes, says Brooks. If the 49ers can set their tone early by getting into a rhythm of running the ball the way they did vs. the Packers and Vikings, Kansas City could be vulnerable to some very big deep-ball plays from Garoppolo to wideouts Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders of Richie James, says Brooks.
Sunday’s Super Bowl in Miami is set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff (Bay Area time).