Dr. Garoppolo or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jimmy G
It’s been 1552 days since the San Francisco 49ers traded for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If we’ve learned anything about Jimmy G since that Halloween night in 2017, it’s that we still know nothing. He is a quarterback that defies our modern thinking of what makes a good QB. He doesn’t have a strong arm, he’s immobile in the pocket, he can’t throw outside the numbers, he makes poor decisions with the ball on a weekly basis. Yet despite all this, all his flaws and inadequacies as a QB, he just freaking wins. Jimmy G has started seven or more games in a season only twice since coming to San Francisco. In both of those seasons, the 49ers have made it to the NFC Championship game. The 49ers are 31–14 with him as the starter since 2017, and 8–27 without him.
He simply doesn’t make sense.
By all traditional football evaluating practices and metrics, he is not the type of QB you want on your team. The 49ers even told us this much back in the offseason when they checked in on every available and unavailable QB under the sun eventually trading up in the draft to select Trey Lance. And yet here we are, the 49ers are in the NFC championship game with Jimmy G as the starting. There is something unquantifiable about Jimmy. You might think that he just turns it on in the playoffs, that he’s built for the big games. Eh, not really. He has played five playoff games in his career and is averaging 212 yards a game and has thrown two touchdowns and five interceptions. Not great, not even good to be honest, but the 49ers are 4–1 with him in the playoffs, heading to their second NFC Championship game in three years. None of it makes sense, none.
There's an aura to Jimmy Garoppolo. His teammates have talked about it time and time again. How they always feel confident with Jimmy in the huddle, how he is such an incredible leader, how Jimmy always makes them believe that they’re going to win, that they’re never out of games. And to be fair, maybe there is something to that. Among active quarterbacks, there are only three who have a winning record in 4th quarter game-winning drive opportunities (Down seven or less in the 4th quarter with two minutes or less on the clock), Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and you guessed it, Jimmy Garoppolo. Somehow Jimmy pulls it out more times than he doesn’t. Granted, he is oftentimes largely responsible for digging the hole that they need to climb out of, but nevertheless, he pulls them out of that hole.
The Jimmy GQ magic was on display from the moment he stepped onto the field as a 49er. The team went 6–0 with Jimmy, including a 67-second drive to win a game against the Tennessee Titans captured in full by NFL Films here, to close out the 2017 season, earning Jimmy the largest contract in NFL history at the time. A torn ACL forced Jimmy to miss almost all of the 2018 season before coming back and leading the team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2019. Injuries again shortened his 2020 campaign, but he was back in the saddle this season leading the team on a deep playoff run, and a truly magical season.
Despite all this magic, the Jimmy G era will be over at the end of the season. The players know it, the coaches know it, even Jimmy knows it. Maybe it ends today against the Rams, maybe they win the Super Bowl defeating the Chiefs in a rematch of our last major pre-covid event and restore balance to the universe. Who knows. But when the season ends, Jimmy will most likely be traded to another team, and Trey Lance will take over as the QB of the future. With the team needing to resign some big players in the coming years, his production just simply does not justify the massive contract he has. The team will opt for the more talented, higher upside player in Lance. In the coming years, we’ll get enough distance from Jimmy G, we’ll be far enough away from the maddening interceptions, and the deer in headlights look in the face of pressure in the pocket to truly appreciate the Jimmy G era here in San Francisco. It wasn’t perfect. It was oftentimes equal parts frustrating and panic-inducing. I probably lost several years off my life in the process. But as cliché as it sounds, Jimmy gave us hope. He righted the franchise out of a turbulent post-Jim Harbaugh era and led us out of the dark times of Jim Tomsula, Chip Kelly, Blaine Gabbert, and Brian Hoyer. The 49ers simply won with Jimmy at quarterback, and at the end of his time here, he will have started in as many (or more depending on how Sunday’s game against the Rams goes) Super Bowls as the great Steve Young. Jimmy is quite possibly the third-best quarterback in franchise history. The 49ers won a lot of games sometimes in spite of and sometimes because of Jimmy Garoppolo. And even though I have talked a lot of smack about him in his time here, this year specifically, I am truly thankful for what he has done for the franchise.