Tue. Sep 29th, 2020

Advanced metrics illustrate 49ers QB’s struggles

4 min read

There will only be more questions around Jimmy Garoppolo after Week 1.

Jimmy Garoppolo did nothing to silence his critics in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season, with his performance in the San Francisco 49ers’ defeat to the Arizona Cardinals only serving to raise further questions over his long-term viability as their starting quarterback.

The usual caveat of avoiding overreactions to the first game of the season must be applied here, and it is important to put Garoppolo’s career as the 49ers’ starter to this point into context.

Quarterback wins may not be a stat in the minds of many but Garoppolo is 19-6 as a starter for San Francisco and has put up very impressive overall numbers since his trade from the New England Patriots in 2017. He has completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 6,515 yards, 41 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

Garoppolo also has six fourth-quarter comebacks with the Niners, but concerns about his ability to deliver in the final frame arose in San Francisco’s Super Bowl LIV collapse against the Kansas City Chiefs and will certainly not be going away after a series of missed throws in the defeat to Arizona.

A look at the advanced metrics does not make for pretty reading for Garoppolo, who enters Week 2 of the season under significant pressure to quickly turn things around for a team with enough talent on both sides of the ball to harbor aspirations of a return to the Super Bowl this season.

Garoppolo’s accuracy issues

Garoppolo was an accurate quarterback in 2019. According to the NFL’s NextGen Stats, last season he had an expected completion percentage (xCOMP%) of 67.5 and outperformed it by 1.7 percent as he completed 69.1 percent of his passes in an impressive first full season as a starter.

The decline in that area of the game on Sunday was stark. Garoppolo short-armed a potential game-winning touchdown throw to Kendrick Bourne and then threw behind Trent Taylor on a decisive fourth down, allowing the pass to be batted away.

His struggles in accurately delivering the ball are reflected by the disparity between his completion percentage and his xCOMP%. Garoppolo had an xCOMP% of 64 but completed just 57.6 percent of his throws.

In other words, head coach Kyle Shanahan gave him throws he was expected to make and Garoppolo did an extremely poor job of doing so. Despite well-documented injury issues at the receiver position, little of the blame can be placed on his pass-catchers.

Receivers not at fault

The 49ers are without Deebo Samuel until at least Week 4 after he suffered a setback in his recovery from a Jones fracture while rookie first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk missed the season opener with a hamstring issue.

That left the Niners with just four healthy wide receivers and Richie James sustained an injury during the game, leaving San Francisco with Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor at wideout.

Yet Bourne and Taylor gave Garoppolo opportunities to complete passes. Bourne got open on the missed game-winner and averaged 2.2 yards of separation, per NextGen Stats. Taylor averaged 1.8 and tight end George Kittle 3.4.

The separation the 49ers’ wideouts were getting was not huge by any means, but it was enough by NFL standards to be considered open. Yet, Kittle – who sprained his knee leaping for a high pass from Garoppolo – had just four catches for 44 yards. Bourne had two for 34 and Taylor two catches for only seven yards.

San Francisco’s offense should be much improved once Aiyuk and Samuel are back in the mix, but the receivers were not the primary reason their aerial attack did not hit the desired heights against Arizona.

Garoppolo’s limited contribution

Garoppolo’s performance in Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics was slightly more encouraging. He was middle of the pack in both Defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) and Defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR), ranking 16th of 32 quarterbacks in both.

While those numbers speak to a reasonably efficient performance throwing the ball, his responsibility for the Niners’ offensive production is open for debate.

Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) assesses a player’s contribution to his offense’s production by looking at the factors only he could control.

Garoppolo received an OSM score of 12.22, indicating an average level of performance. Only Drew Brees (8.08) fared worse among quarterbacks in Week 1.

That grade tallies with what was seen on the field on Sunday. A large percentage of Garoppolo’s 259 passing yards came on Raheem Mostert’s 76-yard catch and run while Bourne and Kittle averaged 9.1 and 4.4 yards after catch respectively, according to Next Gen Stats.

What the advanced metrics from Sunday illustrate is that Garoppolo was an average quarterback who was not much of a factor in his team’s offensive production and crucially performed at a below-average level in an area in which he excelled last year.

The 49ers theoretically now have two get-right games in New York against the Jets and Giants in successive weeks but, if they are to again contend in a loaded conference, they need a quarterback who was clearly out of rhythm in Week 1 to hastily rediscover his groove.

Jimmy Garoppolo: Advanced metrics illustrate 49ers QB’s struggles

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