Make or Break for San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo?
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Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

Make or Break for San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo?

It’s strange to hear that a player that’s labeled as the franchise quarterback only a year ago is in a make or break situation. Even more unusual when it’s after him coming off of an ACL tear in the third week of last season. But that’s where quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finds himself in his second season with the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s a drastic move for a team after offering the 27-year-old a five-year, $137.5 million deal during the 2018 offseason. But the team does have a clause in the fifth-year quarterback’s contract where they can opt out of it and only lose $4.2 million. And it makes sense with a player that has such a small sample size as Garoppolo’s. He’s only started in ten games (eight with the 49ers) throughout his career in the pros.

It’s safe for the 49ers to be worried about the longevity of having Garoppolo as the starter. Especially with him coming back from the severe injury he suffered last season.

The team does seem to be behind him with the fact that they haven’t signed or drafted anyone to compete with the young signal-caller. Plus the team has built a talented supporting cast around him to help him excel.

But the rumors of a possibility of them moving on after this season continue to swirl. And given the significant number of options for San Francisco if they do this propel this rumor even further.

The Options if the 49ers Move on from Jimmy Garoppolo

There are a few names that are being thrown around, but the most prominent one is Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

He’s the likeliest candidate with his prior knowledge of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system from their days together in Washington. And during the 2017 season, Cousins’ name was linked to a possible reunion with his former offensive coordinator. This is before the surprise trade the 49ers made with the New England Patriots for their current starting quarterback.

In terms of a system fit, it makes sense. But the money given to the 30-year-old would be $5.7 million more than what they would be giving to Garoppolo in 2020.

When looking inside the organization, it would make sense for the team to stick with someone like Nick Mullens. The undrafted quarterback put together impressive statistics for himself when given a chance to fill in for Jimmy Garoppolo. Mullens started eight games and completed 176 of his 274 passes for 2,277 yards and 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

But aside from stats, he wasn’t impressive when watching him play. Mullens would often go for the safe throw as he ranked dead last in big-time throw percentage according to Pro Football Focus. And when he attempted passes in tight coverages, Mullens didn’t fare too well in completing them. Also, he struggles immensely if he’s not given a clean pocket or if he needs to extend a play.

Outside of these two, the names in next year’s free agency class aren’t too flashy either. With Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota headlining as options which are under 30 years of age.

And other than that, the best option for the team is the draft.

How Garoppolo can Avoid being Replaced

He does have the talent and the weapons around him to succeed. With talented young pass catchers in guys like Dante Pettis, George Kittle, and rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Also, the talented backfield that consists of Matt Brieda, Jerick McKinnon, and Tevin Coleman.

It’s just a matter of him staying healthy and helping this team achieve the enormous expectations placed on the 49ers.

Garoppolo is a player that’s shown that he can lead this team success from his time at the end of the 2017 season with the 49ers. He’s completed 173 of his 267 passes (64.8 percent) for 2,278 yards and 12 touchdowns to eight interceptions; good enough for a 94.1 passer rating. And winning six of the eight games Garoppolo’s started in for the 49ers.

It’s one of the reasons he was touted as one of the top quarterbacks going into the 2018 season. He earned himself a 2017 overall grade of 86.6 by PFF and was ranked as the 11th-best QB entering last season.

Aside from the obvious and hyping him back up for another offseason, he still has areas that he needs to improve upon — specifically involving his patience and decision-making. During his time with the 49ers, Garoppolo has an interception percentage of three percent. That turnover-worthy throwing is something that won’t help. Especially with many of the elite quarterbacks are averaging less than half of that percentage.

And going along with improvements he needs to make, he needs to work on his deep accuracy and to set his feet. He’s a good passer on play action plays but often finds himself struggling with completing big-time throws.

If he can remedy this, then he will be in San Francisco for the long term like they intend him to be.