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Examining the quarterback options: Is Jimmy Garoppolo worth acquiring via trade?

Andrew Mason Avatar
March 30, 2021

JIMMY GAROPPOLO, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

  • AGE AT START OF 2021 SEASON: 29
  • EXPERIENCE: 8th year

The 49ers have said Jimmy Garoppolo is not available via trade. And if their bold trade-up ploy was with the intention of taking North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick, retaining Garoppolo for the 2021 season while Lance develops would be a prudent call.

“It’s gonna be hard to find a QB that gives us a better chance to win than Jimmy right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during a conference call with Bay Area reporters Monday.

The moment the 49ers executed their trade with the Miami Dolphins, the countdown to Garoppolo’s departure began. Barring an unlikely set of circumstances, it is a matter of when — and not if — the 49ers move on from Garoppolo.

That said …

“This doesn’t change any of his circumstances right now,” Shanahan said. “He’s still coming in here trying to lead this team. I told him how excited I was that free agency went a lot better than we anticipated with being able to sign a lot more of our own players than we had thought going into it and that we’ve got a real good team coming back here and we still plan on him leading us and getting as far as we can with him.”

THE HIGHS: San Francisco’s team-wide success with Garoppolo at the helm is hard to deny. Including the postseason, the 49ers’ record in the last four seasons when Garoppolo starts and finishes is 24-7. In all other games, the 49ers are 7-30. Last year, the 49ers were 3-2 in games that Garoppolo started and finished, compared with 3-8 in the 10 games in which he did not play and another against Seattle that he left early due to injury.

THE LOWS: If the best ability is “availability,” Garoppolo falls short of where you need your quarterback to be. In the past three seasons, Garoppolo has completed just 23 of 48 regular-season games. In the 25 games he either didn’t start or didn’t finish, San Francisco went 6-20.

FOUR-YEAR FORM (2017-20)

(Rankings are among 62 quarterbacks with at least 250 total plays — attempts, rushes and times sacked — over the past four years.)

  • PASSER RATING: 98.1, 11th
  • YARDS PER ATTEMPT: 8.33, 2nd
  • COMPLETION PERCENTAGE: 67.5, 5th
  • TOUCHDOWN-PASS RATE: One every 19.2 attempts, 12th
  • SACK RATE: One every 13.99 pass plays, 40th
  • INTERCEPTION RATE: One every 34.0 attempts, 48th
  • FUMBLE RATE: One every 60.6 plays, 45th
  • BALL LOSS RATE (INTERCEPTIONS + FUMBLES): One every 23.95 plays, 14th


WHAT STANDS OUT:
It’s true that the 49ers were more successful with Garoppolo than other quarterbacks in the lineup. But it’s also true that the 49ers often won in recent years because of other factors: defensive standouts like Nick Bosa, a strong running game and arguably the NFL’s best tight end in five-year veteran George Kittle.

WHY HE COULD BE A FIT: Garoppolo’s experience under Shanahan ensures that he is well-versed in West Coast nomenclature, so his learning curve would not be steep. His accuracy has been steady; he completed 67.0 percent of his passes in New England and has completed 67.5 percent of his attempts with the 49ers.

WHY HE WOULDN’T BE: There is a strong likelihood that Shanahan has wrung the best out of Garoppolo, just as he did with Matt Ryan in Atlanta in 2015 and 2016. The latter of those two years saw Ryan earn NFL MVP honors. Ryan’s passer rating fell 15.7 points in the year after Shanahan left the Falcons for the 49ers; his ESPN QBR fell 12.5 points. In 2019, when Garoppolo started 16 games, his passer rating ranked eighth; his QBR was 12th. Similar drops to the one Ryan endured would have taken his rankings in both categories to 23rd and 25th, respectively.

Garoppolo’s giveaway rates are also a concern, and 2021 and 2022 salaries of over $24 million would blow up the Broncos’ overall roster plan relative to the cap.

HOW THE BRONCOS MIGHT GET HIM:
Via trade. Shanahan left open the possibility of dealing Garoppolo if “someone blows us away” with an offer, but then added, “We’re in a situation where when you bring in a rookie quarterback, to me, it’s always better, especially on the team that you have, if you’ve got a veteran starter there already who you like and you’re comfortable winning with. That’s usually the direction you want to go and not throw someone else out into the fire until they’re fully ready. That’s the situation we’re at.”

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