Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Patrick Mahomes! That’s what a lot of people are billing this as. But it is way more than them facing each other. It’s Jimmy G and that run game and play-action along with George Kittle vs. Mahomes and Travis Kelce vs that San Francisco defensive line and secondary! I mention both tight ends because they are so huge for their respective QBs and are the only two 1,000 yard TEs to ever meet in a Super Bowl.
Speaking of that, I’m so glad the Super Bowl is here! It is certainly bittersweet because it is the end of the season but it is also the climax of a long, hard road to determine the world’s greatest football team.
This is article one of a two-part series that will focus on the Super Bowl quarterbacks, with this one on Jimmy Garoppolo. I will break down his strengths and weaknesses and how I think they will impact the Super Bowl. And I will also break them down versus a few of the Super Bowl prop bets that so many of us like to make.
Garoppolo burst on the scene in San Francisco during 2017 and started the last five games with the 49ers going 5-0 and giving the Bay Area plenty of hope for 2018 before a torn ACL ended that excitement. But that 5-0 record had people wondering why the greatest coach that has ever coached any team, Bill Belichick, traded him away.
Looking back on 2017, Garoppolo’s numbers prorate and are comparable to his season this year. His interception rate, air yards, air yards per attempt, and yards per game were almost the same. The biggest differences are his yards per attempt and his QBR, which of course is affected by that very thing.
One troubling difference is he was only sacked 4.3% of the time in 2017 but is up to 7.0% this year starting the entire season. The initial thought is that after the ACL injury Jimmy G isn’t quite as mobile, or is playing a little scared and goes down easier. That’s a significant jump in sack percentage. We all know that one of the biggest things that end a drive without points is a QB sack. For you 49er backers, let’s hope that the talk in the game doesn’t shift from Mahomes and that Niner defensive line to the Garoppolo and that Chiefs defensive line. That will be a terrible sign for San Francisco.
When it comes to passing, when Garoppolo sets his feet, steps towards his target, and throws the ball, he is accurate and effective. But he has a habit, that looks related to the ACL injury, that encourages him to not always do that like this play in the NFC Championship Game vs Green Bay.
As you can see from the endzone shot, he leaves his front foot in the ground and does not step toward Emmanuel Sanders. As you can also see, Sanders is open and that has to be a completion. In the very next play (40 secs left in 1st QTR) it’s 3rd down on the GB 28.
As you can see again from the end zone view, as he escapes from the right, he seems more interested in getting his legs out of the way than throwing the ball out of bounds so not to take a sack. This could have been a huge play. Instead of a 46-yard field goal, it became a 54-yard attempt. Robbie Gould made it, but that sack easily could have cost them 3 points. That high sack rate is something that could hurt them in the Super Bowl.
Another thing that plaques Garoppolo is his tendency to throw the ball short of the first down marker. He was the second-worst in the NFL at that out of 39 quarterbacks who threw enough passes to qualify.
As you can see on the below pass to Kendrick Bourne against Green Bay (2:10 left in the 2nd QTR), it is 3rd and 8. Bourne lines up on the inside of the bunch set and runs a simple out. Garoppolo quickly elects to throw to him and he is 2 yards short of the first down. The play results in another field.
I’d like to point out two important things here. First, on this play, he could afford to take a sack at the risk of possibly moving in the pocket and finding an open receiver because they are probably going to make the field goal regardless. So knowing the situation to throw short and not take the sack, and when to stand in there and buy time is huge. That’s what many would call a 4-point play.
The second point is, here we go again with that lead foot. The pocket is shrinking and I believe his fear of that knee keeps him from stepping toward his target. Why is that important you might ask? He completed the pass. The difference is a consistency of the accuracy, which when you don’t step towards, is very much hit and miss. The other difference is that when he does not step towards the target, the ball travels with less velocity and the receiver does not get it as soon. This always makes it harder to run after the catch because the defender is that much closer when the ball is caught. And let’s pound this point home, on third downs, he needs to throw the ball to the sticks and he simply does not do that well compared to everyone else.
Another thing that should worry 49ers fans is that Jimmy G ranked 22nd in “money throws” (defined as throws that take exceptional skill or athleticism as well as critical throws executed in clutch moments) this year. It seems like most Super Bowls have several of those moments and Mahomes far outweighs him in that category.
Garoppolo ranked 29th in the league in throws over 20 yards in the air. In football, explosive plays are one of the stats that matters the most when it comes to winning and losing, so that is scary. What is a little strange is that San Francisco is a high rate play-action team so you would think they would take more than 2.2 shots per game at passes over 20 yards. I would think they would take 2.2 a game at 40 yards and several more between 20-40 with that great ability to get the linebackers charging downhill.
IMHO they should be running at least one of these plays per quarter as you can see here in week 12 when they played the Packers (3:33 left in 3rd QTR). It’s a well-designed play by Kyle Shanahan. It’s a bootleg look with Deebo Samuel coming across to give it that shallow look off the play fake. Then George Kittle begins a flag route and turns it into a double move post route. Their awesome ability to run the ball allow these great play actions that buy so much time for Garoppolo to roll out, get set, and throw to the opposite side of the field of the normal bootleg. They do it so much you can see the safety running down to help on the high percentage route.
The good things about Garoppolo include the fact he is seventh-best in interceptable passes and seventh in “danger plays” which are ones in which it is deemed that the quarterback took an unnecessary risk.
My Super Bowl pick will come when I get the Mahomes edition of these articles out and I won’t give it away now but I will say that although I have pointed out some flaws of Jimmy G, those two facts about the low number of danger plays and interceptable passes simply help win games. That, along with that defense and that run game he has with him on offense, are what helps make this a Las Vegas Pick’em.
Garoppolo PROP BETS
Speaking of Las Vegas, let’s look at a couple of prop bets involving the Niners QB. The first one that jumps out is Over / Under 239.5 yards. In 18 games Garoppolo went over the 250 mark only seven times. He had only three 300-yard games and two of those games mentioned were against a weak Arizona Cardinal defense. One was in that epic shootout with New Orleans. In the two most important games of the season in the playoffs, he threw for 131 and 77 yards respectively. I see this as the game plan for what Shanahan wants to do as it serves two purposes. It keeps Jimmy G from taking sacks and it also keeps the ball away from KC by reducing the number of possession and shortening the game. The UNDER is the way I am going on this one.
Another interesting one is the “Jimmy Garoppolo throws an interception”. It is Yes -150 and No +130. Give me “NO”. His interception rate is 2.7%. While he did throw 13 this year, he threw almost half those in three games. He has only thrown 27 passes through two games in the playoffs. Let’s say he throws 27 this game. And truly, almost half of those will be screen passes and 5-yard outs or stops. 2.7% of that means the +130 is well worth it.
I do not like the prop of TD passes thrown Over/Under 1.5. I think that’s a great number. They will always first try to run the ball in. That along with the low number of balls thrown downfield, lends itself to the under. But they could throw some play-action down on the goal line that would be wide open like they did against the Vikings.
Pass attemps Over / Under 29.5 looks crazy easy and is juiced to -125 for the under but I simply have to take a shot at this one and hope they don’t get way behind.
Another one that I have to play is “First TD pass by Garoppolo OVER 10.5 yards” It’s -110 either way. I have to take the UNDER. Only seven of his 27 all year were over 10.5 air yards so just on numbers alone I have to take under.
I love the prop bet of first rush UNDER 2.5 yards. It’s juiced but that one looks like money in the bank. He had 54 carries for 61 yards this season. Keep in mind that sacks do NOT count as rushing yards. He has the ability to run out of bounds right at the sticks and to move up in the pocket and take off and go down quickly (again maybe the knee protection).
If you can stand it, -200 for “Throws a TD before throwing an interception” is well worth it to me. Simply thinking about a straight 2-1 ration puts it in perspective but we alluded to his “danger plays” earlier and I think he throws a short play-action TD early in this game.
The next article, again, will be on Mahomes and the Chiefs and will feature my thoughts on prop bets for the QB as well. And, I will have my SB pick also.
Happy Super Bowl Week!