How analytics show Jimmy Garoppolo as one of NFL's better starting QBs

How analytics show Jimmy Garoppolo as one of NFL's better starting QBs

George Kittle has had enough, and surely he isn't the only one on the 49ers to feel that way.

The standout tight end vociferously came to the defense of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during an appearance on Tuesday's episode of ESPN's "First Take," using factual evidence as a retort to the undeserved criticism being flung his QB's way.

Kittle made several strong arguments and got his general point across. But if he needs some new material to use in coming to Jimmy G's defense the next time around, there are plenty more numbers that will do the talking for him.

The trouble with measuring quarterback play is that the position has evolved so quickly, and the metrics haven't been able to keep up. Depending on what any single QB stat you're looking at, it could be missing a humongous piece of the picture. The traditional passer rating, for instance, completely ignores any rushing element a quarterback provides. Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson rushed for 1,206 yards on his way to winning league MVP last season. Sort of a crucial part of his candidacy, wouldn't you say?

So, as things currently stand, the best way to evaluate the quarterback position might be through an average of generally reliable QB-centric statistics, which is precisely what The Athletic's Ben Baldwin provided Wednesday. As you can see, there are far more names listed below Garoppolo's than there are above it.

For the analytically-disinclined, allow me to explain. The first three data columns correspond to three separate QB statistics: PFF (Pro Football Focus rating), QBR (quarterback rating) and CPOE (completion percentage over expectation). They each do a pretty good job of encapsulating the position, but when combined and averaged, the three form a more comprehensive and accurate study.

The final "Index" column represents that average, with the value being how many standard deviations above or below each individual QB's performance was, relative to a league-average quarterback (0.0) across 320 plays.

Make sense? The general rule is: The higher a quarterback is listed in the Index column, the better they were last season.

As you can see, Garoppolo was 0.4 standard deviations better than the "perfectly average" QB last season. That might not sound like much, but it was superior to nearly two-thirds of the other starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

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A closer look reveals that Jimmy G ranked 13th according to PFF and 12th according to QBR. That would suggest that Garoppolo was not only above average in each individual metric, but is among the NFL's best when it comes to completing passes with a high degree of difficulty.

Garoppolo is 21-5 as a starter, just led San Francisco to the Super Bowl coming off an ACL tear and, clearly, was one of the better quarterbacks in the league in doing so. Why he remains a target of heavy criticism is anyone's guess, but his numbers don't lie.

Trent Williams chose 49ers partly due to Nick Bosa, defensive line

Trent Williams chose 49ers partly due to Nick Bosa, defensive line

The 49ers' defensive line is the strength of the team. Not just for the chaos it creates, but also for the players it helps attract.

Last season, San Francisco allowed the fewest passing yards per game (169.2) and tied for the fifth-most sacks (48) in the NFL. Anyone who watched the 49ers' defensive line quickly realized it was one of the elite units in the league.

That included new 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams, who sat out all of last season amid a dispute with Washington. That gave Williams plenty of time to study up on the top D-lines in the league, which ultimately influenced which teams he would be open to joining. After so much time away from game action, he knew he needed to go up against the best of the best.

"Oh man, I'm looking forward to it," Williams told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport on the "RapSheet and Friends" podcast. "When I looked for a team to go to, I looked at the opposite side of the ball to see who can I sharpen my iron on every day in practice because when I get out there on the field, I can't come up with a rust excuse. All that to me doesn't exist. So, I would rather be rusty in practice and be able to sharpen my iron then than to try to do it Monday night with all the cameras on me. 

" ... The defense is probably the best in the league. When you think about defensive lines that get after the quarterback, I think anybody with a pulse is going to throw the 49ers' front out there within the first, second or third groups to mention. So, that in itself excites me as a competitor, because I know I can get some of the best work done during the week. On Sundays, you're not going to see too many guys better than that group. Especially not any individuals that much better than [Nick] Bosa. I think they just don't have that many guys in the league that are better than him. So, I think for me, it's going to do everything for me to get me back to where I know I can be at."

[RELATED: Williams explains why 49ers were his ideal trade option]

When the 49ers' top offensive and defensive units go up against each other in practice, the expectation is that Williams and Bosa will be matched up head-to-head. That should make for quite the individual battle, and likely will only serve to make each player better.

Given that one has made the Pro Bowl seven times and the other is the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, that should be a terrifying thought for most other linemen in the league -- on both sides of the ball.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Eric Reid calls out 49ers' messaging on Black Lives Matter tweet

Eric Reid calls out 49ers' messaging on Black Lives Matter tweet

Eric Reid sent a strong statement to the 49ers tweeting "Black Lives Matter" and #BlackoutTuesday. The former 49ers safety responded with "I think you meant Blackball Tuesday" and called the organization hypocrites. 

Reid joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the playing of the national anthem as a form of a peaceful protest against racial and social injustices, including police brutality, throughout the 2016 season when both players were part of the 49ers. Kaepernick has not been signed by an NFL team since opting out of his 49ers contract ahead of the 2017 offseason.

General manager John Lynch admitted in May 2017 the 49ers told Kaepernick they would have released him if he didn't opt out of his contract.

The quarterback alleged NFL owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protest, but Kaepernick ultimately settled a collusion lawsuit with the NFL last year. Reid clearly agrees with Kaepernick's beliefs regarding the league "blackballing" him due to his protests. 

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

CEO Jed York announced Saturday night the 49ers will be donating $1 million to local and national organizations committed to social change. York exlained why Monday, and even said, "We need to continue work that Colin drew attention to four years ago in 2016, and we need to continue to let our players, first and foremost, know they have a voice to be able to speak out" in an interview with the NFL Network's Jim Trotter.

After former 49ers receiver Torrey Smith praised York Saturday, Reid, who was teammates with Smith on the Carolina Panthers in 2018, expressed he had very different opinions and experiences with York than Smith did. 

[RELATED: Jackson insists 'fake' NFL should apologize to Kaepernick]

Reid continued to kneel in 2017 with the 49ers and the team opted not to re-sign him in free agency. The Carolina Panthers signed him to a one-year contract on Sept. 27, 2018, weeks into the 2018 season. 

The former 49ers first-round draft pick recorded 130 tackles and four sacks last season with the Panthers. He signed a three-year contract extension with Carolina in February 2019 and was cut one year later in March 2020.