It's a question seemingly as old as time -- or, at the very least, as old as the advent of a 24-7 news cycle.
A team featuring an excellent defense is quarterbacked by a player whose constantly debated place in the proverbial pecking order helps keep the lights on and the assembly lines moving at Hot Take Factories across the country, leading to an endless examination of one subject over offseasons and in the days between Fall Sundays.
Eli Manning Joe Flacco Jimmy Garoppolo elite?
The 49ers QB had a solid stat line against the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 1 loss, completing 19 of 33 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He also left points on the field, including some questionable throws in San Francisco's attempted game-winning drive.
Both notions can be true at the same time, but that distinction often fades into the background when discussing quarterback play even if said's performance in his last game -- Super Bowl LIV, for those who understandably think that game was seven years ago rather than seven months -- didn't lead to an offseason cycle of Pundit Questions Quarterback, Teammate Defends Quarterback, Repeat.
Garoppolo's did, and now the 49ers are 0-1 after a game in which the QB wasn't especially great. So, queue up NBC Sports' Mike Florio nominating Garoppolo as one of his "Goats (in a bad way) of the week" on Tuesday's episode of "PFT Live."
"Garoppolo was out of sorts," Florio said in a conversation with Chris Simms. "The balls he completed weren't as accurate as they could've been. He threw the hospital ball to George Kittle. And Chris, we talked yesterday about the end of the game and the ball that was essentially the dad throwing the candy bar to the two kids, it was like 'Have fun, go get it.' That was the Patrick Peterson play, but then [later on the drive], there was another one just like that."
Florio's answer to the earlier question, then, would be a resounding no. In fact, the ProFootballTalk creator took it a step further.
"When you have that many 'What the hell is this?' moments, you're not gonna be (49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan's quarterback for very long," he concluded.
Shanahan wasn't quite as harsh on his own QB. He told reporters Monday that Garoppolo's incompletions intended for Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor on the 49ers' failed final drive were underthrown, but Shanahan thought the throws were correctable mistakes rather than signs of the quarterback's shortcomings.
“You underthrow a ball and it makes it not perfect, so the receiver has to go up and make a play and they didn’t,” Shanahan said Monday. “There’s nothing more to it. He underthrew it just a hair on both of them. Guys still had chances, but it would have been a really good play if they had made it.”
That assessment shouldn't be a surprise, considering Shanahan and general manager John Lynch stood behind Garoppolo whenever asked this offseason. From the NFL Scouting Combine in February to the onset of training camp in August, both men have heaped praise on the franchise quarterback.
The 49ers have plenty of reasons to publicly affirm their belief in Garoppolo. They're in win-now mode, and his cap number is the fifth-highest among QBs. It had better work with him at the helm, in other words.
There's plenty of time to see if it will, but there's also more than enough for more than enough pundits to opine that it won't. If the aftermath of Week 1 is any indication, the age-old question is going to get plenty of mileage the rest of the way.