Is Jimmy Garoppolo elite? NFC offensive consultant questions 49ers QB

Is Jimmy Garoppolo elite? NFC offensive consultant questions 49ers QB

The 49ers are the NFL's last unbeaten team, but some questions persist.

Can 8-0 San Francisco hold up against a much more difficult second half of the schedule? When will mounting injuries become too much? Is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo good enough?

One unnamed NFC offensive consultant would answer "no" to that last question, telling NFL Media's Bucky Brooks that Garoppolo lacks the skills to be considered an elite quarterback.

"He is as talented as they come as a thrower," the unnamed consultant told Brooks. "He doesn't have elite arm strength, but he spins it well and puts the ball on the mark when he knows where to go with the ball. The big thing for him is knowing where to go with the ball. ... He misses some big-play shots because he doesn't see the entire field or he is a little late finding his second or third read in the progression. Plus, he's prone to throw one or two to the other team each game because he gets fooled or tricked by coverage.

"Overall, he's a good player in that system, but I don't know if he's a transcendent player. ... I don't know how much is him and how much is [Kyle] Shanahan doing what he does."

The consultant's -- and Brooks' -- point is not that Garoppolo is a bad QB. Instead, they wonder whether or not he's elite, and if the 49ers are better off spreading his money elsewhere.

Garoppolo signed a record-setting contract with the 49ers in 2018, putting pen to paper on a five-year deal worth up to $137.5 million. Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan since have surpassed Garoppolo's total contract value, but Garoppolo's deal has the ninth-highest fully guaranteed money.

In other words, the 49ers are paying Garoppolo to be an elite QB, even if they're not necessarily asking him to be one in their offense. As Brooks noted, the 49ers have run the ball on 54.8 percent of their offensive snaps this season, relying on the running game to establish the tone.

[RELATED: Why Goodwin soon could be option for 49ers again]

Though the 49ers can get out of Garoppolo's contract this offseason, it's clear his teammates, his coach and his general manager hold him in high regard. Garoppolo is coming off the best performance of his 49ers career in Week 9, and he has a chance to build upon it in Monday night's pivotal NFC West showdown with the Seattle Seahawks. 

If he can't, the questions won't stop any time soon.

Saints' Sean Payton snaps over failed two-point conversion vs. 49ers

Saints' Sean Payton snaps over failed two-point conversion vs. 49ers

Saints coach Sean Payton wasn't in a mood to be second-guessed following his team's last-minute Week 14 loss to the 49ers.

San Francisco ultimately won the thrilling back-and-forth matchup by two measly points -- a game in which New Orleans attempted two two-point conversions.

Both failed.

After Tre'Quan Smith scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass to give New Orleans a 46-45 lead with 53 seconds remaining, quarterback Drew Brees went back to the same well for the two-point conversion attempt, but the pass intended fell incomplete. On the ensuing possession, 49ers tight end George Kittle caught a 39-yard reception on fourth-and-2, eventually setting up a game-winning Robbie Gould 30-yard field goal as time expired.

But after the tough loss, it was the former two-point try, not the latter, that Payton was questioned about -- while shopping for groceries, no less.

"I certainly understand the fans asking questions," Payton said Thursday on his weekly WWL Radio show. "I got the guy at frickin' Whole Foods asking me about the two-point play. I looked at him, the guy in the meat section, and I said, 'Hey, your steaks don't look too good right now. Worry about your frickin' meat.' "

Oh man. What's the over/under on how many "Worry about your frickin' meat" shirts will be at the Superdome when the Saints host the Colts on Monday night?

The play in question occurred midway through the first quarter, after Saints tight end Jared Cook hauled in his second touchdown reception of the contest. The 49ers were assessed a personal foul on the play, and rather than take the yardage on the kickoff, Payton couldn't pass up being so close to the goal line.

On the two-point try, Brees handed the ball off to a motioning Taysom Hill, who promptly was stuffed by multiple San Francisco defenders well short of the end zone. 

"I didn't feel like kicking a touchback, thought about kicking an onside kick," Payton explained. "So on the 1-yard line, I think we're gonna get two points. And then we get the defense misaligned -- obviously it doesn't have any success. And then the game ends, and, 'Why were you going for two?' Because I wanted to. We were on the 1-yard line."

Misaligned, huh? Payton was correct in stating that the 49ers were in an atypical alignment with two safeties on the same side of the field, but according to San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, that was intentional.

"We knew it was coming," Saleh said Thursday in response to Payton's claim that one of the safeties accidentally lined up on the wrong side. "I’m not going to say he wasn’t on the right side because of the way we execute certain things and all our different goal-line packages that we have, but that play was a gimme one to me with Taysom Hill where he was aligned. That was a layup in my opinion."

[RELATED: 49ers severely battered, bruised with three regular-season games to go]

The tape sure seems to suggest the 49ers knew what was coming:

The Saints hung 46 points on the 49ers, so clearly, not many of Payton's play-calls were of the layup variety. But the first two-point attempt?

You might say he butchered that one.

George Kittle's strong run-blocking skills for 49ers proved by stat

George Kittle's strong run-blocking skills for 49ers proved by stat

"George Kittle, not really a blocker ... "

We didn't say this, but FS1's Doug Gottlieb sure did. And Gottlieb certainly heard the comments from everyone online essentially saying he didn't know what he was talking about.

But if you still need numbers to back up the 49ers tight end's elite blocking skills, Next Gen Stats has you covered: 

Kittle certainly has a presence -- both in the run and the pass game -- and the numbers show that. 

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has praised Kittle's run-blocking game before, which only adds to the evidence proving sometimes, it's best to watch Kittle continue in his greatness -- no comments necessary.

[RELATED: Kittle was key success in run game vs. Ravens]

To add to it, Gottlieb's comments came after the 49ers' Week 13 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, one where the tight end received an overall 72.9 grade from Pro Football Focus and a 78.1 run-blocking grade.

That was Kittle's best run-blocking grade of the season to that point.