Plenty of questions still surround 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but you could say the same thing about more than half of the NFL’s current starters at the game’s most important position.
Garoppolo, who will start Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, missed the 49ers’ previous two games while he dealt with a high ankle sprain. Nick Mullens played well in Week 3 while replacing Garoppolo, but he was abysmal last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, eventually being benched for third-stringer C.J. Beathard.
Both Mullens and Beathard are solid backup options, but as NBC Sports Bay Area’s Jeff Garcia explains in "Three-Step Drop," No. 1 QBs have a certain quality that differentiates them from reserves.
“What you have with Jimmy is you’re gonna get the consistent, same guy pretty much every single week,” Garcia said. “Yeah, he might make some mistakes, but he’s trying to grow through that, but at the end of the day, he wins football games. And there’s something about his leadership, his presence on the field that gives guys the belief and feeling that they’re going to win.”
Garoppolo is 20-6 as the 49ers' starter, and he helped lead San Francisco to a Super Bowl LIV appearance last season, his first full campaign as an NFL starting QB. Mullens’ impressive performance in Weeks 2 and 3 had some drumming up a QB controversy, but Garcia explains why the Week 4 performance showed the difference between a backup and a starter.
“Mullens looked like a starter against the New York Giants [in Week 3], and then last week, looked like he should be a backup,” Garcia said. “And that’s the inconsistency of that position for Mullens and for Beathard.”
Mullens made the first eight starts of his NFL career while filling in for Garoppolo after he tore his ACL early in the 2018 season, and his prolific passing numbers placed him in some rarefied air. But as we’ve seen, Mullens can’t be relied on to consistently deliver a winning performance at QB, and Garcia sees that as the primary difference between the two.