Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is putting up one of the most prolific passing seasons in 49ers history, despite the team relying heavily on a running game while playing in the lead for much of their 11-2 start.
Only the Baltimore Ravens have attempted more running plays than the 49ers this season, which has cut into the number of passing attempts for Garoppolo. But he also has benefited from the balance of the team’s offense, which has kept opposing defenses honest.
At 249.6 yards passing per game, Garoppolo is on pace to throw for 3,993 yards this season. The 49ers have produced only three 4,000-yard passing seasons in franchise history. Steve Young did it twice, and Jeff Garcia threw for a team-record 4,278 in 2000.
“The more Jimmy gets to play, the more experiences he has, I think the more wisdom he has out there and the more consistently he plays,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.
Among 49ers quarterbacks who have thrown for 3,500 or more yards in a season, there only have been five passer ratings of better than 100. Steve Young did it three times, while Joe Montana did it twice.
Garoppolo’s passer rating is 103.9. Six of his past seven games have featured ratings of 110 or better. During that seven-game stretch, Garoppolo completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 1,931 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Garoppolo ranks 12th in the NFL with 3,245 yards passing. Of quarterbacks who have attempted 300 or more passes this season, Garoppolo ranks tied for second, along with Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes, at 8.3 yards per attempt. Kirk Cousins leads the league at 8.4 yards per attempt.
He leads the league with 40.5 percent of his pass attempts being completed for first downs. Garoppolo has led fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives this season against Pittsburgh, Arizona and New Orleans.
Garoppolo engineered three go-ahead drives on Sunday in the 49ers’ 48-46 victory over the Saints. He enabled the 49ers to kick a field goal in the fourth quarter, giving the 49ers a 45-40 lead, when he scrambled for 2 yards on a third-and-2 play to the San Francisco 35-yard line.
“That was huge,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy made a lot of plays in that game that there were some looks that you expect him to be automatic on and throw good balls, and he did.
“He didn’t miss any of the open ones, but there was a number of plays where he didn’t have a good play and he’d keep it alive and made some plays out there that weren’t necessarily there in rhythm.”