Jimmy Garoppolo was the 49ers' lightning rod this offseason.
Analysts and experts picked him apart after his rough showing in the 49ers' heartbreaking Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Garoppolo's teammates and coaches came to his defense day after day.
It's safe to say that no one has more to prove this season than Garoppolo. Is he an elite quarterback who can lead the 49ers back to the Super Bowl and finish the job this time? Or is he a third- or fourth-tier quarterback in the NFL?
NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms released his ranking of the top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL back in July, and he had Garoppolo at No. 20, behind notable signal-callers such as Derek Carr (No. 19), Josh Allen (No. 18), Philip Rivers (No. 17), Kyler Murray (No. 12) and Cam Newton (No. 10).
During an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area's Laura Britt this week, Simms said he likes Garoppolo but explained why he's not completely sold on the 49ers quarterback.
"With Jimmy Garoppolo, I like his talents, certainly, but I do look at a lot of the success he had last year, and again, I'm not trying to take credit for him, but ... he's got a special play-caller, serving up a lot of plays, on what I call a silver platter," Simms said. "Like, 'Hey Jimmy, if you can just look this way, there's going to be a guy open for a 20-yard gain. All you gotta do is put it somewhere near him.'
"And because of that, do I dock Jimmy Garoppolo for that? Yeah, offensive football is made a little bit easier for him than other quarterbacks. He has the type of talent and ability to be a top-10 quarterback."
On Feb. 2 in Miami Gardens, Garoppolo completed 20 of 31 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, and had a forgettable overthrow of Emmanuel Sanders that could have sealed the win for the 49ers.
"I think you know what scares me. What I saw in the playoffs. Some other shaky moments during the regular season," Simms said. "I just want to see him take the next step, and I guess the thing I need to see is, if the [Kyle] Shanahan tricks and run game aren't working for two or three weeks, can Jimmy Garoppolo carry the squad or be the Band-Aid at the quarterback position to be like, 'Hey guys, jump on my back. I got it.'
"And that's where I'm not quite sure, totally sold yet."
Garoppolo will get his first chance to prove Simms and the doubters wrong Sunday, when the 49ers open the 2020 NFL season against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.