49ers

Why Jimmy Garoppolo deserves more respect after 49ers' Super Bowl run

Why Jimmy Garoppolo deserves more respect after 49ers' Super Bowl run

Not so long ago, Jimmy Garoppolo was the crown prince of Santa Clara and poised to reign over the entire Bay.

Remember those crazy days way back in 2017, when the 49ers stunk and the kid from New England made a late relief appearance, dropped a touchdown dime on Louis Murphy in an inevitable loss to Seattle and then energized the fan base with five straight wins to close out a terrible season?

Ah, simpler times.

Optimism was sky high over a young quarterback who made girls swoon and guys drop big bucks on No. 10 jerseys, believing in their heart of hearts that Garoppolo was the man to lead this storied franchise out of the dumps and back to the Super Bowl.

Well, he did it.

Garoppolo lead an excellent team to Super Bowl LIV and then came up short. The last result's all some seem to recall, now openly questioning the quarterback they once adored.

The memory of Emmanuel Sanders open deep over the middle of the field late in Super Bowl LIV and Garoppolo overshooting the moon has a scar's staying power, as fans continue to lament a golden opportunity missed.

News flash: The 49ers didn’t lose the Super Bowl on that one play. That game tape’s littered with missteps leading to a blown 10-point, fourth-quarter lead and a failed comeback attempt on that fateful night. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and Garoppolo should shoulder some of it for the Sanders miss and other errors less clear to the untrained eye.

Sure feels like he’s taking the brunt, though. Offseason criticism has shifted from turnover concerns and misreads -- Kyle Shanahan can coach those out of him -- to a general debate over whether he’s the right man for the job.

Teammates have come to Garoppolo’s defense time and again, with fullback Kyle Juszczyk as his quarterback’s self-appointed bodyguard in the press, and others lining up to support their guy. There are no off-the-record hits from inside the 49ers complex ripping Garoppolo or his recent performance to shreds. Instead we're seeing Shanahan and GM John Lynch put their name on measured praise that doesn't read like a hollow vote of confidence.

That in itself is telling. So is the fact they pondered Tom Brady and passed. 

This is an outside job. Garoppolo has become a piñata for sports-radio segments and debate shows, for fans looking to compare and contrast him with other quarterbacks in his tax bracket. That was happening some before the season ended but peaked after the playoff run fell just short, with aftershocks intermittently when news would re-open the quarterback discussion.

I sat down Tuesday planning to write a statistical defense of Garoppolo’s 2019 season and his 49ers tenure in general, proving he’s far better than some people think. But it morphed into an exploration of why someone so likable is disliked by a very vocal, reactionary sect.

The numbers still are relevant here, so let’s start with the basics. He was top five in touchdowns (27), completion percentage (69.1) and yards per attempt (8.4) during the regular season.

Several Pro Football Focus metrics, from adjusted completion percentage (78.8) to deep passing percentage (105.2) to passer rating in a clean pocket (110.8) rank in the top 10. His passer rating under pressure (74.2) is a tick above Aaron Rodgers and his rating off play-action (109.3) is upper tier.

He ranks 11th in DYAR and DVOA, metrics used by Football Outsiders to quantify a quarterback’s total value and value per play. That, too, is pretty darn good.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

After a while, all that info becomes jumbled numbers and alphabet soup, stealing focus from the one stat that truly matters: 21-6.

That’s Garoppolo’s record as 49ers starting quarterback in the regular season and playoffs. And, yeah, wins are a team stat and the 49ers are a damn good team, maybe a great one all around. But the unit is not, in any shape or form, covering for poor quarterback play.

Lackluster quarterbacks can drag a good team down, tear a bubble team asunder and keep an awful one really bad.

Garoppolo has elevated his team several times, with proof in another number that matters.

Six.

Garoppolo has orchestrated that many fourth-quarter comebacks as a 49er. That’s 28 percent of his total victories and 22 percent of his games. He had four last season alone, which, if we’re into ranking quarterbacks, was tied for first with Russell Wilson and Josh Allen in 2019.

Garoppolo could’ve done more to help the 49ers win the Super Bowl. That’s a given. Let’s imagine for a second that Garoppolo fails to rally the 49ers against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints or Los Angeles Rams. Even one misstep costs the 49ers a division title and maybe they never get to Miami.

[RELATED: Recent 49ers draft picks, veterans face make-or-break seasons in 2020]

Plain and simple: Garoppolo helps his team win far more often than not.

With that in mind, why is Garoppolo taking so much heat after his first full season running Shanahan’s system?

The first of three reasons: He played a part in the 49ers losing a Super Bowl. This unpleasant experience has been prolonged by an ongoing public health crisis preventing games in other sports and NFL offseason programs to proceed as usual. Turning the page helps the grieving process and that hasn’t fully happened yet, even with free agency and the NFL draft come and gone.

The second: While Joe Montana and Steve Young now are viewed reverentially and as borderline infallible, don’t forget they were criticized in the moment. There’s a great YouTube clip of Young after essentially securing a Super Bowl victory over the then-San Diego Chargers, asking teammates to finally take the monkey off his back. That’s how much pressure there is to deliver in a 49ers uniform.

Meet an incredibly high standard or take some flak for failures. That’s part of the deal.

The third: Garoppolo’s contract structure allows eyes to wander. The 49ers can cut Garoppolo after the 2020 season or the next with little dead money attached, daring fans to dream of Aaron Rodgers in red and gold starting in 2021, or another option who could theoretically take the 49ers to the top after Garoppolo came up short.

So we all compare, contrast and dissect every subtle nuance of a quarterback who was given fair market value while playing a position paid based upon when your contract’s up often over merit. While he spent some time atop the quarterback pay scale -- that in itself increases expectations -- Garoppolo’s average annual salary now ranks 11th in the league, with a lower percentage of guaranteed money than any passer above him.

His teammates say he’s well equipped for life under a microscope, a positive for the 49ers considering he’ll be there most of the 2020 season as his easy contract out gets closer. There’s no doubt he’ll be the starting quarterback next year and could hold the title well beyond that.

Those who long for another option should ponder whether he’s the right fit for the team and the right fit for the scheme. The answer to both heading into the 2020 season is an unqualified yes.

49ers' Arik Armstead ignores critics of speaking up on social issues

49ers' Arik Armstead ignores critics of speaking up on social issues

Arik Armstead doesn't want to hear it.

The 49ers defensive lineman spoke to Sactown Magazine for its July/August issue, and says that if you're not willing to listen to his dialogue off the field about social issues affecting our country, he doesn't want you tuning in to watch him and his teammates dominate on the field.

“If you don’t want me speaking out against racism and social issues and social injustices, then don’t watch me play on Sundays," Armstead said. "Can’t have a piece of me and not all of me.”

Armstead also joined NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race In America" series a few weeks ago, and spoke about the pain he felt seeing video of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police Custody.

"Like, why do I have to continue -- why do we have to continue to see people that look like us get murdered on social media and on the TV?" Armstead told Logan Murdock and Monte Poole on  "Race In America: A Candid Conversation." " ... I'm on Instagram, and I just got to see another Black person get killed unjustly."

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

The 26-year-old also discussed a time when he was racially profiled by local police near a friend's house in Elk Grove.

“A cop gets behind us, pulls us over,” Armstead recalls. “‘What y’all doing? Where y’all going?’”

[RELATED: Colin Kaepernick, Nate Boyer helped enact real change with discussion]

The officer then made Armstead and his friends prove that they knew the people whose house they were traveling to, by bringing the cop with them to the front door and having the friend explain that he was acquainted with Armstead.

Armstead has made it clear he won't be staying silent or "sticking to sports." For those who don't want to hear Armstead's voice on these issues, don't expect him to care whether you watch him play on Sundays.

See Joe Staley's motivational IG message for 49ers' Kendrick Bourne

See Joe Staley's motivational IG message for 49ers' Kendrick Bourne

Joe Staley long has been a model of consistency for the 49ers, spending the past 12 seasons protecting a myriad of 49ers quarterbacks as San Francisco's starting left tackle.

Staley's younger teammates held so much respect for him, as you could see from the many who spoke publicly in the wake of Staley's retirement back in April.

It appears even in retirement Staley continues to inspire his former teammates, as 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne shared an Instagram direct message from Staley on Sunday morning.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"Never lose sight of the goal. The ring," Staley wrote to Bourne. "That's all that matters in what we do. I never got it. You. Mr KB!! Go get it!! F-----g GET IT!! Make me proud bro. I love watching your hustle. All love."

Staley was responding to a video Bourne had posted of some of the hardware he's earned over his football career, including one of the game balls from the 49ers' blowout Week 8 win over the Carolina Panthers.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should explore David Njoku trade with Browns after demand]

Bourne and the 49ers came so close to helping Staley capture that elusive championship ring, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs rallied from a 10-point deficit to stun San Francisco at Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers won the offseason in the eyes of some pundits around the league, and appear primed for another deep postseason run. It'll be up to Bourne, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and the rest of the 49ers' talented roster to finish the job if they can get back to the Super Bowl.