Analyst Defends Jimmy Garoppolo, Says 49ers QB Can ‘Be Elite’

GETTY JANUARY 19: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts to a touchdown run by Raheem Mostert #31 in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Championship game at Levi's Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California.

As the world of the NFL prepares for 2020, many continue to debate how good San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo really is, and how much he brings to the table.

Max Kellerman, ESPN analyst on program First Take, recently added fuel to the fire, breaking down why he thinks people have conflicting opinions on Jimmy G.

When we say “elite,” we mean do we see in them a regular-season MVP? Not just a guy who can turn it on in the playoffs because he’s in a great organization or on a great team. And so, no, that level of talent is not there … But could he be elite in the sense that he’s a top-10 quarterback? Sure.

You can give Shanahan all the credit you want. The bottom line is if he’s so great at scheming guys open and all that, why without Jimmy G are they 4-and-20? Four-and-20 without Jimmy G. So, they can’t find a replacement guy good enough to get them more than four wins out of 24 games?

Kellerman makes a couple valid points, but even he doesn’t believe Garoppolo is a top-10 quarterback after a successful run with the San Francisco 49ers.

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Case for Garoppolo Being ‘Elite’

Besides the track record, which shows that the 49ers are dramatically better with Jimmy G on the field since 2017. While other factors and improvements have contributed to the 49ers success in 2019, the difference between a 21-6 record and 4-20 is too great to ignore.

The other thing working heavily in Garoppolo’s favor is his lack of playing time. At 28, Jimmy G is no spring chicken, but with just 29 career starts, it’s also safe to say that things will likely only get better after the quarterback has proven that he is up to par when he’s on the field.

The final point worth mentioning is one that 49ers’ fans probably highlight the most: clutch factor.

With six game-winning drives since coming to San Francisco and four in 2019 alone, there’s little question of whether Garoppolo can handle bright lights and big moments. He has, and will continue to perform at a consistent level, but the question is if it’s truly elite.

Case Against Garoppolo Being ‘Elite’

In his rant, Kellerman brings up the source of the debate: Jimmy G’s overthrow to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the 49ers’ 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

His reputation will be made or broken on precisely the moment you picked out, Stephen A. Had he hit Emmanuel Sanders (in Super Bowl LIV), he’d be celebrated today. He missed him, they lost, and so the question is: Can he be elite? Jimmy G can move into the top-10, and be considered a great player if he comes through in those situations.

The loss does not lie directly on Garoppolo’s shoulders, but it was certainly a painful miss for the quarterback and the 49ers as a whole. The spotlight that quarterbacks are put under only magnifies how important the throw was.

Garoppolo proved in 2019 he could go out and win games, and lead the team in clutch situations. But truly elite quarterbacks make those plays. While Jimmy G has the ability and track record to warrant trust in his ability, the cloud of doubt will have to hang over Garoppolo until he gets a shot at redemption.

READ NEXT: 49ers’ Preseason Games Against Broncos, Chargers Scrapped: Report

Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.

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