Since Jimmy Garoppolo signed the dotted line with the 49ers he’s been called a lot of things. Injury-prone, pretty boy, “pornstar Jimmy,” but in 2019 his label has been “game manager.” A taboo title that’s usually linked with a quarterback that holds his team back.
For the 49ers and Garoppolo, it’s worked. Their team identity was laced with their tough defense and power run game. The pressure didn’t fall on the shoulders of their quarterback. He made mistakes at times but stepped up when needed. Most importantly they were undefeated.
They were 7-0 heading into a Thursday Night Football game with the Arizona Cardinals and that narrative changed. Like a Halloween costume, Garoppolo shed the uniform of a “game manager” and turned in a performance that can be defined as elite.
The 49ers 28-25 win in Arizona was the Garoppolo game we’ve been waiting for.
Garoppolo was 28-27 with season highs of 317 yards passing and four touchdowns. Garoppolo logged a passer rating of 136.9. Kyle Shanahan was impressed with his quarterback.
“I thought Jimmy played a hell of a game,” said Shanahan. “His best game yet, probably.”
Garoppolo’s numbers don’t do him justice. He spun some of his best passes of the season Thursday night. Garoppolo hit Emmanuel Sanders over the middle of the field with a pass that might’ve been his best as a 49er.
The second Sanders turned his head Garoppolo drilled him with a ball into his chest. Shanahan didn’t think Sanders was going to be ready for the ball when Garoppolo let it go.
Shanahan gave the keys to Garoppolo and it worked. The 49ers threw for season-high 37-pass attempts. Each time there was pressure Garoppolo came through. Garoppolo iced the game on a 3rd and 9 where he stepped up with the pocket collapsing to find Ross Dwelley for the game-sealing first down. George Kittle loves the grit his quarterback showed.
“He makes some pretty gusty throws out there doesn’t he?” said Kittle. “Goodness gracious!”
What’s most impressive about Garoppolo’s 2019 is his improvement. Each game Garoppolo’s progressed in Shanahan’s complex offense. His comfortability in the pocket seems to grow with each week. Garoppolo has had a knack for making a poor decision at least once within a game, but those have disappeared. Garoppolo looks like he’s relying on his knowledge of the offense by diagnosing defenses instead of gunslinging.
Adding to his control of the offense Garoppolo looks fully healed from his ACL injury. He’s not hesitant to scramble or step up and plant in the pocket. All positive signs for the 49ers. Tonight it was all on display.
The Cardinals repeatedly loaded the box to stop the 49ers run game and Garoppolo made them pay. The 49ers needed to see this type of game from Garoppolo in case teams were able to take away the run game. The 49ers win in Arizona proves Garoppolo’s can take the weight if the run-game faulters.
Garoppolo’s big day came at the right time as they now have 10-days before their biggest game of the season— a Monday night football tilt against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.