The San Francisco 49ers had a great season last year, going all the way to the Super Bowl before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a thrilling game, and Kansas City needed a late comeback led by Patrick Mahomes to take down the Niners. One person who didn’t play very well in the game was San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
But Garoppolo’s season was more than just one game, and he meant more to the team than his Super Bowl performance. To use that as the only metric for success is unfair to Garoppolo.
Stephen A. Smith and George Kittle recently debated Garoppolo’s performance on ESPN’s First Take. Kittle did not take kindly to the criticism and did not let Smith disrespect his quarterback.
George Kittle’s great 2019 season
- 14 games played
- 85 catches
- 1,053 receiving yards
- 75.2 yards per game
- Five touchdowns
Kittle didn’t just have a great year for San Francisco, he also had what was probably the most iconic play of the 2019-2020 season. In what was the best regular-season game of 2019, Kittle had a long catch and run on fourth down against the New Orleans Saints. He held off multiple tacklers. The play was representative of Kittle’s ability — nimble and fleet-footed, but also tough.
Of course, Kittle wasn’t the only person who contributed on offense for the Niners.
Why Jimmy Garoppolo had a great year despite the Super Bowl
Garoppolo went 5-0 for San Francisco in 2017. In 2018, he was injured only three games into the season, robbing him of the chance to start an entire campaign. 2019 was his first full season as a starter, and Garoppolo did not disappoint. Garoppolo led the team to a 13-3 record, an NFC West Division championship, and an NFC title. Here were his 2019 numbers:
- 3,978 passing yards
- 27 touchdowns
- 8.4 yards per attempt
- 13 interceptions
While Garoppolo played capably, San Francisco’s defense fueled their playoff run. After not playing very well in the Super Bowl, Garoppolo drew criticism for coming up short.
George Kittle defends Jimmy Garoppolo on First Take
Previous to George Kittle’s appearance on the show, Smith had been a vocal critic of Garoppolo. Kittle, however, refused to agree with Smith, claiming that Garoppolo is a great quarterback. First, Kittle addressed the fact that Smith claimed Garoppolo couldn’t get the Niners back to the Super Bowl:
“That’s wild,…You guys can say what you want to say about Jimmy G. I think he has like 25 wins as a starter, a Super Bowl a year after his ACL tear, a fantastic leader. He had a pancake in that Vikings game on the linebacker. That was pretty impressive.”
Kittle also pointed to Garoppolo’s effectiveness on third down as an indicator of his excellence:
“I’m pretty sure he’s also the best quarterback on third down all season last year. He makes plays. He gets guys the ball that need them, and he’s a fantastic quarterback. He’s the reason we got to the Super Bowl. We don’t get there without him. You saw what happened. We went 4-12 without him (in 2018), and we go 13-3 with him (in 2019). He’s a pretty damn good quarterback, in my opinion.”
Say what you want about Garoppolo, but Kittle brings up valid points. He may not have won the Super Bowl, but judging him too harshly on one subpar game is a mistake.
To get a comprehensive view of how good he can be, one must look at the larger sample size of the entire season. By that standard, he’s still a very good quarterback.