One player on the 49ers this season has surprisingly improved from last season. Statistically improved, to be exact. There is one glaring reason why this has happened, but the player who has taken strides in 2022 is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo And Turnovers
Jimmy Garoppolo has always been a very turnover-prone player. Last year Jimmy G finished the season with 20 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. The main issue with Garoppolo for years has been his lack of ability to take care of the football. With a loaded roster on offense for both playoff runs the 49ers have made with Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan, the main hope is that Jimmy G won’t throw the game away in the playoffs.
Near the midway point of this season, it looked like Garoppolo would finish the season with a similar touchdown to interception ratio. However, that took a turn, and Garoppolo has taken better care of the football than he ever has in the NFL.
Garoppolo’s last interception was against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week Seven during a 44-23 loss. But since that game, Garoppolo has been on a career-long four-game streak without throwing an interception. So far this season, Jimmy G has thrown 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. What changed?
How The 49ers Made It Easier For Jimmy G
Days before the Week Seven loss to Kansas City, the 49ers made a blockbuster trade to acquire superstar running back Christian McCaffrey. While McCaffrey played in the loss to the Chiefs, his first start was the following week in Los Angeles against the Rams, where he had an all-time performance scoring a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game. That was also the beginning of Garoppolo’s streak of games without an interception.
So what changed was a few things. First, the offensive line has exceeded many people’s expectations. Trent Williams has been elite as always, Aaron Banks, in his first season starting, has looked incredible, Jake Brendel, in his first season starting, has been very serviceable, the combination of Spencer Burford and Daniel Brunskill at right guard has done very well and McGlinchey has been hot and cold. The pass protection has looked very good many times this season, as Garoppolo is constantly operating with a clean pocket to scan the field. But the most significant change has been the addition of Christian McCaffrey.
Christian McCaffrey gives Jimmy Garoppolo something he hasn’t had, a safety blanket who is also an elite player at multiple positions. Giving Garoppolo a weapon that allows him to patiently scan the field and hit his check down instead of forcing throws over the middle of the field when nothing is there has done wonders for the offense. Clearly, the 49ers understood that he wasn’t going to change his ways by asking him; they had to give him an extra target.
To put this into perspective, in the four games Christian McCaffrey has started, Jimmy Garoppolo has not thrown an interception. In fact, Garoppolo has yet to throw an interception with McCaffrey on the field. His last interception which came in Week Seven was on a third down in the red zone which McCaffrey was taken off the field for Jeff Wilson. On that play Garoppolo forced a throw into the end zone and the pass was intercepted to essentially end the half. It’s safe to say that defenses having to account for McCaffrey at all times and the targets going to him have erased possible mistakes for Jimmy G this season.
Can The 49ers QB Continue This Trend?
It’s excellent that Garoppolo has kept the turnovers down. The 49ers offense can thrive and maximize their playmakers. Jimmy G doesn’t need to do much, but if this trend continues, it could be the difference maker the Niners haven’t had in years past.
However, the Saints might have been the best defense the 49ers have played this year, and the offense struggled. If the Niners hope to make a Super Bowl push, they must execute against good defenses. The rest of their regular season schedule is primarily favorable, so they must capitalize and win the NFC West and push for the second seed in the NFC.