The Golden State’s golden boy, Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t looked like the unbeatable quarterback he was during the 2017 season. In fact, he had a really bad minicamp.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback struggled mightily during the team’s two-day mandatory practice period. On Wednesday, the final day of practice, he missed 11 of his final 16 passes. Surprisingly, that proved to be progress from the day earlier. On Tuesday, he couldn’t get the snap count right. He caused the offense to draw four consecutive false-start penalties to begin the practice.
An ugly to start minicamp. An ugly finish.
Here’s what Garoppolo said about it, via pressdemocrat.com:
“It’s all on the quarterback. I mean, I’m the one doing the cadence. I have to make sure that me and all of the other quarterbacks are saying it the same way and sounding similar to one another.”
There’s good reason to brush these struggles off, largely because that’s what Garoppolo did with the New England Patriots. Garoppolo had some truly rough practice sessions during his stint with the Patriots. His struggles came and went in the offseason leading up to Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension in 2016. Garoppolo then won in Week 1, his first career start. In Week 2, he lit up the Dolphins before suffering an shoulder injury.
In 2017, Garoppolo threw five interceptions during the first two practices of Patriots training camp. He then struggled during the team’s scrimmage in camp when he completed 14 of 36 passes (38 percent). Despite poor play in practice, he was good in preseason action while completing 44 of 63 for 463 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“It’s not on purpose. I don’t know. I try to go out there and practice well every day with the guys. I mean, you’re trying different things in practice sometimes. You’re working with different guys. But, I don’t know. I don’t think there’s really a rhyme or reason to it. It’s football at the end of the day.”
Ultimately, the football world needs a dose of Allen Iverson. We’re talking about practice — not a game. Because in games, Garoppolo is undefeated. He’s 9-0. In his starts last season, he averaged 308.4 yards per game while throwing for seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He did that after taking over a 1-10 team.
It’s not so different from the turnaround he pulled off in Eastern Illinois, though that one took much longer. He started during his freshman year, but the team went 4-18 in those first two seasons. Then Dino Babers joined as head coach, and took Baylor’s high-octane offense, which turned around Garoppolo’s career.
Much like what’s probably happening in San Francisco, Garoppolo began to be a better practice player as he matured and grew to understand his new offense. Garoppolo’s offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois, Sterlin Gilbert, told The Big Lead that the quarterback was consistent in his college tenure. He couldn’t recall any major tough patches for Garoppolo.
“You’re talking about a guy who got traded in the middle of the season [from New England to San Francisco], so I’m sure offensively, they were a little bit — obviously the playbook wasn’t wide open,” said Gilbert, who is the offensive coordinator at USF. “I’m sure he’s going through a learning curve of maybe a new install, and obviously concepts that are new to him and those guys around him. From our perspective, going back to Eastern Illinois, he was consistent in practice. I really think back from year one to year two, like anything, you know better, you do better.”
Garoppolo is under the microscope more than ever. He just signed a massive contract (five years, $137 million). That’s perhaps the only thing that makes these practice issues notable. But this sounds like the same Jimmy G who was supposed to take over for Tom Brady. Practice can be an exploratory process where the quarterback tests himself and his teammates (for example, Garoppolo was without Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis on Thursday).
He sometimes stinks in practice, but he’ll be just fine. In fact, he’ll probably be great.