By: Ryan Ehrmantrout
2018 Finish: 4-12, 3rd in NFC West;
2018 Success: Identifying young talent
2018 Failure: Inability to force turnovers
Offensive MVP: TE George Kittle
Defensive MVP: DE DeForest Buckner
Is Jimmy Garoppolo a franchise QB?
A trendy pick prior to the start of the year, San Francisco finished the 2018 season with a disappointing 4-12 record, which was good enough for 3rd place in the NFC West. Injuries, particularly the season ending ones sustained by free agent Running Back Jerrick McKinnon and Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, bit the 49ers hard in 2018 and derailed a team that many believed was ready to compete for the division crown. It wasn’t all bad for the Niners however as second year Tight End George Kittle showcased himself as one of the most promising offensive players in the league and rookie wideout Dante Pettis increasingly flashed his ability as a playmaker in the second half of the season. The misfortune experienced by the team as a result of injuries also turned positive when it allowed them to land the second overall pick in the 2019 draft, which they would use to add generational talent Nick Bosa to an already stacked defensive line.
Although the aforementioned moves leave plenty to be excited about, the questions surrounding this team still abound. Can they avoid the devastating injuries they sustained last season? Can their defense, one of the worst in the league at forcing turnovers in 2018, create more takeaways? Can the offense that sent Atlanta to the Super Bowl under Kyle Shanahan’s tutelage come to fruition with him as the Head Coach? Any of these could easily be dubbed the “biggest question” facing this team as we enter 2019.
However, given the importance of the Quarterback position in today’s NFL, I don’t believe any question facing this team is more pertinent than whether or not the 49ers have found their franchise Quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. Perhaps no Quarterback in the NFL is more of an enigma than the 27 year old Garoppolo, who was acquired from the Patriots in an offseason trade after filling in admirably during Tom Brady’s 4 game suspension a few seasons ago. Garoppolo looked decent in his first year with the Niners before tearing his ACL against Kansas City in week 3. He would finish the season with a 1-2 record, 59.6% completion percentage, 5 touchdowns and a QBR of 80.7 according to the website Pro-Football-Reference.
Those injuries, along with a small sample size, leave a plethora of questions surrounding Jimmy G as we enter the upcoming season. When healthy, he has certainly looked like an above average starting Quarterback, but will he be totally healthy in 2019? The effects from ACL injuries are notorious for lingering well after a player has returned to the playing field. In addition, does he possess the ability to be truly great? To carry his team to new heights and establish himself as one of the games truly clutch players? I wish I had the answer, but unfortunately I don’t think anyone has truly seen enough of him to know. One thing’s abundantly certain however; The Niners will only go as far as Jimmy G’s arm can take them. Until he proves it, we simply haven’t seen enough to know just how far that is, so I’ll take the under on the Niners this year at 8.