Melissa’s Tuesday Musings: Is Jimmy Garoppolo a Top 5 Quarterback?

2017 as a calendar year has largely been brutal for a number of reasons, most of them dripping with cultural schism. Football has been no exception. The cultural divide has never been stronger among players, owners, and fans, while the on-field product has ranged from beyond awful to inspiring you to have thoughts of ‘hey, maybe I should be watching cornhole instead.’ (Which you should be watching even if you keep the NFL around!)

But the 2017 holiday season has been an anomaly, at least for previously disengaged football fans in San Francisco. The dark clouds lifted and Santa Belichick dropped the perfect football player from the sky. The wins quickly followed.

After Jimmy Garoppolo’s third straight win as the 49ers new quarterback, the whole league did a collective jawdrop as an NFLN Turning Point segment illustrated his mastery on numerous levels in the two-minute drill comeback against Tennessee in Week 15. Among Garoppolo’s brilliance: before the ensuing drive, he calmly directs his receiver, George Kittle, to slip his defender because the corner had to turn his hip and the safeties were playing too deep. Boom! Strike!

Once the Garoppolo hype was in full swing I worried about extra motivation for the NFL’s top ranked defense that was coming to town. Maybe the hype would be squashed in an instant and maybe it was better if Jimmy G was kinda sorta San Francisco’s secret.  The Jaguars certainly read the headlines and were intent on slowing him down.

“It was definitely irritating to hear about him all week. But (expletive), he beat us,” Jags linebacker Myles Jack said after Garoppolo and the 49ers put up a whopping 44 points Sunday.

The 49ers are now 4-0 with Garoppolo as the starter, beating two playoff teams in the process. His value to this once downtrodden franchise is immeasurable. He is the quintessential example of one player making his entire team better. The Garoppolo explosion is even more stunning when you consider that he was first handed Kyle Shanahan’s playbook two months ago. Matt Ryan said it took him two years to learn.

But Garoppolo’s greatest skill is exactly why he can take his time getting immersed in the playbook. He is absolutely, utterly fearless. Garoppolo makes a preponderance of throws into tight windows, and if the opening if there, he will take take it with no hesitation. Screw it with the tempered hype. What Garoppolo is doing is magical, and with the rash of devastating injuries his star couldn’t be better timed. There is nothing more mesmerizing in the NFL than a player on a streak of domination, particularly the QB. We saw similar runs with Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, both of whom, like Garoppolo, headline the probable next generation of greats.

After beating the vaunted Jaguars defense, it’s hard not to wonder what other teams he and the fired up 49ers could beat at the moment, all the way up to New England. (I mean, it could happen.) I had planned to break my no power rankings rule in this column to see where the 49ers fit in, but Garoppolo’s left tackle Joe Staley gave me a better idea.

I, and I assume most you who have watched a Raiders game this season, agree on Carr who has mightily regressed. But where does Garoppolo fit in on the current pantheon of elite or up and coming quarterbacks? Let’s play a game of “Would You Rather?” to find out. The idea is to pit Garoppolo against the most relevant quarterbacks and see where he falls among the Top 10. Disclaimer: This is in no way scientific and because of Garoppolo’s limited playing time will not include many apples to apples comps. I am considering which quarterback you’d like to have right now, not considering his current coach, offensive line or weaponry. This is the QB you want with an eye toward winning a Super Bowl in the next three years. You will disagree. Probably a lot. Feel free to tweet me @thefootballgirl with your best Jimmy G or ? conclusion.

Let’s start with a softball:

Would you rather have Garoppolo or Mitchell Trubisky? Trubisky has been stymied by John Fox’s conservatism, and perhaps a coach with a shrewd offensive philosophy would do wonders. But when Garoppolo faced Trubisky and the Bears in Week 13, the disparity was apparent. Garoppolo was wheeling and dealing whenever he saw an opportunity while Trubisky held on to the ball far too long, which has plagued him all season. I’m not sure how easy it is to unlearn that tendency. Winner: Garoppolo

Getting harder:

Would you rather have Garoppolo or Jared Goff? Goff has had an incredible turnaround and is deserving of all accolades this season. But unlike Goff, Garoppolo has never had a tumultuous season. While Garoppolo has been gifted with Belichick/Josh McDaniels and Shanahan he has shown such mastery of reading defenses that he might even be able to overcome Jeff Fisher. Winner: Garoppolo

And harder:

Would you rather have Garopollo or Drew Brees? 

These two are similar in that they both display pinpoint accuracy and a quick release. Brees also has an incredible penchant for exposing defensive weaknesses. Longevity rules here. Winner: Brees

Would you rather have Garoppolo or Cam Newton? 

When Newton is dialed in there is no passer more electrifying. And he’s a powerful big-bodied force on the ground that will attempt things Garoppolo might not ever consider. But Newton’s inconsistent passing is his downfall, especially this season, where he’s currently on pace to throw more interceptions than any season since his rookie year. Winner: Garoppolo

Would you rather have Garoppolo, Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson? I would probably say Wentz and possibly Watson simply because we’ve seen what their teams have become without them. But I’ll take the quarterback not coming back from an ACL tear. Hate grading like this but even when Tom Brady came back from this injury in 2008 and put up spectacular numbers, he still showed a bit of uncharacteristic hesitancy at points.  Winner: Garoppolo

Would you rather have Garoppolo or Ben Roethlisberger?

Imagine if Garoppolo even had one of the other Killer Bs to play with. Unfortunately that’s not part of the criteria. This one is quite tough especially considering how Roethlisberger’s trademark escapability has waned in recent years. Big Ben gets the nod on playoff experience but he hasn’t done much this season to electrify his team the way Garoppolo has in San Francisco. Winner: Garoppolo

Would you rather have Garoppolo or Russell Wilson?

Garoppolo’s style is different and more slight while Wilson’s earned a pretty penny with his ability to keep plays alive – and literally execute any play. But I prefer Garoppolo’s sheer ability to orchestrate powerful aerial attacks. Wilson has had a sizable collection of remarkable throws over the years. But this season he hasn’t topped 300 passing yards since Week 8. Winner: Garoppolo

Would you rather have Garoppolo or Aaron Rodgers?

Last I checked, Garoppolo’s doesn’t have one, let alone multiple, hail mary comeback wins. Winner: Rodgers

Would you rather have Garoppolo or Tom Brady? There’s a reason Garoppolo is so polished. He had a personal Master Jedi who happens to still be in his prime. Winner: Brady

In conclusion, here is my very subjective list of the Top 10 quarterbacks I want right now.

1. Tom Brady
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Drew Brees
4. Jimmy Garoppolo
5. Carson Wentz
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Jared Goff
8. Russell Wilson
9. Cam Newton
10. Matt Ryan