On February 8th, the San Francisco 49ers signed QB Jimmy Garoppolo to a 5-year extension worth up to $137M. For about 3 months, Garoppolo was the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. With the 49ers paying him so much money, let’s talk about managing expectations going into next year.
Before I started, I thought about what I think I would expect from the 2nd-highest paid quarterback in the NFL. As we all know, there will always be the next highest-paid quarterback in the NFL as long as its revenue grows. So, it would not be fair to expect Garoppolo to be the league’s first or second-best quarterback. However, only a certain number of quarterbacks actually become the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. Those typically are the quarterbacks who showed they can be elite at their position.
The rest was easy. From what we have seen and from what he earns, Garoppolo should be a top 10 QB in 2018. But what exactly is a top 10 quarterback numbers-wise? For the sake of objectivity, I used Pro Football Focus‘ grading system and ended up with 12 seasons worth of data. I looked at each year’s ten highest graded quarterbacks and gathered their numbers.
As you can see, “Top 10 QB” doesn’t mean the same from year to year. 2006 and 2008 are especially dreadful when it comes to high-end quarterback play. However, there are also outliers to the opposite direction. Therefore, I averaged these 12 years out in a second step.
These numbers are what the ultimate average top 10 quarterback between 2006 and 2017 produced, and I think this comes quite close to what 49ers fans should expect from Garoppolo.
Garoppolo last year played 351 of 1147 snaps with 190 dropbacks. This equates roughly to a 54% pass ratio. Adjusting his numbers to 100% of the snaps and a 58% pass ratio, his numbers would equate to the following. 58% passing is what the last three Shanahan-led teams produced.
These numbers just show how absurd his performance was last year. For context, only 18 different quarterbacks ever topped what I calculated as the average top 10 quarterback. Only twelve different quarterbacks ever attempted more than 624 passes in a season. Only three of those also had a completion percentage for 67.4% (2017 Garoppolo) or higher and none of those averaged more than Garoppolo’s 8.8 Y/A. That feat was also only achieved three times ever. Therefore, I believe that he will regress a bit to the mean.
However, as these numbers also show, his red-zone passing performance and interception rate were not quite elite yet. These are areas where I expect him to grow because of the off-season preparation he gets this spring and summer, compared to last year when he was thrown into the fire mid-season.
Combining all this, the fans should expect Garoppolo to be a top-10 quarterback. The weapons around him most likely improved with the addition of RB McKinnon and WR Pettis, the return of a healthy Pierre Garçon and an improvement from the 2nd-year players. And although his offensive line is entirely brand new except for Joe Staley, the additions to it should prove to be better eventually. Therefore, I predict an overall improvement, though I don’t see him keeping up that peak Drew Brees-esque passing performance.
The following numbers are what 49ers fans should expect from their supposed franchise quarterback. $137M is a lot of money, and a performance like this would justify the price tag on his extension.
Honestly though, I don’t care if he throws for 4,000 or 4,800 yards. I just hope to see the TD-INT ratio and the TD% (2017: 3.9) improve dramatically and not to see the Y/A number dip too much. If Garoppolo can produce like this, 49ers fans all around the world are in for a treat! True high-end quarterback play is exactly what the fans have been missing for almost two decades by now and Garoppolo might just be the one to deliver it.