In recent days, media pundits, scribes and talking heads have come forth with various analyses and talking points related to Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. One popular point has been latched onto and repeated ad nauseum, and rightfully so. Many have noted the fact that ‘Jimmy G’ taking the reins at quarterback has immediately elevated the play and productivity of the players around him.
Some of this elevation is empirical – it is proved by simply watching the games and by looking at the stats. Think of Trent Taylor’s immediate uptick in productivity with his 6 catch, 92 yard performance against The Chicago Bears two weeks ago. Or the fact that Marquise Goodwin has totaled 14 receptions for 205 yards over the last two games, is well on his way to a 1000 yard season, and looking for all the world like a #1, chain-moving receiver. The offense stays on the field longer. The offensive line is playing better. Garrett Celek looks like Vernon Davis in his prime (OK, maybe not quite), etc.
But Garoppolo is also having a positive impact in intangible ways – ways that can’t necessarily be seen, measured or reflected on the stat sheet. One of those ways came to light through an interesting tidbit offered up by Robert Saleh today. The 49ers Defensive Coordinator was on KNBR’s Gary and Larry show, talking with Gary Radnich and Larry Krueger about the season, the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo, and the impact it’s had on the defense. You can check it out here; the segment is listed under today’s date. At about the 7:30 mark, you will hear the following brief exchange, which I have done my best to transcribe below:
Gary Radnich: How much does having Garoppolo……does that give you another little kick in the rear end like, hey, we’ve got the most important position on the field apparently solved, so I’m just feeling better about what I’m going to do defensively now?
Robert Saleh: You know what? What we do defensively, it’s always going to be, we’re independent. We’re operating the same way every week….
Gary Radnich (interrupts as usual): But you know my point, it gives you a kick, now you’re going to have some points on the board.
Robert Saleh: Yeah…which leads to the 2nd point….what it is doing, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s, there’s a belief on the sideline, mainly with the players… you get to a point where we had a bad…they (Houston) put together two scoring touchdown drives, back to back. In the past, or earlier in the season, there would have been a deflated sideline. But, the way they are operating right now, there is a true belief that if they just get the offense the ball, they’re going to go score. And so, that little bit of juice, that little bit of energy-that belief-is actually pretty contagious, and it’s leading to a fight that lasts longer, if that makes sense…”
So there it is. Where once was despair and deflation, now is determination and grit. A fight that lasts just a little bit longer. This belief the 49ers’ players are developing in themselves is, of course, a manifestation of a young team growing together and buying into a coaching philosophy. It is also born from this group having experienced some success together after having first gone though some tough losses. More significantly, it illustrates the importance, which can’t be understated, of adding a quarterback to a team who is a good (perhaps great) player, a steady presence; a leader both in the huddle and by example, through his work ethic, approach to practice and dedication to perfecting his craft.
This young, under-talented team is having, by most statistical accounts, a bad season. But they are happy, enthusiastic and hopeful. There is simply a buzz about these players now that is, as Saleh put it, contagious. This team believes in themselves, their coaches and management. Now they believe in their quarterback. They believe that Jimmy Garoppolo has that elusive “it” factor that is so hard to identify and capture, but which is so necessary for any great quarterback to possess.
This growing belief is not only starting to show up in the stat sheets and the win column, but also on the sideline. It spurs the defense to go that extra mile, pick themselves up when they’ve had a rough couple of series, and get the ball back for their quarterback so he can get them back in the game.
San Francisco has another exciting challenge coming this weekend, a tough foe in the Tennessee Titans. It will be interesting to see if this run of success continues. Make sure you check out my game preview later in the week to get you ready for the action.
PODCAST: The Brandon Aiyuk Episode
- Pick 25 in the 2020 draft, WR Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State
- Scouting report, strengths, weaknesses
- How Aiyuk went from community college corner to first round reciever
- Challenges for Aiyuk to reach his immense ceiling with the 49ers
49ers Surprise During Action-Packed 2020 NFL Draft, but at what Cost?
The San Francisco 49ers filled three immediate needs during the 2020 NFL Draft, but were first-round draft picks DT Javon Kinlaw and WR Brandon Aiyuk — and new starting LT Trent Williams — worth the cost?
This is the first in a three-part series analyzing the San Francisco 49ers’ 2020 “draft masterclass.” The Niners’ draft has been ranked by analysts as one of the NFL’s best, although it takes years before a draft class can be properly assessed. So instead of merely grading these college talents before their first NFL snaps, we’ll take a look at the 49ers’ picks — and more importantly — the 49ers’ process.
San Francisco’s general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were full of surprises during the 2020 NFL Draft, beginning in the first round. Every 2020 mock draft was immediately ripped to shreds as the vast majority of fans and analysts expected the Niners to trade away one of their prized first-round picks for additional draft capital. Instead, the 49ers traded both of their Day 1 picks but ended the evening with just two players, and no selections for the second day of the draft.
Lynch and Shanahan started their “draft tradefest” in a dream scenario: on the clock with the consensus top-2 wide receivers in the draft — Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb — on the board, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the phone. The Bucs wanted to move up a single spot to the No. 13 selection — the pick the receiver-needy 49ers obtained via their trade of star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner — which would leave at least one of the two top receiver prospects on the board for San Francisco.
The two teams executed the trade, which scored the Niners a fouth-rounder in exchange for one of the 49ers’ seventh-round picks. Minutes later, San Francisco was back on the clock, and both receivers were still on the board. But instead of taking advantage of the situation they lucked themselves into, the Lynch and Shanahan did what they seem to do every year — follow their collective gut or the opinion of a trusted contact outside the organization — and drafted Buckner’s hopeful replacement, South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw:
49ers Draft Pick No. 14: DT Javon Kinlaw
On Tuesday, Lynch spoke about the decision on FOX Sports’ The Herd with Collin Cowherd:
“We were incredibly comfortable with Will Muschamp because he gave us such an accurate depiction of Deebo Samuel last year. I didn’t know Will. I met him once. But we called on Deebo and he hit all his strengths, but he also hit his, not really weaknesses, but just realities of who the person is. And he depicted Deebo so well, a year later I said, ‘Kyle, we’ve got to pick up the phone and call Will about Kinlaw because he was so darn honest.” -John Lynch
Despite Muschamp’s biased opinion of his former player, there’s a lot to like about the raw Kinlaw:
— Fourth and Nine (@fourth_nine) April 24, 2020
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, he is shorter and stouter than his predecessor. And surprisingly, given his massive size, the DT has proven to be a better defender against the pass than the run. In 2019, Kinlaw received a 90.7 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF), despite logging just six sacks during the season, and 10 only sacks over his three-year college career:
Since there are no easy games in the NFL, the 49ers hope they drafted the overpowering and productive version of Kinlaw and not the version who disappeared when South Carolina faced weaker opponents.
Bonkers play by Kinlaw. Straight through the center’s chest, then runs the loop to chase down Tua for the sack. Rare combo of power, length and athleticism. pic.twitter.com/n2SjsehuPl
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 4, 2020
My initial assessment of the Kinlaw selection is I like the player, but I’m not a fan of the 49ers spending the draft pick they acquired in exchange for Buckner on a less-talented but cheaper version of the stud defensive lineman. San Francisco should have entered this year’s draft with one primary goal: improving their 2020 roster enough to win one more game than they did in 2019 — and “trading” Buckner for Kinlaw makes the Niners worse, albeit richer, in the short term.
Perhaps this pick would have been a bit sweeter if Lynch didn’t promptly waste the fourth-round selection he just obtained from Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, the 49ers’ fourth-year GM — in the role normally played by his partner-in-crime Shanahan — fell in love with a prospect and wasted valuable draft capital to unnecessarily trade up for the one player he desperately needed to draft.
We’ll break down the San Francisco 49ers’ second first-round selection — and how the Niners got there — next.
PODCAST: The Javon Kinlaw Episode
- Scouting report on the 14th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft
- Javon Kinlaw’s unique background story growing up between DC and South Carolina
- NFL transition and long term outlook with the 49ers