Chiefs Know They Can’t Underestimate Jimmy Garoppolo In Super Bowl LIV

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January 29, 2020

AVENTURA, Fla. ? During media availability Tuesday at the Kansas City Chiefs? Super Bowl LIV hotel, Andy Reid fielded his umpteenth question about the San Francisco 49ers? bulldozing rushing attack.

The Chiefs coach respectfully replied, praising the way Kyle Shanahan varies his run calls, before pivoting.

?I wouldn?t slight Jimmy (Garoppolo),? Reid said. ?Because Jimmy can throw the ball when needed.?

His message was clear: Garoppolo might not rank among the NFL?s elite quarterbacks, but he?s more than capable of burning any opponent that focuses too much on Niners running backs Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Matt Brieda.

Though he was a passenger in San Francisco’s two playoff victories (17-for-27, 208 yards, one touchdown, one interception, including 6-for-8 for 77 yards in the NFC Championship Game), the former New England Patriots backup posted solid numbers in his first 16-game season as an NFL starter. Garoppolo ranked third in yards per attempt (8.4), fifth in completion percentage (69.1), tied for fifth in touchdown passes (27) and eighth in passer rating (102.0).

Much of Garoppolo’s production came on short passes with big run-after-catch potential — his average depth of target was second-lowest among all NFL quarterbacks, and San Francisco’s dynamic group of skill players led the league in average yards after the catch — but he delivered on deep balls when called upon, leading the league by a wide margin in adjusted completion percentage on passes traveling 20-plus yards in the air (74.2 percent), per Pro Football Focus. Deshaun Watson was second among QBs who appeared in at least 10 games at 54.1 percent.

“If you look at Jimmy?s percentages, his passer rating over the last couple of years here, it?s up there in really every situation,” Reid said. “So as well as they run the football and as well as they make you honor every gap and every zone on the field, you can?t slight the pass game, either.”

Kansas City’s defensive players echoed their coach.

?He?s the highest-paid ever in the game of football,? linebacker Reggie Ragland said, referring to the five-year, $137.5 million contract Garoppolo signed with the 49ers in 2018. ?I would never go to sleep on a guy like that. I always respect my opponent. And even though he was 6-for-8 last week, that doesn?t mean — it?s football. They took advantage of the running game last week. You don?t know that it?s going to be like that this week. He?s a very good quarterback, and that?s why they pay him what they pay him.?

Garoppolo, who missed most of the 2018 campaign with a torn ACL, piloted the Niners to a 13-3 record this season. His marquee performances came in two victories over the Arizona Cardinals (28-for-27, 317 yards, four touchdowns in Week 9; 34-for-45, 424 yards, four TDs, two interceptions in Week 11) and one over the Saints in New Orleans (26-for-35, 349 yards, four TDs, one INT in Week 14).

?He?s composed, man,? Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. ?You can tell he?s been coached the right way. He?s very decisive. He knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he?s smart. You can?t just line up and blitz him. He?s IDing coverages. He?s IDing formations. He?s putting his pass protection (in place). You can see him making checks at the line of scrimmage. It?s not just Kyle Shanahan in his ear.

“And he?s got the right weapons around him (George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, etc.). I think he’s in a great situation to try to show the world that he?s always been that kind of player. I think that?s the player that (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick believed in and drafted, so I?m happy for him. I?m proud of him.”

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
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