How much of an improvement Garoppolo represents remains to be seen. The former second-round pick in 2014 has thrown just 94 passes in the NFL, two-thirds of those (63) coming in two starts in 2016 during Brady’s four-game suspension, with a sprained shoulder preventing him from starting the other two. Garoppolo’s performance in that two-game sample was impressive — 502 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions — but the game charters at Pro Football Focus were less impressed, awarding Garoppolo the 14th highest ranking out of 30 qualified quarterbacks through the first two games of 2016.
The 49ers are also less-talented than the Patriots. Instead of Garoppolo throwing to four-time Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski in addition to Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman he will have to make do with Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, George Kittle and Trent Taylor. Garcon has caught 40 of 67 targets for 500 yards, but has zero touchdowns and missed most of the second half against Philadelphia with a neck injury, putting his availability in doubt for the near future. According to PFF, the Patriots have the 14th best collection of pass catchers in 2017; the 49ers rank 32nd.
Garoppolo will also be lining up behind the league’s worst offensive line. That unit has allowed 27 sacks, second-most in the NFL, with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard getting pressured on 38 percent of their drop backs this season, with Beathard seeing pressure on one out of every two of his passing attempts (44.2 percent). Brady, by comparison, has been pressured on just a third of his drop backs in 2017.
With all these changes, downgrades and unknowns, it is difficult to get a handle on how good Garoppolo will or won’t be as a full-time NFL starting quarterback. If we cast a wide net — looking at quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds, 25 years or older, playing in their third, fourth or fifth season since 2002, the year the league expanded to 32 teams — a reasonable expectation for Garoppolo would be a 61-percent completion rate in addition to a 19-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio, producing a 85.5 passer rating. That might not be what 49ers fans want to hear, but consider a passer rating that high is typically seen on teams that win eight or nine games in a season, that would mark a huge improvement for a team that is 0-8 in 2017.
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