The San Francisco 49ers are good, really good — that is an objective truth, or they wouldn’t be in the NFC Championship Game. The team also wins more games with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm more than other QB on their roster in 2021, also simply an objective truth. Garoppolo isn’t a perfect, or even a high-level quarterback, and it’s on this point where it gets subjective, messy and causing all sorts of drama in the week leading up to Championship Weekend.
This drama launched this week when ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Stephen A. Smith talked about Jimmy G and were critical of his play, while acknowledging the 49ers win a lot with him at the helm. This has renewed the tired argument of quarterback wins, and it’s only gotten stupider from there.
Kimes, unquestionably one of the brightest minds in NFL media, doesn’t operate in the tired platitudes we’ve heard from voices of the past. Her analyses contains nuance, and thought, and if you actually listened to what she said you’d be a smarter football fan. However, many would rather not listen. They hear “Garoppolo isn’t that good” and fire up their Twitter fingers to scream about how she’s wrong, often laden with a heaping helping of sexism, because of course, she’s a woman who is a football analyst and that challenges the fragility of their male ego.
Forget that Garoppolo hasn’t thrown for over 150 yards in a game during the playoffs. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown, either, or posted a passer rating better than 68.0 against the Cowboys or Packers. Jimmy G’s defenders want to dive into the “intangibles,” because that’s what you lean on when there aren’t any tangibles to speak of. Hell, let’s forget for a second that not even the San Francisco 49ers really believed in Jimmy G, or else they wouldn’t have invested significant capital to trade up for Trey Lance, who they selected No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
We’re left with Garoppolo as a quarterback who wins games. A player who has great chemistry with his teammates. A guy who can lead. That’s all important, hell, it’s how guys like Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer have Super Bowl rings. You don’t need to be an elite QB to win a Super Bowl if you have an elite team around you. Sometimes a steadying force at QB who doesn’t really make plays, but also doesn’t force them and create mistakes is what you need. There is such a thing as a team winning in spite of a QB, not because of them — and we’ve seen it time and time again.
However, what’s happened here has turned personal. Kimes having the audacity to suggest Garoppolo is in the same vein as other past QBs who are leaders, but not great players, has reached a surreal fever pitch with former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia (and others) attacking her on social media for giving her analysis of a QB’s ability.
Garcia, whose NFL career can best be remembered as “Steve Young if you ordered him from Wish.com” LOVES to put himself in the conversation, because he’s one of the most forgettable NFL players of all-time. He did it before by slamming how Cam Newton dressed, now he’s back at it — trying to find some people who love him. And as much as I didn’t want to amplify his stupidity, there is something in here we really need to touch on: This logical fallacy that because someone didn’t play football means they can’t analyze football.
Look at Garcia’s core argument here: None of it is based in facts. It’s all about how it feels to play in the NFL, what it feels like to take a snap or throw a touchdown. How mentally tough it is to take the field. All of this is absolutely accurate, 99.9 percent of us will never know what it’s like to play in the NFL, but to extend that into “you can’t have an opinion on it” is laughable. Last I checked Mina Kimes has played in as many Super Bowl as Garcia ever did, so I guess by Garcia’s logic he’s not capable of having an opinion about winning “the big one” either? Right.
No, of course not, because thinking you have to do something in order to have an opinion or analyze it is laughably dumb. It’s even stupider considering that one of the most important people to the 49ers right now is offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, a man who never played football and graduated with a history degree from Yale. Inside THE OWN DAMN ORGANIZATION is a living, breathing example of how someone can have a brilliant football mind without ever taking a snap themselves.
If you want smart analysis then you need to have someone with a passion for analysis — period. Someone willing to watch the tape, spend hours breaking it down, diving deep into advanced metrics that make your head hurt, then meshing it all together to offer an informed opinion on what they’re seeing. When you put all this work in you get someone like Kimes, and you absolutely have the right to disagree with that final analysis, but it should have a stronger counter than “you didn’t play though.” The flip side is someone who played, devoted their life to specializing one position, and know how it feels to play — but then jumps on the TV and offers analysis without substance. It’s all over the airwaves too, and you can spot which people in this industry put in the work, and who doesn’t.
There’s immense value to getting an ex-player perspective, but frankly, they’re often completely misused on TV. I’d love to hear about the emotion of the game, hear anecdotes about what it’s like to play in the league, hell, even help explain how they’ve seen intangibles play out in the NFL to speak to the power of leadership, chemistry and team bonding. Instead networks ask players to analyze football, and while anyone can take a cursory glance at a game and offer an opinion, it won’t provide much to a viewer more than a superficial glance. Something aimed to only echo or counter their biases, without an end goal of making people smarter as a result.
Kimes is a breath of fresh air because she makes people smarter who are willing to actually listen to her and understand what she’s saying when it comes to viewing the game of football. Or, you can just ignore it and stay dumb because she never took a snap. That’s your call in the end.