Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Mar 2014

Jimmy Garoppolo: Knockout

Jimmy Garoppolo’s draft stock in the media is gaining steam, but the quarterback is a player whose whole does not equal the sum of his parts. Read the rest at Matt Waldman's RSP blog.

Posted by: Matt Waldman on 05 Mar 2014

9 comments, Last at 08 Mar 2014, 11:13am by Noah Arkadia


by nat :: Thu, 03/06/2014 - 12:32pm

I'm never sure how to take articles like this one.

Sure, I agree that incurable "stage fright" would be a show-stopper for an NFL QB. But I could put together a similar "lowlight reel" of bad responses to pressure using just Peyton Manning's or Tom Brady's Super Bowl games. Even the best QBs occasionally make bad decisions or throws under pressure, or just have bad games, or react to a block as failing when the lineman manages to recover. That's why it's called pressure.

A set of lowlights is a nice illustration of what Matt means. But it doesn't really make the case one way or another, does it?

by Alex51 :: Thu, 03/06/2014 - 2:48pm

If you look at the down-and-distance situations of those plays, it makes his analysis even more suspect.

Three of his example plays came within 10 yards of the goal line, where the defense has much less space to cover and can more easily stop the pass.

Another three of the lowlight plays came on 2nd down with 10+ yards to go (and two of those were play action passes). What QB doesn't struggle on 2nd and 19? And what on earth was his coach thinking calling a play action pass on 2nd and 16, trailing by 4 points, with 6:34 remaining, when they were on their own 18? What defense is going to fall for the play fake there?

When half of your examples of poor play come from situations where almost all QBs struggle, it really undercuts your point.

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 03/06/2014 - 7:35pm

"Under pressure" is the key concept here. Garoppolo wasn't under pressure in these plays. It's not that he makes bad decisions under pressure, it's that he reacts to pressure that isn't there and it's more than a bit funny, to tell you the truth. I'm looking forward to the Brady/Manning video because I've never seen them do anything like that, and yes, I'm aware that Manning will go down rather than take a hit. But those are real hits we're talking about, not imaginary ones.

The man with no sig

by nat :: Fri, 03/07/2014 - 10:31am

If you look at the "Manning's not-so-super night" video on nfl.com, you'll see that more than half of the plays shown are Manning making hurried throws before there was any real pressure, when he had room to make his normal throwing motion and the linemen were all still on their blocks. He anticipated pressure more than he usually does, and it hurt his game.

Granted, he had reason to fear pressure that night. The pick-six was a direct result of his unwise attempt to force a throw through pressure. But most of those bad throws came under anticipated, not real pressure.

I guess the point here is that there is a fine line between anticipating pressure accurately and anticipating it too much and getting jumpy. Manning, to his credit, still makes throws when he's having a jumpy game. But that has its down-sides, too.

by Noah Arkadia :: Sat, 03/08/2014 - 11:13am

If it were only one game I'd understand it. As in Manning's case, it's normal for a QB to become jittery when the defense is hitting him hard and often. But even then the worst case scenario is a hurried throw. You never see an NFL QB going into the fetal position standing up, as Waldman so aptly describes it. To me, the kid looks terrified of being hit and that is only likely to get worse as he faces bigger and stronger defenders.

Also, it's not like Waldman is making it up to tease the guy. Failing in the NFL because of bad handling of the pressure is a real thing. Gabbert is mentioned, but Weeden is another guy who can throw a very pretty ball in a clean pocket, but is very sensitive to pressure. And who can blame them. It's the brave NFL QBs who are the real lunatics here.

The man with no sig

by tomdrees :: Thu, 03/06/2014 - 3:19pm

I know there's a chicken-or-the-egg debate about separating responsibility for sacks between the QB and the line. Could it be possible that Garoppolo's line at Eastern Illinois was unreliable and that his fetal position habits are based on and learned in that context? I'm not saying we should ignore any of this information, and I feel it's likely that Garoppolo and/or Bortles probably won't pay off as franchise QB's, but what if you put them behind the best pass-blocking O-line in the NFL? How often are the Eastern Illinois receivers open, or in the right place? The decision to duck and cover could have a firmer basis in reality than we are discrediting Garoppolo for.

Maybe I'm just scarred from watching Jason Campbell have no chance in hell on snap after snap for so many years. There's always an impulse to say "he'd be good if they could block for him or if James Thrash had any idea where he was going."

by tomdrees :: Thu, 03/06/2014 - 3:22pm

Also this line of thought probably explains why teams are likely to draft a Garoppolo type QB. The idea is "yeah, but that won't happen HERE, we'll block for him, we'll run a west coast offense, etc." It's the same logic that leads NBA teams to trade unprotected draft picks. "Yeah, but we'll be good by then, so it won't matter."

by Theo :: Thu, 03/06/2014 - 6:02pm

It's a matter of reflexes and habits.
If the guy has bad habits, then they won't disappear in the NFL all of a sudden.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 03/06/2014 - 6:16pm

Sure they will. We can coach him up.