The San Francisco 49ers ranked just 27th in red zone offense in 2017, converting only 47% of opportunities into touchdowns. Given the hype around Jimmy Garoppolo, you might think San Francisco was much better during his time, but that’s not true. In fact, the 49ers converted 13 of 27 red zone opportunities into touchdowns during the first twelve weeks (the non-Jimmy G weeks), a 48% rate; that dropped to 11 of 24, or 46%, during Garoppolo’s time as a starter.
That…. was about the only bad thing that happened during the short but brilliant Garoppolo era. San Francisco went 5-0 with Jimmy G and 1-10 without him, making him +4.54 wins over the other quarterbacks; That’s one of the top four marks ever, alongside Marc Bulger on the 2002 Rams (6-1 with, 1-8 without), Vince Young on the 2009 Titans (8-2 with, 0-6 without), and Mike Phipps on the 1979 Bears (9-1 with, 1-5 without).
With Garoppolo, San Francisco’s offense averaged 41.2 yards per drive. The NFL average last year was 30.1 yards, and the Patriots led the NFL at 39.2 yards per drive over the course of the full season. San Francisco scored touchdowns at a rate well above average with Garoppolo under center (24% of all drives, compared to a league average rate of 20%; the Patriots led at 29.7%), but where the 49ers really shined was in kicking field goals. Remarkably, over the final five weeks of the season, San Francisco and Robbie Gould kicked (and made) 18 field goals; over the first 11 games, Gould attempted just 23 field goals! A whopping 36% of all 49ers drives under Garoppolo ended in a field goal attempt (all of which were successful):
Where the 49ers offense under Garoppolo really stood out, then, is simply scoring and not punting. San Francisco had 60% of drives end in a score and just 26% of drives end in a punt over the final five weeks.
In raw numbers, the 49ers scored 30 times and punted just 13 times. How rare is it to be +17 over a 5-game stretch? Well, here are the teams in the last 20 years to do that: the Redskins did it from games 8 through 12 of the 2016 season, the 2016 Falcons, the 2015 Steelers and Patriots, the 2014 Packers and Patriots, the 2013 Broncos, the 2012 Giants, 2012 Patriots, 2011 Saints, the 2008 Jets, 2007 Patriots, 2007 Jaguars, 2005 Colts (2nd most, at +24), 2005 Bengals, 2004 Colts, 2000 Rams (most, with +26 over the first five games of the season), and 1998 Vikings.
That’s a lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks and historically great offenses, and a couple of odd teams in there, too. Five weeks is a small sample size, and this is favored towards Garoppolo (because most of those scores were field goals), but still: that’s some pretty good company.