Jimmy Garoppolo loved 'freedom' of 2022 49ers debut, compares to 2017 run

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Jimmy G loved 'freedom' of 2022 debut, likes being more aggressive originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Through just over three quarters of football this past Sunday, Jimmy Garoppolo was incredibly efficient after coming in for an injured Trey Lance.

Not only that, but the 49ers quarterback was tossing downfield passes reminiscent of his five-game run as starter to end San Francisco’s 2017 season.

Garoppolo’s sweet spot in years since has been mostly inside the numbers when he isn’t catering to the 49ers’ excellent run game, but even he said after Sunday’s win over the Seattle Seahawks that it felt like déjà vu -- and that he enjoyed it.

“It just felt good,” Garoppolo told reporters after his season debut. “We were talking earlier, it kind of felt like 2017 where you just go out throwing and make plays. That’s what I like to do. It’s different than what we usually do around here, but sometimes you need to do that.”

Just a few days later after practice Thursday, Garoppolo explained further.

“I’d love that,” Garoppolo said when asked if he would like to push the ball downfield more often this season. “There’s a lot of things that go with that, obviously, but yeah, I love doing that stuff. In ‘17, there was a freedom where me, the receivers, tight ends, we had a good chemistry going.

“And when you get that with offensive skills and a quarterback, it makes for a tough offense.”

When it comes to the numbers, they certainly tell a story with Garoppolo and the plays that have been called for him over the years. He averaged 8.3 intended air yards per passing attempt on Sunday, per Pro Football Reference, meaning that on average, his 21 passing attempts against the Seahawks traveled about eight yards.

In 2017, Garoppolo averaged 9.2 IAY/PA -- for comparison, the quarterback at the top of the IAY/PA leaderboards last season was Russell Wilson (9.9). In 2021, Garoppolo finished the regular season with 7.4 IAY/PA, and in 2019, the year the 49ers went to the Super Bowl, he was nearly last among eligible NFL passers with 6.5 IAY/PA.

With more freedom came deeper passes, but Garoppolo isn’t sure if the numbers he put up against Seattle will be the norm moving forward.

“I think we’ll see [if there’s freedom] as we go forward, but I don’t know, the more freedom you have as a quarterback, obviously you play better, you’re more confident and good things will happen,” he said Thursday.

When 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan addressed the media on Friday ahead of his team’s Sunday matchup with the Denver Broncos, he was asked to interpret Garoppolo’s comments about having freedom to throw the ball.

“You’d have to ask him what he meant by that,” Shanahan said. “There was no difference in that game than every game, so you can ask him on that. It was probably just going in when the game plan is for someone else and just coming off and winging it and going with it. That's what I would guess, but it sounds like that's a question for him.”

RELATED: Jimmy G extra motivated for fateful starting opportunity

Whatever Garoppolo meant by his comments, any mention of his 5-0 start as the 49ers’ quarterback back in 2017 brings up good memories for the 49ers Faithful.

If he can replicate a hint of that magic this season -- no matter where he throws the ball -- then the 49ers can expect good things to come.

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