Mahomes versus Garoppolo: Who has the Edge in Super Bowl LIV?

MIAMI, Fla. — Super Bowl LIV is only a few days away and the matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs has already been analyzed every which way. These two teams have been compared by every position, every stat, every advanced metric and any other form of comparison possible.

One comparison that is not being made as much is between the two quarterbacks. Most assume that Kansas City as a huge advantage at the most important position in sports, boasting former league MVP Patrick Mahomes. The 49ers, meanwhile, are trotting out someone who many consider a “game manager” in Jimmy Garoppolo. It is clear which quarterback the media and fans deem more valuable, but, as the great Lee Corso says, “not so fast my friend!” There is a case to be made that Garoppolo is the bigger X-factor. Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument.

The Case for Mahomes

The case for Mahomes as the bigger X-factor is pretty easy to make. He won the league MVP last season and could have won it this year if it wasn’t for missing a few games and some guy named Lamar Jackson. He has had one of, if not the most prolific starts to an NFL career ever, throwing for more than 9,400 yards and 76 touchdowns through his first two seasons. Drafted 10th overall by the Chiefs in 2017, Mahomes sat behind then-incumbent quarterback Alex Smith for his entire rookie year, basically taking a redshirt season. He finally saw game action in a meaningless week 17 outing against the Broncos and showed enough for Kansas City to make him their full-time starter in 2018. Mahomes erupted for 50 touchdowns that season, putting himself squarely in the conversation for the future face of the National Football League.

He seems to have it all: a rocket for an arm, mobility; quick and smart decision making; and the ability to create something out of nothing. He is every head coach’s dream to coach and nightmare to scheme against. His ability to adapt on the fly and create plays is something that has only been seen a handful of times in NFL history. It is not like these are shallow stats either. Mahomes has led the Chiefs to back-to-back AFC championship games and this year will lead them to Miami in the Super Bowl. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks to ever play in the 100 years of the NFL and will solidify that statement next Sunday.

The Case for Garoppolo

This one is not as easy to make. Like Mahomes, Garoppolo was also forced to sit to start his career, although he sat a little longer than one season. Originally drafted in the second round by the New England Patriots, Garoppolo had to sit behind the greatest quarterback of all-time Tom Brady for the first three years of his career. He was able to start two games as a result of the Brady suspension that stemmed from the debacle of Deflategate. In those two starts, he threw for more than 500 yards and four touchdowns, winning both games and proving he can contribute in the NFL. San Francisco would later trade a second-round pick for Garoppolo during the 2017 season. He would start the last five games of that season, going a perfect 5-0. Yet to lose in an NFL game entering 2018, Garoppolo was viewed as the second coming. Disaster struck early on in 2018, however, as he would tear his ACL in just the third game of the year.

Coming into this season, San Francisco was off the radar as a potential playoff team. With Garoppolo’s health and talent not fully known up until that point, no one in the media or around the country was predicting much from this team. What did Garoppolo do? He did what he has always done in the NFL and that is win. With the help of a great defense, Garoppolo led the 49ers to a shocking 13-3 season and the number one seed in the NFC. His stats are not that impressive, as he threw for under 4000 yards and 27 touchdowns, but he did not need his stats to be Mahomes-esque. With the defense playing at a high level and a great stable of running backs behind him, Garoppolo just had to not lose his team games. He did exactly that. When he was asked to do more, he did. Take week 14 as an example. The 49ers traveled to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints. The San Francisco defense was not up to their usual standard in this one, to put it gently. Brees and the Saints offense exploded for 465 yards of total offense and 46 points. Again, what did Garoppolo do? He found a way to win, leading his offense to 48 points and 516 yards. He outdueled a future first ballot hall-of-famer on the road, beating Brees at his own game.

Those who say that Garoppolo has been carried to this point are either ignorant or lying. He takes what the defense gives him. If the opposing team has no answer for the running game like last week against Green Bay, then why would he pass it? Jimmy Garoppolo does not put up the flashy numbers or highlight-reel plays that Patrick Mahomes does because he does not need to. Here is one last stat on Garoppolo: He is 23-5 as an NFL starter, which is a .821 winning percentage. That is the highest in NFL history for any quarterback who has started at least 25 games. All he does is win.

The Verdict

The case between these two quarterbacks is much tougher to decide than it appears at first glance. I would give the edge to Mahomes strictly due to his ability to improvise, but Garoppolo has the chance to prove a lot of doubters wrong come February 2nd.

Photo Credit: James Leyva

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