Mason Rudolph is Most Certainly Not Jimmy Garoppolo

(Associated Press)

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There is this idea floating around the Steeler Twitter world.  The basis is that if the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to make an attempt to trade for current San Francisco 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, they should instead just settle for starting Mason Rudolph at the position.  The perception is that Jimmy G would have an equal impact on the offense as Mason Rudolph. 

Now I know part of the conversation is considering Garoppolo's effect on the salary cap versus Rudolph.  Also that Rudolph’s much smaller cap hit would allow the Steelers to sign some immediate impact players.  So Garoppolo’s talent combined with his cap hit compared to Mason’s cap hit combined with his talent, level out somehow.  I get that’s the idea.  However, I totally disagree.

Mason Rudolph is not a good quarterback.  His stats show it, his play on the field shows it, and his inability to get the job done when the opportunity presents itself shows it.  I’ll even use Rudolph’s best season, 2019, to make comparisons, despite his career numbers progressively getting worst since then.  Rudolph’s best completion percentage, 62.2% in 2019, would rank him 26th among NFL starters this season between Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts. 

Also, in 2019, Rudolph threw an interception for every 1.44 touchdowns thrown while also throwing an interception on 3.2% of his attempts.  In 16 career games, he has 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  None of these are especially impressive numbers.

In that same 2019 season, Garoppolo had a completion percentage of 69.1%, threw 27 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions.  This season, he had a completion percentage of 68.3%, increasing his career completion percentage from 67.5% to 67.7%.  Garoppolo was ranked 6th in the stat this season among starters.  Also, in his career, Garoppolo has thrown an interception for every 1.86 touchdowns thrown and only throws an interception on 2.6% of his attempts. 

Am I cherry picking stats?  Yeah, I am.  In Rudolph’s favor.  I’m taking Rudolph’s best season against Garoppolo’s career stats.  If I had taken into account Rudolph’s career stats, or pulled Garoppolo's best season, it’d get even worse for Rudolph. 

Career QB rating for Garropolo: 98.9.  Career QB rating for Rudolph: 80.9, with a season best of 82.0.  Garoppolo's numbers are improving over time while Rudolph's are getting worse. 

Let’s get away from the pure stats for a second.  Because I'll admit completion percentage, QB Rating, and TD/INT ratio does not tell the whole story.  

The quarterback position has become the single most important position in all of professional sports in terms of impact.  Very few positions can influence a win or loss quite like the quarterback position.  We see how merely drafting Josh Allen has turned the Buffalo Bills into perennial contenders when they used to finish at the bottom of their division regularly.  The same can be said for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they signed Tom Brady.  We'll see the impact of Brady retiring in about eight months.

Jimmy Garoppolo is a winner.  In his career, his teams are 33-14 in games he started.  Additionally, Garoppolo has led the 49ers to a Super Bowl and a Conference Championship in just five seasons with the team.  He also has 10 career game-winning drives, with three of them coming this season.  One was with a playoff berth on the line, and Garoppolo got the job done. 

Now Rudolph is 5-4-1 in his career of games started with arguably a worse team around him the past three seasons.  However, he continues to miss open receivers and turn the ball over in crunch time, like he did against the Detroit Lions this season when given a real shot to show off.

Are the 49ers run heavy with a great defense?  Yes, they are. And that does take some of the pressure off of the QB.  However, that's what the Steelers tried to be this season and failed because they didn't have the right QB to fulfill this blueprint successfully.  Not a knock on Ben and his career, but for this Steelers team this season, he was not the right QB.  So I'd like a QB that has shown himself to be very successful in this blueprint.  Mason Rudolph hasn't been "very successful" since he played at Oklahoma State.

I also put a lot of stake in Garoppolo being drafted by Bill Belichick, one of football's greatest minds in its history, as a replacement to Tom Brady.  There are even rumors that Belichick did not want to trade Garoppolo and instead let Brady walk even earlier than he did.  However, the Kraft family went with Brady, and I don't think losing out to the greatest quarterback of all-time is necessarily an indictment on Garoppolo.  

Plus, I do believe if the 49ers had not spent so much draft capital on next year's projected starter, Trey Lance, that Garoppolo would not be available this offseason.  Instead, the 49ers will fall for one of business's biggest pitfalls and try to move Garoppolo because of sunken costs into Lance.  There's gotta be a Business for Dummies book somewhere John Lynch can get his hands on that says "Never fall for the sunken costs pitfall" and keep his franchise quarterback.

Is Jimmy G the answer for the Steelers?  I don't know.  There are a lot of options out there.  However, Garoppolo is much more the correct answer than Mason Rudolph.  He would have a much greater positive impact on the Steelers offense than Rudolph would in 2022.  Don't fall for the lazy take that they are one in the same.