Red Zone Jimmy? That’s certainly what Josh McDaniels is banking on during the 2023 campaign.
Speaking at the NFL Owners Meeting on Monday, McDaniels, the Las Vegas Raiders head coach, spoke highly of Jimmy Garoppolo’s ability in the money zone — inside the 20. The inefficiency in the red zone has long been the bane of the Raiders’ offense — no matter the play callers — and it certainly was an issue this past season. In 48 trips to the red zone, Las Vegas cashed in with a touchdown 23 times, good for a 47.9 conversion percentage and 26th in the league amongst all 32 teams.
“I mean, we had opportunities last year, and again there’s a lot of things we can do better from last season,” McDaniels said when asked about the team’s red zone woes. “We’ve tried to go through our entire process and be critical of ourselves and what we’ve done and how we can improve it. And that’s certainly an area that if you’re going to be good in the NFL and win a lot of close games — which as we heard last night in the session, there’s more close games now than there’s ever been.
“So, being able to convert those third down opportunities in the red zone, being able to score more touchdowns in the red zone, is obviously paramount to being able to go further into the season, make the playoffs and beyond. It’s definitely going to be a focus for us in terms of being able to try to be more productive down there.”
By The Numbers: Jimmy Garoppolo Red Zone Performance
- 2022: 26 of 43, 60.47 completion percentage, 183 yards, 12 touchdowns, 1 interception
- 2021: 34 of 58, 58.62 percentage, 244 yards, 16 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
- 2020: 12 of 18, 66.67 percentage, 82 yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- 2019: 46 of 73, 63.01 percentage, 282 yards, 16 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
- 2018: 8 of 15, 53.33 percentage, 66 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- 2017: 24 of 45, 55.56 percentage, 151 yards, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception
Passer rating in red zone:— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) March 13, 2023
Garoppolo 100.4 (8th of 38 QBs w/ 200+ RZ att since 2014)
Carr 89.7 (30th of 38) https://t.co/8pNv89hKK6
“And you’re right, Jimmy has had a great track record down there. Hopefully he can bring that here to Vegas,” McDaniels added.
Career-wise, Garoppolo is accurate when inside the 20 delivering a total of 12 touchdowns to throwing one interception in the red zone last year for the San Francisco 49ers. His predecessor, Derek Carr, sported a 24 of 57 (42.11 percent), 11 touchdown to two interception performance in the money zone for Las Vegas this past season.
McDaniels clearly wants more accuracy where it counts most and provided insight on what Garoppolo brings to the table: Quick decisions under pressure.
“I think he’s — look, when you get down there there’s less space, there’s more defenders in a smaller area, it’s easier to disguise. So, there’s a lot going on for the quarterback, so to be able to sort it out, make quick decisions under pressure with less information, that takes time,” McDaniels began when asked to pinpoint what’s lead to Garoppolo’s success inside the 20. “Jimmy has learned and adapted to our league and to our game and been able to play fast down there, which is important — get it to the right guy. Because a lot of times there’s a few guys that are double teamed, and there’s one or two that might not be, and he gets to them pretty quickly and gets through his progressions and just has a knack for making some plays down there.
“So, when he sees the guy that he needs to go to, the ball is out of his hands pretty quickly, and he’s usually generally pretty accurate.”
General manager Dave Ziegler provided Garoppolo with another pass catcher who can run routes precisely in Jakobi Meyers (formerly of the New England Patriots) along with incumbent receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow who can separate and make defenders foolish. New tight end Austin Hooper can be a red zone target, too. Also, the new quarterback will likely have lead-leading rusher Josh Jacobs to hand the ball off.
But the proof will be in the pudding for McDaniels, Garoppolo, et al this coming season. Time will most certainly tell if there’s a red zone revival for the Silver & Black or it remains a dead zone.