For San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, things are a little different since he last took the field as the starting passer in a season opener: He’s wearing a different uniform, he’s getting paid $42.6 million (for this upcoming season alone), and he’s not merely a backup filling in for a suspended superstar.
Garoppolo — whose last season-opening start came as a member of the New England Patriots in the wake of the Deflategate controversy — told reporters at Levi Stadium Wednesday he likes to think he’s “a much different player” now than he was two years ago. Before getting dealt to the 49ers last October, Garoppolo had spent two and a half seasons behind four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady in New England.
“All of the game experience that you gain from over your career, you can always use,” Garoppolo said Wednesday.
Last season was a bit of a whirlwind for Garoppolo, who, after getting traded, managed to ameliorate San Francisco’s abysmal losing record by tallying five consecutive wins in the team’s final five games of the year.
“It’s been good having OTAs, training camp, a whole offseason to really slow things down,” Garoppolo told reporters in mid-August. “Last year was kind of, ‘Learn this by the end of the week and we’ll figure it out on Sunday.’ Having [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [quarterbacks coach] Rich [Scangarello] being able to describe how everything is tied together, it makes my job easier.”
Garoppolo said 49ers training camp is similar to the Patriots’ in that the team arrives at 6 a.m. and doesn’t leave “until the sun’s going down.” Though the team spends so much time together, Garoppolo didn’t offer any specific bonding activities — other than “drinking a lot of water together” due to high temperatures.
The 26-year-old said being able to spend the entire offseason with Shanahan and Scangarello has helped him better comprehend the intricacies of San Francisco’s offense and understand “the whys.” An integral part of Shanahan’s coaching model, “the whys” refer to the motivation behind running a certain route or play.
Shanahan said in early August Garoppolo is still coming along with mastering “the whys,” but he expects there to greater improvement next season.
“I think he’ll be even better next year,” Shanahan said. “This is his first training camp. I know we’ve thrown everything at him. … We’re done with the install, so now we’re isolating out a few more things that we come back to that we haven’t since like day one. But [Jimmy’s] much further along obviously than he was last year. I think he’ll be much further along next year, too, at this time.”
As for whether Garoppolo is on par with where Shanahan would like him to be?
“I mean, you want everyone to be perfect, so, my answer will never be yes,” he said. “But [Jimmy’s] been working his tail off. He’s been going through this process. … I’ve been really happy with him.”
Not only was the offseason beneficial for Garoppolo’s relationships with the coaching staff, but it also allowed for him to build a stronger rapport with his teammates. One of the receivers he feels he’s built some chemistry with is Marquise Goodwin. The pair connected for a touchdown in the regular-season finale last year.
“Quise was one of the first guys that introduced himself to me last year, and I think we have similar personalities so we kind of clicked right away,” Garoppolo said. “It’s nice having a guy like that who, he’s consistent, you know exactly what you’re going to get every day. It makes the quarterback job a lot easier.”
For the upcoming season, Shanahan has expressed confidence in the team as a whole and is not concerned about team’s gaining a “better book” on Garoppolo.
“I think Jimmy’s capable of making any type of throw,” he said. “I think he sees the field very well. It’s not like they’re going to learn how to stop him from running with the ball and then stop him from throwing it. Jimmy has a very talented arm. He knows how to play in the pocket.”
“Hopefully, we can continue to get guys here to separate, help get people open in zone and give him time to go through progressions and give him a running game not to put all the pressure on him,” Shanahan continued. “Eliminate turnovers. Play defense. When it’s like that, if the guy has the ability to do it usually they do.”