A year ago at this time, Jimmy Garoppolo had a giant question mark on his jersey.
After suffering a serious knee injury and then going through surgery and rehabilitation, the 49ers’ quarterback needed to regain his confidence. Could he play to the level he previously showed? Would the injury make him shaky in the pocket? Would he ever be able to play a full season and show the organization it made the right move in giving him a five-year deal worth as much as $137.5 million after the 2018 season?
The answer to all those questions turned out to be “yes.” Garoppolo played a full season, the 49ers went 13-3, won the NFC title and advanced to the Super Bowl. He had career highs in completion percentage (69.1), touchdown passes (27), yards (3,978) and had a quarterback rating of 102.0, while raising his career won-lost record to 21-5.
Then, he went 2-1 in the postseason.
But that loss came in the Super Bowl, when San Francisco – and Garoppolo – had a disappointing fourth quarter. That prompted some analysts to doubt Garoppolo is the QB to lead the franchise back to the NFL championship.
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, however, has a different view.
In speaking with reporters Thursday, Shanahan says he believes even more in Garoppolo as they head toward the 2020 season.
Shanahan specifically mentioned the offseason speculation the 49ers would sign former New England quarterback Tom Brady (who eventually went to Tampa Bay as a free agent).
“When you have to talk to Jimmy about one of the best quarterbacks of all time being available, I know Jimmy has a goal to be that,” Shanahan told the media. “I know Jimmy. I believe Jimmy has the ability to be that, and that’s what both of us are going for. If we can get him there and he has the ability to do it, we’re going to be pretty happy with who we have for a long time.”
Shanahan says he can see Garoppolo is mentally and physically stronger than he’s ever been, and believes he’ll have a great season.
“So to go through an offseason where you don’t have to rehab the whole time, it gives you a chance to take that to another level,” said Shanahan. “I think Jimmy’s fired up for this year.
“Last year was his first year to play a whole year, and he had a hell of a year and got us very close to winning the Super Bowl.”
Former 49ers quarterback Steve Young, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, also recently said Garoppolo will have an edge going into this season: a heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
“When you get there and you don’t get it done, that’s … You don’t get it done, so you eat that,” he recently told Dave Lombardi of the Athletic. “And that has to be something that drives you forward.”