Ever since the 49ers lost the Super Bowl, Jimmy Garoppolo has had a target on his back.
Many analysts have wondered if he truly is the quarterback to lead this franchise to an NFL championship. Some speculated the 49ers might sign Tom Brady or another free-agent passer, or trade Garoppolo this offseason.
Steven Ruiz of USA Today wrote after the Super Bowl that finding a better quarterback than Garoppolo is the only way the franchise can reach the pinnacle.
But Niners tight end George Kittle is having none of that. Though Garoppolo struggled in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl loss to Kansas City, Kittle has no doubt about his quarterback’s ability.
In an interview on ESPN’s “First Take” this week, Kittle told hosts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman that Garoppolo is a terrific quarterback and a winner.
“He got us to the Super Bowl,” said Kittle. “He goes out there and he performs week in and week out. He leads the league in third-down percentage. He makes throws. He won us two games vs. Arizona. He won us the Rams game at the end of the game. He won a shootout with Drew Brees, who in my opinion is one of the best quarterbacks to do it.
“I mean, he shows up every single week.”
Kittle calls Garoppolo “the franchise quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.”
Added Kittle: “He’s a leader through and through. He’s a leader of this football team.”
So far, the 49ers seemingly agree with Kittle. Brady went elsewhere and there has been no trade of Jimmy G. Said head coach Kyle Shanahan after the loss to the Chiefs: “Jimmy is one of the main reasons we got to the Super Bowl.”
Added Shanahan: “I can’t tell you how much I love coaching the guy as a player and a person.”