Jimmy Garoppolo had to bide his time to become an NFL starting quarterback, but once he got his opportunity with the 49ers last season, he made the most of it.
Garoppolo led the Niners to a five-game winning streak at the end of the 2017 season, signed a long-term deal with San Francisco this offseason and now is the cornerstone of the franchise rebuild.
Yet to one of his former teammates with the Patriots last season, defensive end Cassius Marsh, it was no surprise. Marsh knew Garoppolo would be terrific if given the opportunity.
“I knew because I was with the Patriots and he would shred our defense every day,” Marsh said recently. “He’d shred the first team every day and it looked no different than when Tom (Brady) was on the field. He’s a much better athlete than Tom. He’s super disciplined and works hard. I’m very happy to have him as my quarterback.”
It’s been no different recently in 49ers organized team activities (OTAs). Garoppolo has been in total command of the offense. He’s been accurate, mobile and efficient.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, who covers the 49ers, reported that in 11-on-11 drills Tuesday in OTAs, Garoppolo was particularly effective when it counted, in red-zone possessions. Barrows reported Garoppolo as being 4-for-4 on throws from the 9-yard line or closer, with all four resulting in touchdowns “despite close coverage from the defense.”
Garoppolo’s scoring throws went to tight ends Garrett Celek and George Kittle, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and running back Matt Breida.
Leading his team to points is a Garoppolo strength in his short tenure with the 49ers. As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com noted recently, Garoppolo led the NFL in 2017 by leading the 49ers to a score on 60 percent of his drives last season, double the league average. Though the sample size was small, the 49ers scored on 30 of the 50 drives led by Garoppolo, ahead of the Pats’ Brady (52.8 percent), the Rams’ Jared Goff (50.3), the Eagles’ Carson Wentz (47.4) and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (47.1).
Wrote Wesseling: “Garoppolo’s limited game film provides flashes of Joe Montana’s footwork, Kurt Warner’s accuracy and quick release, Aaron Rodgers’ ability to throw off platform and Tom Brady’s penchant for incorporating eight or nine receivers to move the chains and keep his defense off the field.”
Though Garoppolo goes into 2018 with a lot of hype to live up to, he’s certainly performing well during these spring drills and stoking fans’ hopes.
The 49ers, too, have great expectations, based on what they see every day.
"You know, he's just got a presence out there," quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group after Tuesday's OTAs. "He's into it. He loves the game. And he's ascending every day."