As the 1-10 San Francisco 49ers prepare for a trip to the Windy City, they do so with a new quarterback under center. Jimmy Garoppolo will make his starting debut for the 49ers where it all started…his hometown of Chicago.
After C.J. Beathard was injured in Sunday’s game against the Seahawks and Garoppolo came in and closed out the game with a touchdown, 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan named the gunslinger this week’s starter and a new era begins.
“It definitely hasn’t been an easy decision,” said Shanahan. “I’ve wanted to get a chance to see Jimmy play. I’ve also wanted a chance to let C.J. continue to. So, we’ve been trying to balance that out and also give Jimmy a chance to fully get ready. Like I’ve said throughout the whole time, the longer you wait, the more ready he’ll be…Like I said, he won’t fully be there, I believe, until next year. But, with everything going the way it did, also with C.J. being not able to practice today and maybe not throughout the week, made the decision a little bit easier.”
For Garoppolo, the support from his fellow Chicagoans has been great, but maybe too great.
“I had to put my phone away for a little while the last couple days,” said the quarterback. “You know, I’m trying to focus. It’s a great opportunity for us this week. Chicago has a very talented defense. We need to prepare throughout the week very well and get ready for those guys because it’s going to be a challenge.”
It may be his first start as a Niner, but it’s not Jimmy G’s first rodeo, so he’s got that preparation thing down.
“I’ve kind of gotten into a little bit of a routine with that,” said Garoppolo. “I know I was the backup the last couple weeks, but you still prepare as if you’re the starter. Learning the other team’s defenses, watching as much film as you can while still, there’s things that we’ll put in and I’ll learn from the first time. That part of the learning curve I’m pretty comfortable with now. I’ve got a nice little routine for it. It’s coming along well.”
No dice on exactly what that routine is though.
“That’s top-secret man. Come on.” OK, fair.
“When I told him, I could see he was real excited and stuff like that,” said Shanahan. “That pumped me up even more. Talking to him yesterday, I got to spend about an hour with him and then I went into my whole game plan. He met most of the day with our quarterbacks coach. It’s also not him just meeting with us. He needs to get by himself and study and memorize words and watch it over and over again.”
For the 49ers part, knowing the starter early in the week helps the offensive preparation process.
“We put that in together all Monday night and Tuesday with the idea that we knew we were going to go with Jimmy,” Shanahan said. “So, when we did that we put in a game plan that we thought he could do. By no means has he repped it all. That’s what starts today. We just did it in a walk through. But, this game plan is for Jimmy and he’ll work at it all week and whatever he doesn’t feel comfortable with and he doesn’t get down in these three practices, then we’ll take it out and whatever we’re going with Sunday, he’ll know 100 percent of it.”
A question mark for Sunday is right tackle Trent Brown. Shanahan had said he wouldn’t practice, but he ended up being limited. The 49ers brought back interior lineman Tim Barnes, but if Brown is out on Sunday, Zane Beadles would likely fill in. Here’s hoping Trent Brown is healthy, for everyone’s sake.
No matter who is protecting him, Garoppolo has been hard at work getting that famous Kyle Shanahan offense down.
“He knows how to study,” said center Daniel Kilgore. “He backed up Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game…I would say he feels much more comfortable since day one. How comfortable is he? He’s still working out with the receivers. He still working out play calls with Coach Shanahan. Out of 10, he’s anywhere from six to seven, from what I see.”
With that studying, he’s definitely getting by with a little help from his friends.
“Yeah, the teammates have been so helpful,” said Garoppolo. “Those guys, some of them know it almost as well as the quarterback. They’re smart guys. We have a very knowledgeable offense. It helps me a ton. The quarterbacks coach Rich [Scangarello], he’s helped me a ton. He’s putting in some serious hours with me, so I thank him for that. Really it’s everybody. It’s a group effort. It’s a team sport.”
Football is indeed a team sport, and this team needs a spark. He may have only played three plays on Sunday, but there is something different about watching Garoppolo.
“You watch quarterbacks throughout forever, sometimes the big arm guys, not always the quick release guys, but the big arm guys don’t always throw with anticipation because their whole life they haven’t needed to,” Shanahan said. “They wait until they see it open and then they rifle it in there. Then you have some guys who don’t have that big-time arm and they have to anticipate. They’ve got to let it go early and they hit the guy in stride right in the window. Jimmy has the ability with his quick release that he doesn’t always have to anticipate. He can make up for it if he’s a hair late. He has the speed and quick twitch in his body to get it there and overcome some things.
…I always say, in the NFL the man travels faster than the ball. It was fun when most of us played Pop Warner football and stuff and you could make it seem like somebody was open and bait the quarterback to throw to them and then go intercept it and that can happen sometimes in the NFL, but the stronger the guy’s arm is, the quicker his release is, the harder it is for DBs to do.”
Ready or not, here come the Bears, but it seems like Jimmy Garoppolo is ready. We will see on Sunday.Don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly podcast and YouTube channel. Also, make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @49ersfangirl. Go Niners!