Just five plays into Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start with the 49ers, coach Kyle Shanahan had his new quarterback go into the no-huddle offense.
Garoppolo had no offseason program with the 49ers. He had no training camp. He arrived in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 after a trade with the New England Patriots. On Dec. 3, he took the field as the 49ers' starter.
Shanahan took advantage of nearly every second to teach Garoppolo the offense – including all 25 seconds when radio communication was allowed into the ear piece embedded in Garoppolo's helmet before every offensive snap.
Shanahan’s voice was in Garoppolo’s ear up to the point when the sideline-to-quarterback communication is cut off with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock. It was common for Shanahan to explain the play call, the reads and the defensive look to Garoppolo in the allotted time.
“If you can get to the line of scrimmage quick enough and you can talk to him, especially the situation Jimmy was in last year, where he needed as much as you could because of his lack of time in our offense,” Shanahan said at the NFL owners meeting this week in Orlando, Florida. “Yes, we did that a lot with Jimmy. But it’s done with all quarterbacks.
“We’ve been doing that for a long time. That’s why we go no-huddle sometimes, so we can get to the line of scrimmage and you can see stuff and you can talk until 15 seconds. We’ve been doing that for a number of years.”
Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, who coached on the same staff as Shanahan with Washington, came under scrutiny last season for doing the same thing with second-year quarterback Jared Goff.
The 49ers went into the no-huddle offense for 12 snaps in Garoppolo’s first start – a 15-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. The offense typically went without a huddle early in games and logged approximately 10 snaps a game to maximize Shanahan’s voice in Garoppolo’s ear.
The no-huddle offense is likely to remain a valuable change-of-pace element of Shanahan’s offense. But Garoppolo will certainly have a greater understanding of Shanahan’s thought process with a full offseason in the program. The 49ers report for their nine-week offseason program on April 16.
“He couldn’t learn at all last year,” Shanahan said. “It was just a crash course and it just enough to try to get him to Sunday. Now, we can take our time, teach him the formations from the beginning, so he actually knows where everybody is and how we move everybody around.”
Garoppolo should have a deeper understanding of every facet of Shanahan’s offense, including pass protections, the run game and gaining a greater understanding of Shanahan's thought processes and every-changing game plans.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t make him worse,” Shanahan quipped. “He played pretty well last year.”
Shanahan does not anticipate many other changes to his process of running the 49ers’ offense in Year 2. Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur fill roles as the 49ers’ specialists in the run and pass games, respectively. Shanahan also leans on veteran offensive assistants John Embree and Bobby Turner.
“I think I delegated a lot last year, and I’m also very hands-on, too,” Shanahan said. “So I don’t see that ever changing.”
Shanahan said made an adjustment last season on how he budgeted his time moving from offensive coordinator for nine NFL seasons to head coach. With other requirements earlier in the week, Shanahan moved his schedule around to catch up later in the week to get fully prepared for game day. Shanahan called every offensive play last season.
“If you’re the best guy for that, and that’s what you got hired for, that’s what you should do,” he said.