49ers

49ers have message for Jimmy Garoppolo doubters ahead of Super Bowl 54

49ers have message for Jimmy Garoppolo doubters ahead of Super Bowl 54

MIAMI, Fla. -- In our ultra-polarized world, it has become exponentially more difficult to change people's opinions even when evidence against their staunch belief continues to mount. 

Jimmy Garoppolo might not be Exhibit A of this, but the 49ers quarterback certainly is near the top of the list. 

Coming into the season, many wondered how much of Garoppolo's early-career success was legitimate and what was fool's gold.

The 49ers opened the season 8-0, but the praise went to the defense and head coach Kyle Shanahan with Garoppolo being deemed the weak link on a team with championship aspirations. 

Garoppolo brought the 49ers back from a 17-0 hole against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11, but the doubts only grew louder. 

He led a rout of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 12, and won a shootout against Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans. And still, the warring factions withdrew further into the trenches they had dug for themselves. 

Now, with the 49ers preparing to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, Garoppolo's teammates -- who have been punching back at his detractors all season -- are fine if everyone continues to doubt their leader ahead of the title bout. 

"He's just a big-time player," Richard Sherman said Thursday. "He's a big-time playmaker and I love that nobody understands that. Obviously, it doesn't matter how well he plays on the football field because he's played well and people are like, 'Oh my god, we haven't seen enough.' He got his team to the Super Bowl, it's like, 'Hey, we haven't seen enough.'

"So I mean we are appreciative of the underrated aspect of his game because it allows people to say, 'Oh man, we want Jimmy to win it.' He's won us a ton of games this year."

Garoppolo hears his critics. The loudest voices who question his ability to lead the Niners on the biggest stage. Those who flood social media with doubts about whether or not he can rise to the occasion under the brightest lights when he's only ever held a clipboard before on Super Bowl Sunday.

But he uses it as silent fuel

The questions and doubts have been deafening during the leadup to the South Beach Showdown. Garoppolo threw a ghastly interception in the 49ers' divisional-round win over the Minnesota Vikings, which caused Shanahan to take the keys to the offense like an overprotective father whose kid dinged his car in the Whole Foods parking lot. 

The 49ers rolled over the Vikings and then ran it down the Green Bay Packers' throats in the NFC Championship Game, needing Garoppolo to only throw eight passes in the win. 

No matter the stats, Garoppolo's teammates credit him as the reason they are on the precipice of glory. The message is simple ahead of Sunday: Just keep doubting. 

"I mean, all Jimmy has done is prove people wrong since he got traded here," tight end George Kittle said. "I think he's 25-5 now. I think he has the best third-down completion rate in the NFL, the best stats in the fourth quarter, but yeah people can keep doubting him. It's whatever. We won 15 games this year and I'd say strictly because of him.

"People give a hard time because we had 17 attempts in the last two games or something like that and he's the guy that's calling the plays. Jimmy shows when we need him to show up. When we're going to run the ball 45 times a game, he's all for it. He loves when we run the ball. So people can doubt him.

"He's a great football player, a great leader and he's just going to keep winning."

[RELATED: Shanahan's bond with 'no BS' Jimmy G key to 49ers' Super Bowl run]

Garoppolo has a chance to eliminate all the noise Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium against the Chiefs. Delivering the Lombardi Trophy to the 49ers would send a gag order to all of his critics, a moment of satisfaction he no doubt has had in his mind.

That would feel great ... baby. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers' new rival, says he's NFL's best wide receiver

DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers' new rival, says he's NFL's best wide receiver

One of the 49ers' newest rivals is coming to the NFC West with lots of confidence.

DeAndre Hopkins hasn't even suited up for the Arizona Cardinals yet, but he told ESPN's "Jalen & Jacoby Show" that he "definitely" is the best wide receiver in the NFL. 

"I know I'm the best," Hopkins said Thursday. "Mike's my boy. I love [New Orleans Saints wide receiver] Michael [Thomas] ... but he knows if I had Drew Brees my whole career what these numbers would be. [Falcons wide receiver] Julio Jones knows if I had Matt Ryan my whole career. That's my boy. I trained with Julio, too. He knows what these numbers would be."

Hopkins caught passes from Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson over the last two-and-half seasons before Hopkins was traded to the Cardinals this offseason, and Watson is no slouch as a quarterback. The 27-year-old receiver made First Team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons since Watson was drafted, catching 257 passes for 3,288 yards and 24 touchdowns in the QB's 37 career starts.

But Hopkins was great despite playing with numerous forgettable quarterbacks in four years before Watson arrived in Houston, making the Pro Bowl in 2015 after finishing third in receiving yards (1,521) and tied for seventh in TDs (11) while Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden each started at least one game.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Hopkins won't have to worry about that in 2020, barring injury, as he's set to team up with up-and-coming star Kyler Murray in Kliff Kingsbury's high-octane offense. That combination has the potential to be a thorn in the 49ers' side for years to come.

If you agree with where Hopkins stands among the game's best wide receivers, he'll pose a threat to the 49ers this season. Thomas and Jones each carved up the 49ers' dominat defense last season, with both catching 11 or more passes for 134 yards and at least one touchdown. Of the receivers who accrued at least 100 receiving yards in a game against the 49ers, Thomas (13) and Jones (11) had the most receptions.

[RELATED: How Washington jumping gun on Williams benefited 49ers] 

Hopkins will have two chances to replicate his peers' production, and he'll be aided by arguably a better supporting cast of receivers. Larry Fitzgerald caught 75 passes for 804 yards as a 36-year-old last season, while Christian Kirk had 709 receiving yards himself. Fitzgerald has gained more receiving yards (2,381) and scored more touchdowns (19) against the 49ers than any other team in his career, while Kirk has scored two of his six career TDs (in two seasons) against San Francisco.

The All-Pro receiver's swagger alone won't knock the 49ers off their divisional perch, but Hopkins' arrival should keep them -- and their secondary -- up at night preparing for (at least) two games against the Cardinals this season. 

How 49ers' Trent Williams trade benefited from Washington jumping gun

How 49ers' Trent Williams trade benefited from Washington jumping gun

If Trent Williams is fully healthy and plays up to his ability, the 49ers got an absolute steal in only giving up a 2020 fifth-round pick and 2021 third-round selection in last month's trade with Washington. Had he played last season, it's highly unlikely San Francisco would have been able to acquire him for such a low cost.

And, thanks to Washington jumping the gun, he didn't.

Williams joined NFL Media's Ian Rapoport on the "RapSheet and Friends" podcast set to debut Friday and revealed that he was, in fact, prepared to suit up for Washington once he reported to the team after the trade deadline last season. But before his new helmet could arrive, Washington placed him on the reserve/non-football injury list, officially ending his season.

"The competitive juices started to flow, so I was really prepared to make my return last year," Williams told Rapoport. "I know all of the things that had went on and just being in that facility, being around teammates, being around the guys you fought with and bled with for some many years. It was almost impossible for me to fight the urge not to just want to get back on the field. I was literally waiting on my new helmet to come in. I was getting ready to kind of gear up and it was going to be somewhat of a surprise to some, but I think for the people who know me best, they know how competitive I am.

"... I was under the impression my new helmet was coming in that Tuesday, and then I was put on the NFI ... right before I could even get the helmet to get back out there. It was a bummer but figured it was just how it was supposed to work out."

[RELATED: 49ers help Williams by restructuring final year of contract]

It should be noted, Washington saved $6 million by placing Williams on the NFI. Of course, that likely was the final nail in the coffin for their relationship. 

Williams doesn't sound too upset about it. You can be sure the 49ers -- who now have arguably the NFL's best offensive tackle -- aren't either.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]