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.

Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley's work ethic never was in question during his decade-plus career as the 49ers' starting left tackle, and it appears that determination has continued into retirement.

Staley told ESPN's Emily Caplan in early July that he already has lost 50 pounds since retiring from the NFL in April, and a picture shared on Twitter by Sports Illustrated's Grant Cohn definitely shows the former offensive lineman's body transformation.

[RELATED: 49ers' Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for Super Bowl no-call]

"As an offensive lineman, you're always known as this big, humongous, unathletic blob," Staley said to ESPN. "Offensive linemen get casted in a movie, and they're always 500 pounds. Then you get the opportunity to be healthy again, and all of the effort you used to put into football, you put into that. It gives you a focus once you retire. It's a little bit vain, but I'm starting to see abs that I've always wanted. And it's kind of exciting."

Offensive lineman often must eat an incredible amount of food to maintain the 300-pound frames typically seen across NFL rosters.

Staley seems to be enjoying his retirement.

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

49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

Trent Willams has seen more of what Jerick McKinnon can do on the football field than just about anyone over the last two years.

And when the 49ers’ new left tackle was asked which teammate he was most eager to watch on the field, McKinnon was at the top of the list.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Jet,” Williams told the Bay Area media on a video call. “After two years, the way he’s looked in the offseason, I just can’t fathom him not being a breakout player.”

The 49ers were expecting so much from McKinnon after they signed him on the first day of free agency in 2018, coach Kyle Shanahan had planned to unveil an offense in the regular season that would focus heavily on the running back’s ability as a route-runner and pass-catcher.

But McKinnon sustained a torn ACL one week before the regular-season opener. When the graft from that surgery did not fill in properly, McKinnon lost a second consecutive season. McKinnon accepted a greatly reduced salary this year to remain with the 49ers.

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

Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, saw plenty of McKinnon’s skills during the offseason as he, McKinnon and Deebo Samuel were among those who worked out with star running back Adrian Peterson.

Samuel described those training sessions as the “one of the hardest workouts I’ve been doing since I’ve been playing football.”

McKinnon has been cleared to take part in 49ers practices, which begin Aug. 15. The 49ers’ first padded practice is scheduled for Aug. 17.

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Thrived through the worst of it

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McKinnon figures to be a big part of the 49ers’ offense as a third-down back. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo recently said he is looking forward to seeing McKinnon take what he’s showing in workouts onto the field during the regular season.

“Even just throwing routes on air this offseason, he runs them differently than most running backs and he has a feel that's like a receiver, but he feels space like a quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “It's very unique and I'm excited to get him back, man. It's been a while.”

[RELATEDBosa says benefits of healthy offseason will show on field]

Williams ticked off other areas of the 49ers that have him excited, too. He spoke about tight end George Kittle and every level of the defense, including the “freakish” defensive line.

“I just want to get this team to a game,” said Williams, whom the 49ers acquired in an April trade with Washington. “It feels like college again, when we had three of the top four picks in the draft. I haven’t had this feeling since then.”

In 2013, Williams was one of three Oklahoma players to be chosen in the top four of the NFL draft. He went No. 4 to Washington, following quarterback Sam Bradford (No. 1 to the St. Louis Rams) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (No. 3 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).