SANTA CLARA -- Heading into Week 12, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has now started in as many games post ACL surgery as he did prior to it.
Garoppolo has clearly had his ups and downs, but coach Kyle Shanahan believes in certain areas his quarterback is ahead of schedule in his progress. Garoppolo has completed 68.8 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions giving him a 97.7 rating over 10 games.
“I knew it would start out slow for him this year like it goes for everyone coming off an ACL,” Shanahan said. “Especially for a guy, who in my opinion, was almost a rookie. I know he played less than rookie quarterbacks the year before, guys like Baker [Mayfield] and stuff.
“So he hadn’t played much, and then he came off an ACL, so I’d be worried for anyone in that situation. I think Jimmy has exceeded some expectations sometimes, but I still think he’s playing well and can still get a lot better.”
At the beginning of the season, the 49ers didn’t need to rely on the efficiency of Garoppolo to win games boasting the top producing run game in the league. Now that opposing defenses have keyed in on stopping the likes of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, more responsibility has fallen onto the shoulders of the man under center.
Garoppolo has made outstanding no-look plays like the throw to Jeff Wilson for the game-winning touchdown facing the Cardinals. He threaded the needle between two defenders for Kendrick Bourne’s score in the same game. But while not all of the interceptions have been entirely his fault, there have been a few that he’d definitely like to have back.
Like his receivers, Garoppolo has bounced back from those mistakes and Shanahan sees that as an important quality in a quarterback. With the same mentality as in the locker room, Shanahan took some responsibility for the errors. He also knows that if there is no risk, there is no reward.
“It’s nice when they do make a lot of plays and do some good stuff,” Shanahan said. “But some bad plays do come with that and I understand that and I think Jimmy will get better in that area. I think he does continue to get better in that area and I also think that we could make it easier on him based on the type of game we call and how good we do around him.
“But that’s part of football. It’s very rare that you just come out and throw a ton of touchdowns and no picks, but I do like that Jimmy doesn’t seem to be affected by it that he doesn’t go into a shell he still gives us a chance to win. And the more that he can keep playing the way he is without doing those turnovers, how much harder he will be to stop.”
Garoppolo has appeared much more comfortable in the pocket, not shying away from defenders coming towards his lower body which he seemed to do in the preseason. He has made impressive throws with defenders in his face and has not shied away from contact.
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Shanahan doesn’t believe that Garoppolo needs to take hits to prove his toughness but sees what he has been able to accomplish as a rare quality.
“I think it takes very special guys to hang in there with the toughness that you got to have and still be able to make decisions, and still have an elite arm, and still be able to read everything and process it, and that’s why I don’t think there’s 32 on the planet. I think there’s less than that.”