49ers

George Kittle defends JImmy Garoppolo from Stephen A. Smith criticism

George Kittle defends JImmy Garoppolo from Stephen A. Smith criticism

All season long, Jimmy Garoppolo faced criticism, most of it unwarranted.

As the 49ers racked up the wins, Garoppolo kept on taking arrows. He was seen as the weak link on a team that started 8-0. Even when Garoppolo delivered in the clutch late in the season against the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, he was bashed for being a game-manager.

One of Garoppolo's loudest critics was ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, who locked horns with 49ers tight end George Kittle Tuesday on "First Take," as the People's Tight End went to bat for QB1.

"That's wild," Kittle said when asked about the belief that the 49ers can't win the Super Bowl with Garoppolo. "You guys can say what you want to say about Jimmy G. I think he has like 25 wins as a starter, a Super Bowl a year after his ACL tear, a fantastic leader. He had a pancake in that Vikings game on the linebacker. That was pretty impressive.

"I'm pretty sure he's also the best quarterback on third down all season last year. He makes plays. He gets guys the ball that need them, and he's a fantastic quarterback. He's the reason we got to the Super Bowl. We don't get there without him. You saw what happened. We went 4-12 without him (in 2018), and we go 13-3 with him (in 2019). He's a pretty damn good quarterback, in my opinion."

Smith then chimed in, saying his doubts about Garoppolo are based on the fact that he believes the quarterback wasn't one of the main reasons the 49ers went to the Super Bowl since the team was so loaded with talent.

Kittle wasn't having it.

"How is that his fault? It's not his fault he's on a really good team with good football players and a great head coach," Kittle said. "He got us to the Super Bowl, so that's what I'm saying. It's not his fault he has Nick Bosa, he has five first-round D-linemen, he has Richard Sherman in the secondary. That's not his fault. He goes out there and he performs week in, week out.

"Like I said, leads the league in third-down percentage. He makes throws. He won us two games versus Arizona. He won us the Rams game at the end of the game. He won a shootout with Drew Brees, who, in my opinion, is one of the best quarterbacks to do it. I mean, he shows up every single week.

"Yeah, guys have bad plays," Kittle continued. "I've had my share of bad plays. His are just viewed more because he's a quarterback. He's the franchise quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, so people see that more. And he deals with it. He doesn't shy away from criticism. He goes in, he had a great conversation after the Super Bowl. He was great with the media. He doesn't shy away.

"He's a leader through and through, and he's the leader of this football team."

After knocking off the rust following his ACL surgery, Garoppolo emerged as a dynamic signal-caller who coach Kyle Shanahan could rely on to make clutch plays to win games.

Garoppolo had the keys taken away from him during the 49ers' first two playoffs games, as Shanahan elected to run it down the throats of the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers to punch his team's ticket to Miami.

[RELATED: 49ers' best, worst draft picks in each round]

Under the bright lights of Super Bowl LIV, Garoppolo shook off an early interception and played well in the middle part of the game. But with the title on the line, Garoppolo overthrew a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on what could have been the game-winning touchdown with 1:40 remaining. He was sacked on the ensuing fourth down play and the Chiefs sealed a 31-20 win.

There's no doubt that overthrow and the host of criticism that has been thrown Garoppolo's way will be one of the motivating factors in next season's revenge tour.

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

There currently are 32 NFL franchises, and for the vast majority of us, at no point during our lives will we have any chance of owning one of them.

But, forget reality. What if you were able to purchase a team? Who would you hire as head coach?

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd gave his answer to that question Wednesday, but first established the five criteria by which he would form his list of the top 10 coaches he'd want to lead his franchise. They were:

1. Age does not matter 
2. Easy to work with 
3. The less controversy, the better 
4. Innovative thinker 
5. Relates to players

Based on those criteria, Cowherd landed on 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan as his top choice (h/t 49ers Web Zone).

"I know he has had a couple of Super Bowl moments you don't love," Cowherd explained Wednesday on "The Herd," "but I think San Francisco was right. I think he's intense. I think he has got the lineage from his dad (Mike Shanahan). I think he has a system, but he is nimble enough to manipulate the system and listen to (general manager) John Lynch and others. I think he's obsessively driven, which is probably most of these guys.

"But if I start my franchise today, I get the (experience from his) dad, I get him, I get playoff experience, and I also think he has got a chip on his shoulder because he thinks he should have won that Super Bowl last year. And he thinks he should have won that Atlanta Super Bowl against New England when he was the [offensive coordinator]."

Though the 49ers don't have new owners, they clearly share similar feelings about Shanahan, having just recently signed him to a six-year contract extension. He led San Francisco to a nine-win improvement this past season, and already has made it clear the expectation is to get back to the Super Bowl for a second straight year.

[RELATED: Bryant Young knows 49ers in good hands with Shanahan, Lynch]

Should the 49ers accomplish that goal -- and prove victorious in Super Bowl LV -- what few criticisms there are of Shanahan no longer would be valid.

For reference, here is Cowherd's full list:

1. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 
3. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles 
4. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams 
5. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens 
6. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears 
7. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins 
8. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners 
9. Urban Meyer, formerly Ohio State Buckeyes 
10. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

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

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

The elephant in the room at this point of the 49ers' offseason is the absence of a contract extension for standout tight end George Kittle. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal which will pay him $2.1 million, and is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

After cementing himself as the best tight end in all of football over the last two seasons, Kittle's inevitable extension has long been expected to reset the market at the position. Austin Hooper currently averages the highest annual salary of any tight end after signing a four-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in free agency earlier this offseason.

Estimates for what Kittle could average on his next contract have ranged as high as $20 million per season, but the real number likely is somewhere between there and Hooper's annual rate due to the expected drop in league revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Wednesday that someone "in the know" told him that Kittle ultimately would get a contract extension averaging $13 million per season.

That's a far cry from $20 million, but as Barrows noted, it still would make Kittle the highest-paid tight end by a fairly wide margin. Though Kittle probably is worth more than that, the salary-cap uncertainty caused by COVID-19 likely will rule out the possibility of a market-shattering contract. The unprecedented situation could result in a creative deal.

[RELATED: Report: NFL preseason halved; 49ers-Raiders game remains]

The Athletic's David Lombardi recently suggested that it might make sense for Kittle and the 49ers to come to an agreement on a contract that is partially tied to the size of the salary cap moving forward. 

"The 49ers can offer Kittle a guaranteed base annual salary or signing bonus before using a percentage-of-the-cap scale on top of that to pay him commensurate to cap increases in future years, when the NFL’s revenue outlook should be rosier," Lombardi wrote. "That's just an idea. But since this is uncharted territory, creative contract structures cannot be ruled out -- especially if they help break a potentially problematic impasse."

Creativity aside, if an agreement can't be reached on a contract extension, the 49ers would still have the ability to apply the franchise tag to Kittle -- which would pay him the average of the top five tight-end salaries -- for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That option obviously wouldn't provide Kittle with the long-term security he likely desires, but there's ample motivation on both sides to get a deal done for San Francisco's most indispensable offensive player.

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