How Jimmy Garoppolo's calm consistency helps 49ers in NFL playoffs

How Jimmy Garoppolo's calm consistency helps 49ers in NFL playoffs

SANTA CLARA -- Rain or shine, preseason or playoffs, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo consistently is the same person. 

It’s not because Garoppolo doesn’t feel the pressure or know how much the game means, it’s just who he is. You simply won’t see him yelling at a coach or at players on the sidelines after a botched play or a turnover. 

Instead, Garoppolo will be pumping everyone up for their next opportunity to get on the field. Coach Kyle Shanahan knows how important that is for the mental state of his team as they head into Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. 

“I think it's huge,” Shanahan said this week. “I think that's why our guys follow him in any instance. If Jimmy's struggling or if he's balling, our guys would do anything for Jimmy. That's how he's been since the first day he got here when we traded for him from New England.” 

Win or lose, Garoppolo seems unflappable. That was the case when he arrived from the New England Patriots in a Halloween 2017 trade, and it still is. 

“He got here and we were an 0-9 team, didn't know much what was going on,” Shanahan said. “They just gravitated to him right away. And I've seen nothing change. I've only seen it get stronger.”

Backup QB C.J. Beathard has worked closely with Garoppolo since his arrival, and he appreciates Garoppolo's calm demeanor as the 49ers head into their biggest game of the season. 

“Just the way he carries himself all day,” Beathard said. “I think that if you go into it with the mentality that, ‘Oh we have to do extra work this week, we have to do more’ — you want to just keep doing what you’ve been doing. What we’ve been doing is working, staying on top of it.”

Rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel has grown into one of Garoppolo's preferred playmakers. Only tight end George Kittle had more targets (107) than Samuel (81) in the regular season, but the 24-year-old also led the 49ers with nine drops.

Samuel didn't hear anything from Garoppolo, though. Garoppolo has never gotten frustrated or lost his cool with the receiver over the inevitable mistakes that come with being a rookie.

Or anyone else, for that matter. 

“Jimmy has been the same to me in and out the huddle,” Samuel said. “He’s just really the leader. I never seen Jimmy upset. He’s just an energetic guy because he’s the leader of the offense. Because if you see a quarterback like that, it’s going to rub off on everybody else. So I just feel like he brings great energy to the team. One of the leaders out here. 

“I’ve seen a good bit of people just slamming helmets. I’ve never seen Jimmy do that. We come off a quick three and out and you see Jimmy on the sidelines ‘Come on, guys, let’s get ready for the next drive the next play.’ That’s really just a really good boost for the team.” 

[RELATED: Why Young believes Jimmy G will do 'great job' vs. Packers]

Approaching this week just as they have in every other this season, the 49ers kept their practice schedule and plan the same as they prepared to host the Packers. Garoppolo’s mentality and behavior followed suit. 

“There’s no secret sauce that you can take to win in playoff games.” Beathard said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. Jimmy’s handled himself really well all week. He’s shown a lot of poise and leadership throughout the week not that he doesn’t very week, but you can just tell. 

“He’s the same. It’s not like the playoffs are here he’s changed. He’s the same guy every day.” 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers


How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

The New England Patriots' ideal Tom Brady successor is the franchise quarterback for Brady's childhood team.

The Patriots dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick in 2017, to coach Bill Belichick's reported chagrin. He envisioned Garoppolo leading the Patriots into another decade of dominance, but owner Robert Kraft ordered Belichick to trade Garoppolo and keep Brady, ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported in 2018.

Neither Brady nor Garoppolo will be in New England when the 2020 season starts, as the former signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (that's still weird to type and say out loud) as a free agent last month. The Patriots' QB depth chart currently consists of Jarrett Stidham and former 49er Brian Hoyer, which doesn't exactly inspire dynasty-building confidence.

That left NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry to wonder if the Patriots would've been better off trading Garoppolo sooner, when then-Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson stopped just shy of holding a neon sign over his head indicating he would trade the No. 12 pick before that year's draft for Garoppolo.

"On its face, making that move made sense for both sides," Perry wrote Friday. "The Browns were desperate for a competent quarterback. They were flush with picks. The Patriots, meanwhile, didn't have a first or a second-rounder that spring. For them, trading Garoppolo with a year left on his contract represented an opportunity to bolster their 2017 rookie haul with a top-15 talent."

The ripple effects, as Perry noted would've been far-reaching.

Jackson would've had his quarterback of the future, and thus the Browns might not have drafted Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall -- or even had the pick -- in 2018. The 49ers, who Kyle Shanahan admitted were focused enough on acquiring Kirk Cousins as a free agent in 2018 that they passed on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, then likely would've gone all-in on Cousins. The Patriots, then, could've drafted Deshaun Watson at No. 12 overall -- the same pick the Houston Texans used after acquiring it from the Browns -- as Brady's successor.

Thankfully for fans sick of New England winning titles, that didn't happen. It's also fair to wonder if any of the teams involved other than the Patriots actually were better off.

Acquiring Garoppolo could've saved Jackson's job in the short-term, but the Browns didn't become a team who failed to meet lofty expectations until after Jackson's firing. The 49ers, had they signed Cousins to the same contract he signed with the Vikings in 2018, would've had more flexibility in the first season but less in the second when compared to Garoppolo's extension. Neither Cousins nor Garoppolo is a clear upgrade over the other, and it's not like you can guarantee Cousins wouldn't have torn his ACL in 2018, either.

[RELATED: Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Hanks at all]

The Patriots can (and surely will) kick themselves all they want for not maximizing Garoppolo's trade return, but the Browns might not view a hypothetical Garoppolo deal with the same regret since that still would've meant not picking Watson.

The 49ers, assuming they still signed Cousins, surely would've been happy either way.

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

Tight end George Kittle already is the 49ers’ best fifth-round draft pick since 1991.

Kittle has picked up two Pro Bowl selections and a First-Team All-Pro award in his first three NFL seasons. The 49ers have not experienced that kind of success from a player in the fifth round since the selection of defensive back Merton Hanks, a four-time Pro Bowl player and starter on the 49ers’ Super Bowl champion team in the 1994 season.

Kittle, like Hanks, played college ball at Iowa.

“I think that’s a great symmetry,” Hanks said this week on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“The 49ers do pretty well with fifth-round draft picks from the University of Iowa. We tend to knock it out of the park a little bit there.”

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Hanks, who now works as senior associate commissioner of Conference USA, described himself as a first-round talent who fell in the draft due to a bad performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He apparently scared teams with his reported time of 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Kittle had an impressive combine. He had all the measurables, but he did not post great numbers as a pass-catcher during his four-year college career. In 25 games over four seasons, Kittle caught just 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his first 45 regular-season games with the 49ers, Kittle has 216 catches for 2,945 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I can’t say I’m surprised at all,” said Hanks, who referred to Iowa as “Tight Ends U."

[RELATED: How ex-49er Merton Hanks channeled 'Sesame Street' in iconic dance]

Iowa produced two tight ends in the first round of the 2019 draft: T.J. Hockenson, chosen No. 8 overall by the Detroit Lions, and Noah Fant, whom the Denver Broncos picked at No. 20.

“Coach (Kirk) Ferentz had NFL ties," Hanks added. "He understands the NFL game and what tight ends have to do to be successful, not only on the collegiate level, but the NFL level.”