SANTA CLARA -- Jimmy Garoppolo’s lack of postseason experience has been a hot topic this week, though saying the 49ers quarterback has none is a bit misleading.
Sure, Saturday’s NFC divisional-round clash with Minnesota will be Garoppolo's first time quarterbacking a playoff game. It is not, however, his maiden voyage into the postseason.
He has two Super Bowl rings to prove it.
Garoppolo was Tom Brady’s backup from 2014-16, a three-year span where the New England won the championship twice. He has seen firsthand how the great quarterback navigated the practice weeks and games themselves. There’s no better example of how to handle the spotlight and perform under pressure than Tom Terrific.
While that won’t replicate the experience of calling signals and making throws, Garoppolo enters Saturday with a greater understanding than most in his position.
“I think that's one of the bigger things, Jimmy just going and being able to go to those Super Bowls, watch those playoff games, being able to go through the whole process and stuff,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You do see all the extra outside stuff that does come with it. You're not overwhelmed by it at all.
“Jimmy knows exactly what's going to happen before it happens because he's been through it at New England. I do think that's an advantage for players and for coaches just because you know what's ahead and so it doesn't surprise you. It's pretty easy to just stay the course.”
Garoppolo understands the intensity rachets up from here on out and that Saturday’s atmosphere will be electric. He also knows that pressure’s on after exchanging a clipboard for a helmet as the 49ers starter charged with leading the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
“Obviously being the starter and backup is a little different,” Garoppolo said. “I'm trying to prepare the same I have this whole season, treat this week, just go through my routine and everything like that like I normally do. Yeah, like I said before, the energy I think, especially on Saturday in that stadium, will be pretty special.”
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While the 49ers postseason technically starts on Saturday, Shanahan believes Garoppolo played his first postseason game back in Week 17. That game in Seattle was a high-stakes with the NFC West title and a first-round bye on the line. The game was tight to the dramatic end, with Garoppolo able to perform well in an environment similar to what he’ll experience on Saturday. That's how Shanahan knows his quarterback will be poised and ready.
“I forget that the Seattle game wasn’t a playoff game, because it sure felt like one,” Shanahan told Matt Maiocco on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “…I almost felt like we’ve been in the playoffs for about six weeks in a row. I feel like our team is battle tested. I feel like Jimmy has been battle tested.
“He has been around a lot of big-time situations in New England and here he has been in some big-time games. With his personality and make-up, I feel pretty confident Jimmy’s going to have one hell of a game regardless of what happens. It has nothing to do with this being a playoff game.”