How Jimmy Garoppolo's Patriots tenure will help in 49ers-Vikings game

How Jimmy Garoppolo's Patriots tenure will help in 49ers-Vikings game

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.”

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks is not shy about reaching out to his former NFL team to provide tips on college prospects he knows well.

Hanks, who played eight seasons with the 49ers (1991-98) and won a Super Bowl, is the Senior Associate Commissioner of Conference USA, which consists of 14 football-playing universities.

“We want to make sure and give our young men every opportunity to be viewed by NFL clubs,” Hanks said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “So I tend to call my peer group around the NFL to make sure they’re paying attention to our players.

“Oh, I bug everybody, (including) the 49ers with John Lynch and Martin Mayhew, that whole staff. They do a great job of sourcing talent from Division III all the way up to the (power five). They go to where the good players are, and we have some good players in the conference.”

The 49ers have six players from Conference USA on their roster, including such draft picks as safety Tarvarius Moore (Southern Mississippi), and receivers Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech) and Richie James (Middle Tennessee State).

The 49ers signed quarterback Nick Mullens (Southern Mississippi) as an undrafted rookie in 2017, and he started eight games for the club in 2018.

One of the top prospects from Conference USA this year is Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant, who undoubtedly is on the 49ers’ radar.

The 49ers will be looking to add a tight end in the draft to pair with George Kittle. Bryant was the 2019 Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football.

“He reminds me of Brent Jones,” Hanks said, “a good pass-catching tight end and a willing blocker.”

Hanks also mentioned defensive back Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech. Hanks envisions Robertson overcoming his less-than-ideal size (5-foot-8, 187 pounds) to carve out a 10-year NFL career with a playing style that reminds some of Tyrann Mathieu.

With the restrictions on private workouts and pro days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanks said he believes the college athletes from Conference USA or from any college program who were not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine are at an inherent disadvantage this year.

“Those players are in a bit of a tough spot, in the sense that teams won’t be able to circle back and get on campus and really take a look at them,” Hanks said.

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One Conference USA prospect who might not suffer from not being invited to the combine is Middle Tennessee defensive end Tyshun Render.

New England coach Bill Belichick went to campus in late-February to pace Render through a workout while most of his NFL peers were in Indianapolis for the combine.

“Conference USA has been fortunate,” Hanks said. “We’re a football-playing conference in every sense. We put a lot of resources toward football and NFL clubs understand that they can come get good players.”

LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee State
S Tarvarius Moore, Southern Mississippi
QB Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
RB Jeff Wilson Jr., North Texas

Jerry Rice still holds three major NFL records, but will they ever be broken?


Jerry Rice still holds three major NFL records, but will they ever be broken?

When Jerry Rice retired before the 2005 season, he was the unquestioned greatest receiver in NFL history. Many even viewed him as the greatest player of all time. 

Rice certainly still holds that title for receivers and is in the debate among all players. The question now is, will anyone break Rice's three major receiving records?

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and  NBC Sports' Peter King recently asked that exact question, so it's time for us to do the same.

The former 49ers star -- yes, he also played for the Raiders -- finished his career with the most receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and receiving touchdowns (197) in NFL history. If you include his rushing touchdowns, Rice actually had 207 total TDs. 

Let's start with career receptions, which has a real chance of being broken. It all depends on how long Larry Fitzgerald continues to play. 

Fitzgerald is No. 2 on the all-time list with 1,378, putting him 171 receptions behind Rice. The 36-year-old signed a one-year contract in January to come back for his 17th season with the Arizona Cardinals. He had 75 receptions last season in quarterback Kyler Murray's rookie year last season. 

Fitzgerald actually might be in line for a bigger season this year -- if the NFL even has a season. Murray will be in his second season under coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins could free up Fitzgerald.

If Fitzgerald continues to sign one-year deals with Arizona, there's a real chance he could surpass Rice's record. But that's a big if. Rice should hold onto the record for years to come if Fitzgerald only has another year or two in his tank.

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To no surprise, Fitzgerald is second in career receiving yards but is 5,812 yards behind Rice. Yeah, that's not going to happen. 

Julio Jones, 31, already has 12,125 receiving yards and has averaged 1,347 through his first nine years. Hopkins, 27, has 8,602 yards through seven seasons and has averaged 1,229 receiving yards per year.

For comparison, Rice averaged 1,090 receiving yards but that was over 20 years. If anyone has a chance, however small it might be, it's Julio. Good luck on maintaining that pace for another 10 years.

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And finally, there are the touchdowns. That record isn't going anywhere. Jones has 57 career receiving TDs and Hopkins has 54. Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans have 48. From 1986 to '96, Rice averaged 13.7 receiving touchdowns. He scored nine at 39 years old with the Raiders. 

Rice simply was a machine. A 17-game schedule could help players like Fitzgerald, Jones and Hopkins get within range of Rice, but don't expect the greatest receiver of all time see his records fall.