Jimmy Garoppolo explains why he studies, tips his cap to Aaron Rodgers

Jimmy Garoppolo explains why he studies, tips his cap to Aaron Rodgers

SANTA CLARA -- Quarterbacks don’t play other quarterbacks, despite what pregame NFL hype tends to suggest. It won't be not Rodgers vs. Garoppolo during Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium.

It’s Garoppolo vs. the Packers defense. It’s Rodgers vs. a ferocious 49ers front and sticky secondary.

Opposing signal-callers won’t waste time this week watching tape of each other. That’s not an effective use of limited time.

Garoppolo has found a cause to turn on some Rodgers tape at several other points. After all, it can’t hurt to study one of the greatest to ever do it. And, Garoppolo even compared himself to Rodgers during the 2014 pre-NFL draft process. 

“There’s a lot to like. The way he processes information quickly, the way he can scramble and make throws on the run, it’s really a little bit of everything,” Garoppolo said before Wednesday's 49ers practice. “I enjoy watching his film to prepare and watching it to learn from and see things that he does. It’s just impressive. He does it at such a high level for such a long time now.

"You have to tip your hat to him.”

Garoppolo obviously has seen a ton of Rodgers on tape and on TV, but quickly recalled the first time he saw Rogers in person.

“My first live action was when I was with the Patriots, and we were playing in Green Bay [during the 2014 season],” Garoppolo said. “I remember that him and Jordy [Nelson] had a field day. It was one hell of a game. He’s an awesome guy and a great competitor.”

It was easy to gain respect for Rodgers after that showing. He torched New England during Garoppolo’s rookie year, completing 24-of-38 passes for 368 yards, three touchdowns, no picks and a 112.6 passer rating in a Packers win.

Rodgers won his second MVP award then issuing a master class in quarterbacking against the eventual Super Bowl champion.

[RELATED: Why Rodgers found humor in Sherman's contract victory lap]

That was more than five years ago now. Rodgers is a little older, but a little wiser and just as awesome.

Despite the 49ers dominating the Packers earlier this season, there’s immense respect for Rodgers and his ability to control games.

“He can make a throw in any situation, and that he’s never out of a game,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We were up 23-0 at halftime and he went and made it 23-8 on his first second-half. It’s 23-8 halfway through the third quarter and I still think it’s a close game. That’s because of the quarterback.”

Those concerns are valid while playing someone who has orchestrated 23 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, someone ranked high among the most talented quarterbacks to ever play football. The 49ers beat him once this season.

Can they do it again?

“There’s probably not anyone on the planet who throws better than him,” Shanahan said. “There might be a couple guys you could compare with him, but his arm talent is just unbelievable. His athletic ability is unbelievable. He has always been able to run around and extend plays and make throws from any angle. He’s a very intelligent guy who can get you in the right play. That makes it hard to throw stuff at him that he’s not prepared for.

“Aaron is as good of a player to have ever played this game. He can make every throw. He has a lot of good players around him. There’s a reason he seems to be in [the NFC Championship Game] a lot.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday)

Also tune in 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.

Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'


Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Shanahan answered countless questions about losing to the New England Patriots with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers coach lost again after all the questions, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs. He's grieving all over again and having a more difficult time reconciling this time around. 

“I think this one was harder than the last one,” Shanahan said Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. “The last one was a bigger loss, I mean at the end and stuff. I just thought we were a better team. The hardest thing for me is I thought we were the best team in the NFL.

“And when you really believe that, and I thought it for a while, it wasn’t just like the last couple weeks of the year. In Atlanta, we kind of got hot at the end of the year, so I felt pretty fortunate.”

Shanahan's 2016 Falcons and his 2019 49ers entered the playoffs with a first-round bye.  The difference is that the 49ers started the 2019 season with an 8-0 run, and finished with a 13-3 regular-season record, clinching the No. 1 seed.

The 2016 Falcons, however, had a 5-3 record at the halfway point. Atlanta won its last four straight games to clinch the No. 2 seed, but played two playoff home games only because the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys lost in the divisional round to the Green Bay Packers. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it will be tough]

The 49ers have come a long way under Shanahan. They had a fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl after winning the 10 games the previous two seasons, but it's difficult to focus on the journey following a painful ending. 

“This year I thought we had it,” Shanahan said. “We were the second-worst team in the league last year, and now we got to live with being the second-best, which I’m proud of. But that is harder, because I truly believe it was there for us.” 

NFL rumors: 49ers' DeForest Buckner rejected contract extension last offseason

NFL rumors: 49ers' DeForest Buckner rejected contract extension last offseason

Atop the list of 49ers' offseason priorities sit the prospective contract extensions for tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Both players are entering the final year of their current contracts and rank among the best talents at their respective positions throughout the entire NFL.

San Francisco selected Buckner with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he has served as the keystone of the defensive line ever since. He was a critical part of the 49ers' run to Super Bowl LIV, and the team reportedly tried to lock Buckner down for the foreseeable future before the journey to Miami it even got started.

The Athletic's John Middlekauff reported Monday that San Francisco offered Buckner a lucrative extension last offseason, which he ultimately turned down.

"I was told that last year they made a very aggressive offer to him," Middlekauff said on "The Haberman and Middlekauff Podcast." "We're talking in the $60 million range ... Fletcher Cox, years ago, got $63 [million]. They offered less than that, and he said no."

However, Buckner recently took to Instagram to argue against Middlekauff's report.

"When did we start believing everything on the internet," Buckner commented.

Entering his age-25 season in 2016, Cox signed a six-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Eagles for $63.3 million guaranteed. Buckner will turn 26 in March, and one could argue he was more productive over his first four NFL seasons than Cox was. Yes, Cox forced two more fumbles than Buckner, but the 49ers' standout started six more games, deflected nearly twice as many passes, recovered one more fumble and totaled 6.5 more sacks.

For that reason, combined with inflation and the fact that the salary cap has risen since Cox signed his extension, it wouldn't be surprising if Buckner sought a higher guaranteed total from San Francisco -- and received it. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it'll be tough]

Whether or not he already has turned down such an offer is anyone's guess. But it shouldn't be long before we find out exactly how much is guaranteed on Buckner's next deal.

One thing is certain: It's going to be a lot.