Jimmy Garoppolo's success comes scripted and unscripted

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on Tuesday took his first look at the 49ers’ offensive game plan for this week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.

He had some questions.

“I came in and you hear terms for the first time that I’m like ‘What’s that formation?’ They have to explain it to me,” Garoppolo said. “That’s what’s different than the three years prior to this. In New England, you come in and you pretty much know what was going on. It’s becoming more and more routine I guess, getting the new information and kind of the process of breaking it all down now.”

Garoppolo spent his first 3 1/2 seasons with the Patriots before arriving in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 in a trade.

There will be plenty for Garoppolo to learn during the offseason program. But he is slowly gaining more knowledge of Kyle Shanahan’s system after being exposed to seven unique game plans, including the final five of the season that have been tailored specifically for him as the starter.

“I think he gets more of a feel of what we’re doing and we start to get more of a feel of what he’s comfortable with,” Shanahan said. “You start to put a little bit more in of what you’ve had success with and it branches off. If you’ve had success with certain things, you can’t put in the exact same stuff because that’s all teams are practicing.

“You start to do some things off of that, but it’s allowed Jimmy to grow to where, ‘Hey, remember this play versus Chicago and why it worked? We’re going to do something similar to that this week, but this is the adjustment we’re going to make.’ There’s a little more foundation for him.”

While Garoppolo’s ability to carry out a plan has resulted in a vastly improved 49ers offense, it’s his ability to improvise that has perhaps been his most impressive trait. There is only so much preparation that can take place after any given play veers off course, and that's where Garoppolo has excelled.

“The off-schedule stuff, it’s called off-schedule because you can’t really plan for that stuff,” Garoppolo said.

“I think it’s organic,” Shanahan said. “The main thing we stress is guys just to keep working. . . . Never stop and just watch the play. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

“I don’t like practicing a lot or putting in plays that don’t get people open so you have to worry about doing that. We’ve had a number of times in this last month where he’s made some off-schedule plays. And the more it happens, guys start to believe in it and the more guys start working to do it.”

One example in which Garoppolo demonstrated his ability to quickly get on the same unwritten page as a receiver came on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

On a third-and-goal situation from the 5, the Jaguars dropped eight defenders into coverage. Garoppolo could not find anyone open, so he moved out of the pocket and ran to his left, parallel to the line of scrimmage to buy time.

Then, as nickel back Aaron Colvin left his coverage responsibilities to close in on Garoppolo from the front -- and with defensive lineman Calais Campbell pursuing from the side -- Garoppolo snapped a sidearm toss around Colvin to Trent Taylor for the unscripted touchdown.

As much as Garoppolo's ability to get the ball to Taylor was notable, the quarterback gave a great deal of credit to the rookie wideout for finding a way to help Garoppolo find him.

“Just the savviness for him to have as a rookie,” Garoppolo said. “I haven’t seen many guys with it. He did kind of a circle in the end zone and it got him open. The defender froze his feet and he made a tremendous catch. I didn’t really see it, but I saw it on film and that was a great catch.”