SANTA CLARA -- Fullback Kyle Juszczyk knew he wanted to leave nothing left unsaid last week before the 49ers’ regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams.
After all, there stood a chance the 49ers would not be advancing to the postseason, and Juszczyk did not want to see the moment slip past him without saying something to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
He wanted to verbalize the part that has gone unspoken for most of the season.
“I’d been thinking about it all week and I didn’t know when was the right time to say something to him,” Juszczyk said Friday before the 49ers departed for their first-round NFC playoff game to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, he’s been my quarterback for five years. And I just wanted to let him know that I appreciated him, and (through) all the ups and downs that we’ve had, he’s been such a pro and such a friend and a great teammate through the whole thing.”
The 49ers decided with their trade up to No. 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft that Garoppolo would be the quarterback for only a finite period of time.
Juszczyk acknowledged the belief Garoppolo will be playing for another team next season as the club opens the door for Trey Lance to take over.
Beginning in Week 18 against the Rams, the 49ers knew their next loss would close the door on the season — and, likely, Garoppolo’s time with the organization.
“I’ve been particularly more aware of it recently, the past couple of weeks,” Juszczyk said. “Just because at this point, any week could be our last week.”
Garoppolo had at least one more shining moment to deliver. The 49ers rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Rams in overtime and earn a trip to the playoffs.
The 49ers forced overtime when Garoppolo led the team on a five-play, 88-yard touchdown drive after taking over with just 1:27 remaining in regulation.
Said Juszczyk, “When he hit Deebo (Samuel) down the side for that big play to put us in position to score, even just weird moments like that, I’m like, ‘Wow, look at Jim just stepping up to the plate when his back is against the wall in what could be his last pass as a Niner and he freakin’ delivers.’ I’m just proud to see what he’s been doing.”
Juszczyk said there has not been awkwardness this season with Garoppolo continuing on as the 49ers’ starter while his heir apparent is learning from the backseat.
“Both of them have driven each other to play at such a higher level,” Juszczyk said. “But as far as the personal side of it, I feel like we don’t talk about it too much. There have been times when we’ve dove into it a little bit, but we never take it really too far, just I think because we don’t want to all get emotional because we’ve all been playing together for so long.
“We all mean so much to each other that I think we’ve avoided the topic a little bit.”
The 49ers made it to the playoffs in both seasons Garoppolo remained healthy for the majority of the games. The 49ers open the postseason this weekend and the spotlight will again be on Garoppolo.
“This is the season we’re in right now,” Juszczyk said. “Jimmy is our quarterback right now, and we’re trying to win a Super Bowl with Jimmy. And we don’t know what the future holds in front of us, but him playing well will benefit and bode for us and himself, personally.”