After coming six minutes short of a Super Bowl title, the 49ers spent all offseason defending quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Sure, they internally discussed bringing in Tom Brady, but Garoppolo was always going to be their guy. The 28-year-old is coming off a solid season that saw him complete 69.1 percent of his passes and finish in the top five in touchdowns (27), completion percentage (69.1) and yards per attempt (8.4) while leading the 49ers to a berth in Super Bowl LIV.
Both coach Kyle Shanahan and Garoppolo have been open and honest about the fact that the quarterback can make a big improvement during the 2020 season. Through the virtual offseason program and early on in training camp, Shanahan already is seeing Garoppolo take the next step and is confident his quarterback can make the necessary improvements in his second full season as a starter.
"Jimmy did some real good things, but he's just getting started," Shanahan said Thursday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks." "And that's why Jimmy's not a finished product. He's almost a second-year quarterback with a lot more mental experience because he's been around the league. But I'm excited for him to go into his second year, especially, last year when he came back, coming back from the ACL, just in training camp and stuff, he worked hard on all the mental stuff. But you can tell what a guy's concern is. When you're coming off an ACL, your concern is, 'Man, can I do this?' That takes a guy a while to get into stuff.
"Me seeing him now, talking to him on Zooms, but really just seeing him throwing with the wideouts on air, and getting into these walk-throughs, you can tell that he wasn't working on his ACL all offseason. He's been working on everything that he learned through his experiences of last season. And when you can do that, I don't see how you won't get better."
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Garoppolo was a little rusty during the first half of the 2019 season. Shanahan has admitted he relied more on the run game to try and ease his quarterback back into the flow after Garoppolo missed almost the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL.
But Garoppolo started to find a flow during the second half of the season, leading the 49ers to come-from-behind wins against the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers didn't ask a lot of Garoppolo in the NFC playoffs, as they used their running game to steamroll the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
Garoppolo had an up-and-down performance in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was efficient during the second and third quarters when the 49ers built their lead, but the late-game overthrow of Emmanuel Sanders is the play that will stick in everyone's mind.
Garoppolo and the 49ers enter the 2020 NFL season with revenge on their mind.
Armed with a loaded roster that is ready to win now, the 49ers are primed to get back to the Super Bowl and finish the job this time around.
If Garoppolo can make the leap Shanahan expects out of him, that could be the final piece in a championship puzzle for the 49ers.