Kyle Shanahan has heard the questions and the criticisms of his quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers had the option of swapping out Garoppolo for Tom Brady in the offseason and chose not to, believing the 28-year-old signal-caller gave them the best shot to win a Super Bowl both this coming season and in the foreseeable future.
Garoppolo was solid in 2019, his first full season as a starter in the NFL. It took him a while to shake off the rust following his torn ACL, but he came on during the second half of the season and finished 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.
Shanahan believes in Garoppolo, but the 49ers coach has been honest that his quarterback must get better if the 49ers are to reach their ceiling in 2020. His message to Garoppolo ahead of the 2020 season is a simple one.
"That you're just getting started," Shanahan told NBC Sports' Chris Simms on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. "Last year was your first year playing quarterback for a full season. You've never had longer than a three-game stretch. Last year, you got 16 and look how good you did. Look how far we got and 'Oh my god, we almost got all the way.' But that's not the finished product. That's how I feel about myself, that's how I feel about everything, that's how I feel about our team. Like guys, we didn't just get there, we are still going and you have to get better. What I like about our team is when I'm talking about Jimmy, how could he not get better? He's played one season, and that's just the starting point.
"What's really cool when I look at our team, and I'm not making stuff up, is no one is at their peak. Guys should get better. Our guys can get better, our receivers can, our D-line can, our quarterback can. We got guys who can get better. With Jimmy, I know everyone thinks he's been in the league so long because he's gotten a second contract and everything, but quarterbacks with his ability, they get better the more they play and the more situations they are in. That's the key for Jimmy is just to know that and keep doing it."
The 49ers enter the 2020 season with revenge on their mind after blowing a 10-point lead with six minutes to play in Super Bowl LIV. Shanahan's club returns 10 of 11 starters on defense and eight of 11 on offense. The 49ers replaced the recently-retired Joe Staley with seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, and filled the holes left by DeForest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders by drafting Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk.
While the NFC is loaded with Super Bowl competitors, the 49ers are seen by many as the favorites to represent the conference in Tampa Bay.
But that will hinge on Garoppolo and how he improves off a good 2019 season. The turnovers have to come down for the 49ers' offense to reach its peak in 2020.
Garoppolo and Shanahan have spent an offseason listening to critics say he's not a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, and how the 49ers should have jumped at the chance to sign Brady.
Shanahan stuck with his guy. Now, it's time to prove everyone wrong.
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