After four years together, Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo know each other well enough to not have to beat around the bush.
Much has been made about the relationship between the 49ers coach and quarterback, especially in the wake of Shanahan's decision to draft rookie quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While Shanahan has entrusted Garoppolo with his team this season, he has never felt the need to go out of his way to prop up the veteran quarterback.
"I give soft compliments a lot," Shanahan said Sunday after the 49ers' 31-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium. "Jimmy and I see each other every day, so it's not like, ‘Hey, things have been weird for five days. I have to go tell you that I think you're playing pretty good.’ He doesn't need that, and most of our guys don't. We see each other each day, we're in meetings together, we're on film. Every time he runs a play, I tell him the play, so we're pretty close in that way. He does pretty good with my soft compliments."
Garoppolo understands Shanahan's coaching style and is well-versed in how his head coach likes to teach and motivate his players.
"Well, they are far and few between, not only me, just everyone," Garoppolo said of Shanahan's "soft compliments." "That's how Kyle is, and you like that in a coach. Pushes you. We all want to be perfect, and we're all trying to be perfect, and when you have a guy like that pushing you like that, it helps."
Lance's arrival could have rocked the boat, but Garoppolo's confidence has never wavered, and it's clear his coaches and teammates have the utmost belief in him.
Early in the season, Garoppolo knew Lance could be brought in for short-yardage and red-zone situations. However, Lance has not taken a meaningful snap since the 49ers' Week 6 bye. Garoppolo didn't need Shanahan to tell him the offense was all his, he could tell a shift happened based on how the 49ers' offense was preparing.
"You get a feeling, though, just throughout the week," Garoppolo said when asked if Shanahan told him the two-quarterback system was done. "Yeah. Our offense has changed a lot since the beginning of the season —run game, pass game, everything has. That's what good offenses do. That's what good teams do. You adapt as the season goes. Guys come in and out. Just, I don't know, coaches do a good job of putting us in position, and guys go make plays."
Garoppolo has been red-hot over the past eight weeks, posting eight straight games with a QBR over 90 and leading the 49ers to a 6-2 record over that span. With three weeks left in the regular season, Garoppolo has the 49ers sitting in sixth place in the NFC and a virtual lock for a postseason spot.
To Shanahan, he has been the same old Garoppolo. The 49ers have just improved around him.
"Jimmy hasn't been much different to me all year," Shanahan said Sunday. "I think we've gotten better around him throughout the year. I think we've gotten more continuity on the offense. I think that we've, with the skill positions and tight ends, they've gotten healthier and been out there more consistently than they were at the beginning of the year. When you get to string weeks together from a quarterback and some of the guys you're throwing to, I think you usually improve, and you just get more consistent.
"I think that's what we have struggled with, is consistency. Guys getting a little better health and then us just committing to the run a lot better than we did at the beginning of the year and getting more results out of that, to me, helps everybody on offense."