SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sounded like a man who has found himself a long-term home shortly after the 49ers concluded the regular season on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Garoppolo, 26, a four-year NFL veteran, was quickely established as a team leader after his arrival from the New England Patriots at the trade deadline in late-October. Once elevated to the starting lineup, the 49ers did not lose again.
“It was a good match between the 49ers and myself, and myself and the 49ers,” Garoppolo said after the 49ers’ season-concluding fifth consecutive victory, a 34-13 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“I think it was kind of the perfect match and it happened at the right time, and good things are coming from it.”
But during his season-ending chat with reporters in front of his locker at Levi’s Stadium on Monday, Garoppolo again did not say the words that 49ers fans would like to hear from him.
Like sidestepping an oncoming pass rush within the pocket, Garoppolo deftly avoided making any statement about his desire to remain with the 49ers on a multi-year contract.
“I like being here,” Garoppolo said. “I think we had a good thing going at the end of this year. And we’ll see what happens.”
He said he plans to speak to his agent, Don Yee, shortly to begin talking about their offseason approach to the contract talks that are certain to occur.
“We really haven’t even gotten that far, yet,” Garoppolo said. “I’m supposed to talk with him (Yee) in the next couple of days and I’ll get down to L.A., and we’ll figure all that stuff out and go from there, I guess.”
Garoppolo said his contract status has been pushed aside for more pressing concerns – such as learning the 49ers’ offense -- in the nine weeks he's been with the team.
“I really haven’t had a chance to think about it,” Garoppolo said. “I think the season just ended, you know. We have a long ways to go and everything. When we get those conversations started, we’ll go from there.”
Initially, it was apparent Garoppolo’s side had no interest in negotiating a long-term contract with the 49ers upon his arrival on Oct. 31 after the trade in which the 49ers sent the Patriots a second-round draft pick. Garoppolo wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to determine whether the 49ers were a good fit for him.
The organization seems to have passed that initial test, with Garoppolo meshing well inside the locker room with his new teammates. Garoppolo said he was impressed with the team's mindset even while starting the season with no victories through nine games.
“When I first came in, they didn’t have any wins, but it was still a very tight-knit group,” Garoppolo said. “To have that is rare. Especially, when bad things happen, people want to start pointing the finger. But there was none of that in here. Everybody had each other’s back and looking out for each other. It made for a good group.”
In leading the 49ers to a 5-0 record as a starter, Garoppolo completed 67.4 percent of his passes while averaging 308.4 yards passing in his starts. He threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions for a passer rating of 96.2.
“I think you can always play better,” Garoppolo said. “I’m pretty hard on myself with critiquing the film and all of that. There’s obviously room for improvement. I think having time to digest the offense this offseason will really help.
“It was kind of a crash course we were doing these last couple of months, so I think that’ll make things a little slower for me and help me out.”
Garoppolo wore a wristband with the play calls on it. He said it was only there as an insurance policy.
“Fun fact for you guys, I never used it,” Garoppolo said. “But it was there just in case.”
Garoppolo seems to be a good match for Shanahan’s offensive system. If a long-term contract is not agreed upon by March 6, the 49ers will place a one-year franchise tag on Garoppolo at more than $22 million to retain his rights for the 2018 season.
Then, it will be back to work at the beginning of the offseason program to learn the offense from the beginning. What he saw from the system in two months has him excited about the future, he said, even if he will not show his cards about establishing roots in the Bay Area.
“There’s a little bit of everything, honestly,” Garoppolo said. “It’s not just spread offense or a run-heavy offense. We mix in just about everything you could and it keeps the defense on its toes and keeps them guessing. And I really like that.”