In Sunday's NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will line up opposite a QB he compared himself to leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.
Before the New England Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the third round (No. 62 overall), NBC Sports Chicago asked the Eastern Illinois product which NFL signal-caller his game most resembled. His answer was Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who will lead the Pack into Santa Clara with a spot in Super Bowl LIV on the line Sunday.
"I like to think that I'm pretty close in comparison to Aaron Rodgers," Garoppolo told NBC Sports Chicago at the time. "He's a very athletic, just get-the-ball-out-quickly type of quarterback. He's very knowledgeable of the game, controls the offense totally and that's something that I try to do. Just know the offense inside and out, and if you're able to do that as a quarterback, it makes your team that much better."
Garoppolo's early career followed a similar narrative to Rodgers as he, too, was drafted to succeed a legendary quarterback. Neither player became an unquestioned starter until their fourth NFL seasons, but that marked a point of demarcation.
Whereas Rodgers backed up and ultimately replaced longtime Packers quarterback Brett Favre, Garoppolo backed up Tom Brady before the Patriots traded him to the 49ers ahead of the 2017 trade deadline. Garoppolo will make his 28th career start Sunday, and his second in the postseason. Rodgers' second playoff start, on the other hand, was his 49th in the regular season and postseason.
Garoppolo's win-loss record through 27 career starts (22-5) is much better than Rodgers' was (13-14). Their production after 27 starts, however, is strikingly similar.
That's not to say Garoppolo is destined to follow Rodgers down the path to eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 49ers' record with Garoppolo over the last three seasons suggests he's surrounded by far more talent than Rodgers was in his first full seasons as the Packers' starter, and the NFL has only become friendlier to quarterbacks in the time between Rodgers' 27th career start in 2009 and Garoppolo's in 2020.
Still, Garoppolo will try to follow Rodgers in one more respect Sunday. Rodgers made his first -- and only -- Super Bowl appearance in his sixth NFL season and Garoppolo is hoping to extend his sixth campaign with a win over the Packers.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday)
Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 5:30 p.m.