Kyle Shanahan has never publicly said a bad word about Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo is not a bad player. The record speaks for itself. The 49ers won a lot more games with Garoppolo at quarterback since his arrival in 2017 than anyone else who lined up at quarterback.
But it was easy to sense Shanahan never was completely satisfied with Garoppolo’s play. His body language on the sideline spoke to the frustration he felt with his quarterback.
Garoppolo was never automatic. That’s what Shanahan wants. He wants a quarterback who makes the plays that Shanahan draws up.
That’s why I believe Shanahan likes Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
Justin Fields of Ohio State and Trey Lance of North Dakota State are exceptional athletes who can make plays in a variety of ways. They are the popular choices. They are exciting performers.
But do they give Shanahan what he most values in a quarterback?
Jones is not eye-popping. And that is just fine.
Shanahan has immense confidence in his ability to create plays that stress the rules of the defense. He wants a quarterback who sees it clearly and delivers it accurately.
He does not want a quarterback whose instinct is to take off running when he does not immediately see someone open.
Garoppolo has been a source of frustration for Shanahan because he often was a tick slow to deliver the ball. His anticipation skills are not up to Shanahan’s satisfaction. Jones had only 17 college starts, but he demonstrated a keen knowledge of Alabama’s pro-style offense with his timing to pull the trigger on throws to soon-to-be-open receivers.
It is not wrong to think that Jones was blessed with better teammates than most anyone else in college football. He was throwing to two first-round draft picks in Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
But Smith and Waddle also were gifted with a quarterback who rarely made them break stride en route to the end zone.
Former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the No. 5 overall pick last year. Smith did not hesitate when an NFL team asked him at the Senior Bowl which quarterback he preferred, Albert Breer of the MMQB recently reported. And Waddle went public with his preference for Jones during an interview on the NFL Network.
It is nice to have quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson or Josh Allen. Their teams have the best of both worlds -- quarterbacks who can sit in the pocket and deliver accurate passes while also being able to bust out of the pocket and scramble for big yards.
And while there is no doubt Fields and Lance have immense upside with their ability to make plays out of the pocket, they also subject themselves to more risks because of their running skills.
My belief is that Shanahan does not want to take on additional risks. He wants a quarterback who executes the plan.
And Shanahan’s plan never calls for the quarterback to bust out of the pocket and run with the ball.