Matt Maiocco

Hall of Famer Steve Young believes 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo 'will do a great job'

Hall of Famer Steve Young believes 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo 'will do a great job'

Jimmy Garoppolo, 28, had the first 16-start season of his NFL career.

He is three years ahead of Hall of Famer Steve Young, who did not become the full-time 49ers starter until 1992 at 31.

Young, appearing this week at Letters' to 87 Live! for the Golden Heart Foundation, said he believes Garoppolo showed maturity and development over the course of the season. Young believes Garoppolo has what it takes to lead the 49ers into the Super Bowl.

“He’s been remarkable this year because he’s older, but yet this is his first full season,” said Young, whose thoughts about this year’s team are included in the latest episode of the 49ers Insider Podcast.

Young said the 49ers’ support of the quarterback is similar to when he and, before him, Joe Montana were playing the position.

“The feeling, the spirit, the coaching, the expertise, the talent, all of it together, he’s got the help,” Young said. “So that, as he’s learning, he can make mistakes and he can say, ‘OK, I’ve learned that one.’ And I like the fact that I don’t see the same one again.”

The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. The winner advances to the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 2. Garoppolo and his teammates are "locked in," he said.

The 49ers dominant running game grabbled all the headlines out of their 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. But Young was impressed throughout the season that Garoppolo proved he has the ability to lead crucial late-game drives. Garoppolo was credited with four fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.

“When they’ve asked him to raise up and go win it, he did it,” Young said. “Those are hard things to do. That just doesn’t happen. When you see it in the NFL and someone is able to do it, you go, once you’ve done it, you can do it again. You can keep doing it.

“I don’t think Jimmy cares whether he throws one or five touchdowns. He really enjoys the fact that everybody’s in to win it, and that’s that same spirit. When your leaders of your team are all in with you and are not about themselves, and yet still talented enough to go win games and be heroes, I feel like we’re in a great spot.”

[RELATEDFive 49ers to watch vs. Packers: George Kittle takes center stage]

Young believes the 49ers will win Sunday’s game, but he also cautions about how quickly things can go awry. After all, the 49ers’ season will come down to one 60-minute game and approximately eight to 10 offensive and defensive possessions.

“He’s ready to do great things,” Young said. “If something goes wrong, I don’t think it’ll be Jimmy. I think he’ll do a great job.”

So what can go wrong for the 49ers? Young looks across the field and believes it will take something special from a very special player to prevent the 49ers from advancing.

“If Aaron Rodgers is Superman and he puts his cape on and does something only he can do, and if that happens, we’ll tip our cap and we’ll move on,” Young said. “But that’s the only way we’re losing this ball game.”

49ers' Dee Ford hoping for 'better results' in conference title game

49ers' Dee Ford hoping for 'better results' in conference title game

SANTA CLARA -- Defensive end Dee Ford had a feeling about this 49ers team when he joined the offseason program.

He can look back now and see that it should not be a surprise that he is back in a conference championship game for the second season in a row.

“It’s easy to say now, hindsight is 20/20, but I felt something special when I first got here in OTAs,” Ford said on Friday. “Guys worked dffferent. They didn’t work like a team that was coming off a losing season. They worked like a championship team. We worked like a championship team. And I fit right in.”

Ford was on Kansas City a year ago, and the Chiefs advanced to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost at home, 37-31, to the New England Patriots in overtime. He is back, one win from the Super Bowl, this season for the 49ers.

The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium.

“(It’s a) special situation,” Ford said. “I’m blessed. I’m looking forward to better results.”

The Chiefs led the Patriots with a minute to go and looked as if they had a game-clinching interception of Tom Brady. But the play was nullified because Ford was penalized for jumping offside. Two plays later, the Patriots took the lead. Kansas City tied it with a field goal in at the end of regulation.

Ford has a key role this season with the 49ers. He returned to action last week in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. Ford registered a sack as part of a six-sack performance to lead the 49ers to a 27-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings. He played just four snaps over the final six games of the regular season due to a hamstring injury.

He said he feels good entering Sunday’s game against the Packers after feeling some rust in his first game back.

“Just feel of the game,” Ford said. “(The) pass rush was not perfect, there were certain things that technically I wanted to be better at, and we’ll get that done this week.”

The 49ers face major challenge on Sunday against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The effectiveness of the 49ers’ pass rush could determine which team will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

“He’s a legendary quarterback. Future Hall of Famer,” Ford said of Rodgers. “He can make plays any way his team needs him to make. He can execute. He can dial up different schemes, as far as pass concepts to get the ball out of his hands or he can hold the ball and make plays. We have our work cut out for us this week.”

[RELATEDFive 49ers to watch vs. Packers]

The 49ers acquired Ford in a trade with the Chiefs for a second-round draft pick. He made it clear he would love to face his old team in Miami in two weeks.

"That will be fun. That would be a really fun deal,” Ford said. “Nobody is looking forward. They got a really good test in front of them. We got a good test in front of us. We got a lot of work in front of us.”

 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. 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 6:30 p.m.

Five 49ers to watch vs. Packers: George Kittle takes center stage

Five 49ers to watch vs. Packers: George Kittle takes center stage

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers know it is not going to be as easy as it was in Week 12, when they got off to a hot start and never let the Green Bay Packers into the game.

This time, the teams meet in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium.

And the 49ers’ 37-8 Week 12 victory of Nov. 24 is a distant memory.

The 49ers and Packers have 14 wins apiece. In order for the 49ers to pick up another to advance to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, they need to get solid performances from a mix of proven veterans, youngsters and players on the rise.

Here are five 49ers to watch in Sunday's title bout:

5. LT Joe Staley

There were no guarantees Joe Staley would ever be back in this situation. But here he is, just one victory from returning to the Super Bowl. And Staley faces one of the most important head-to-head matchups that will determine who wins Sunday.

The Packers went out in free agency and came away with two edge rushers named Smith who have proven to be handfuls for opposing offensive tackles. Preston Smith lines up on one side. Za’Darius Smith is a force on the other side. Za'Darius Smith, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, has stepped in and given the Packers a presence off the edge.

He registered 13.5 sacks on the season, including 1.5 sacks in the Week 12 meeting against the 49ers. That game was one of nine during the regular season in which Staley was not available due to injuries. The veteran left tackle first fractured his lower leg and later had surgery to repair a fractured finger.

Since his return to the lineup, Staley has been playing like his six-time Pro Bowl self. He will have to be on top of his game Sunday to keep Jimmy Garoppolo comfortable in the pocket.

4. FS Jimmie Ward

While Staley, the longest-tenured 49ers player, certainly has invested a lot to continue his quest to return to a Super Bowl, there might not be a player on the team more deserving of playing on the big stage than Jimmie Ward.

Ward has overcome injury after injury after injury. He has overcome position change after position change after position change.

Finally, Ward has remained healthy for most of the season. Finally, he has a stable position. Ward is playing at a high level, and that will have to continue against an all-time great quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers is not a dink-and-dunk quarterback. He will want to push the ball down the field, and that is where Ward will play a significant role, as his job is to limit pass plays that pick up big chunks of yards. Ward must be on top of his game Sunday.

3. CB Emmanuel Moseley

Coach Kyle Shanahan is not saying whether Emmanuel Moseley or Ahkello Witherspoon is going to start at right cornerback. Moseley seems to be the logical choice after replacing a struggling Witherspoon in each of the past two games.

But if the 49ers go with Witherspoon, again, just scroll up one paragraph and insert his name. That’s because nothing really changes whether it’s Moseley or Witherspoon.

The Packers will look to exploit this matchup with Davante Adams. After all, they do not figure to test Pro Bowl performer Richard Sherman on the other side. Sherman typically does not shadow wide receivers. He stays on one side.

Adams is the Packers' most-dangerous threat in the passing game. He caught eight passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay’s 28-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round.

The key for the 49ers’ pass defense is getting pressure on the quarterback. The secondary will not be able to hold up all day, so it’s imperative for the 49ers that Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead make Rodgers uncomfortable.

2. QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not have to do a whole lot for the 49ers to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs.

On Sunday, the 49ers will need him to do more because it is unlikely the 49ers will dominate on the ground as they did against the Vikings.

Few questions remain about Garoppolo, who has taken every meaningful snap for a team that won the NFC West, earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and rolled in the divisional round to get to the NFC Championship Game.

Now, it’s just a matter of producing on the big stage. And there’s only one venue bigger than Sunday’s game.

[RELATED: Sherman brings Hall-of-Fame credentials to 49ers' Super Bowl run]

1. TE George Kittle

All-Pro tight end George Kittle is the 49ers’ best player. And big games like this are all about great players.

Kittle has a huge impact on the game when the 49ers throw the ball. He has a huge impact on the game when the 49ers run the ball. It does not matter to him, though it seems he enjoys blocking as much as he likes piling up yards after the catch.

Kittle had a quiet game in the divisional round against the Minnesota Vikings. He had just three receptions for 16 yards. But his impact in the 49ers’ run game was quite loud. After a mid-week issue with his ankle, Kittle said he is feeling “fabulous.”

The 49ers will likely need Kittle at the top of his game to take advantage of some mismatches. If he produces big plays and yards after the catch, the 49ers likely will be making travel plans Miami.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday)

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.