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.”
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.”