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Kyle Shanahan evaluates 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his importance to free agency

Mar 1, 2018 at 9:58 AM--

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Head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew a lot about quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo when he stepped onto the Santa Clara-based practice field for the first time following a trade that sent him from the New England Patriots to the San Francisco 49ers. He studied him extensively preparing for the 2014 draft while in Cleveland. Shanahan studied him again while evaluating quarterback film with general manager John Lynch after the two were hired last offseason.

While Shanahan knew a lot about Garoppolo following the acquisition, that wasn't necessarily the case for all of the players who were already on the 49ers roster. While many knew what Garoppolo had done during his limited playing time in New England, they had not yet experienced that first hand.

"Players don't always study guys coming out of college, so they don't know exactly (about their skillset)," Shanahan told reporters on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "And they see him on the field, and I think everyone could see his arm talent right away. There was a lot of buzz about that right when we got him.

And his personality, I think everyone gravitated to. I think our team started to get better in that month even before he started playing. We got our first win in a couple of weeks before his start. Once he got in, I think everyone knows he played very well and the team started to get better each week after that."

Shanahan explained why it took so long to play Garoppolo. The team was not playing well up to that point, and we did not want to put the quarterback, who was still cramming to learn Shanahan's system, into a bad situation.

"When you bring in a guy who's never had the time to learn what you're doing, it's a tough position just to throw him out on an NFL field," Shanahan said. "We were trying to wait as long as possible, and I think we waited long enough."

RELATED At the Combine: John Lynch says having Garoppolo signed before free agency is a 'huge bonus' for 49ers

Garoppolo entered the end of a Week 12 contest against the Seattle Seahawks in relief of an injured C.J. Beathard. He went on to take over the 49ers' starting quarterback job over the next five games, which were all victories.

Last season, Garoppolo completed 120 of his 178 pass attempts for 1,560 yards, seven touchdowns, five interceptions, a passer rating of 96.2, and a rushing touchdown during his five starts and six game appearances with the 49ers. It was a performance impressive enough to earn the quarterback a new five-year contract worth up to $137.5 million, which he signed on February 8.

"We were hoping that we'd have our quarterback by our second year, so I think it's gone as planned," Shanahan said. "You'd like to get it the first day you get somewhere, but that's not as easy as everyone might think it is. But we got him, and we feel great. I think it's nice going into free agency and the draft that we feel pretty good about our quarterback room."

Shanahan also offered an evaluation of his new franchise quarterback and how he might deal with adversity in the future.

"I think he's an extremely talented thrower," he said. "I think he's got a great feel in the pocket with his balance and when to get rid of the ball. I think his mentality, just the way his teammates gravitate to him. There's no doubt he's going to face a lot of adversity. All of the good ones do. Every quarterback in the world does, and it's how you respond to that.

"Jimmy hasn't had to go through that yet because he hasn't had a lot of playing time. Every time he has played, I keep waiting for it to happen and he ends up playing pretty good. I know it's a matter of time and it will happen. Hopefully, not right away but I know it will. We'll respond to it and see how he adjusts and keep getting better through it."

Securing Garoppolo for the long-term will help the 49ers in free agency, according to Shanahan. He won't field so many questions on who the team's quarterback will be.

"I don't have to always say, 'We'll have one. I promise. Just, I can't tell you. Just wait, we'll see,'" Shanahan said. "That makes it easier. I think it makes it more attractive a little bit. Just some people can see where we're going and what our situation is. Now you can just focus on getting better at the position.

"But I think it eases everyone because everyone wants to know who your quarterback is and I think it's pretty obvious on our team."


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