Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Shanahan after Garoppolo’s third start: ‘No one gets lucky like this each week’

Mar 2, 2018 at 6:47 AM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan sat down for a discussion with NFL Network's Melissa Stark and Steve Mariucci at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Thursday. Stark asked him about the mentality of the team following the strong finish to last season and the raised expectations for 2018.

"Our team really believed," Shanahan said. "I haven't been on too many teams that haven't been playoff teams to where you go in on a Monday at the end of the year, and no one wants to leave. Everyone's hanging around because we've got a lot of confidence."

Shanahan understands that what happened last year doesn't mean a whole lot going into 2018. It's a new year, and the 49ers will have to start from scratch.

"It won't feel the exact same in April that it felt in January," Shanahan said. "It will be different. But the more you work together, you bring in some new guys, whether it's free agency or the draft picks, and you just start grinding together. That eventually happens, and you get back to work."

Winning five-straight games to end the season almost makes people forget that the team struggled mightily at the start of the season — dropping its first nine games and 10 of its first 11.

"I learned that's the way to get people excited about 6-10 because it seems like we did a lot better because the way we finished," Shanahan said.

A big part of that five-game winning streak to end the season can be attributed to the play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was acquired via a trade with the New England Patriots on October 30, 2017. His play earned him a new five-year contract worth up to $137.5 million, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

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"Everyone wants to talk about the money and stuff but if you believe you have a franchise quarterback, the money, to me, is just what they cost unless you draft one and have him that way for four years or five years," Shanahan said. "Eventually, if you have one of those top-10 guys that everyone is looking for — if you want one, you've got to pay him."

Shanahan knew by Garoppolo's third start that he was a franchise quarterback worth keeping long-term. It was Garoppolo's first home start — a matchup against the Tennessee Titans.

"I knew he was talented like a franchise quarterback, but I personally thought when we got him that it would be impossible for him or for us to come to that conclusion over five games," Shanahan said, "especially where we were at as a team. And him not having any familiarity with the offense, I didn't think there was any way he could go in and show that.

"But each game he got better and better. Versus Houston, he started out slow. That was his second game. But the way he played for the next three quarters, and then he followed that into Tennessee — and it was really after the Tennessee game that you realize, 'Alright, no one gets lucky like this each week.' This is who he is, and we're very excited to work with him."

Mariucci wanted to know about the decision process on when to start Garoppolo. Shanahan had no intention of playing Garoppolo until he felt he was ready.

Following the acquisition, then-rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard went on to start three more games for the 49ers. It wasn't until an injury to Beathard that Garoppolo was forced to play — ready or not. Once on the field, he looked ready and was named the starter for the remainder of the season.

"C.J., we thought, was playing very well and we threw C.J. in some positions he wasn't ready for," Shanahan said. "But he got thrown into it, and he had to. We're excited how C.J. played ... The ideal time to put Jimmy in was after the bye week, but we had just won our first game of the year the week before that. C.J. played his best game of the year, and I wasn't going to come back from the bye week and change that so we were going to see how it kept going.

"And then as a team, we played really bad the next week. We were 1-10 at the time. Even though we didn't feel Jimmy was quite ready to be put in there, it was time to see. The team wanted to see. I know our fans did. Everyone wanted to see, and it was time.

"I was nervous for him because I knew he wasn't totally ready. He knew it, but he was up for the challenge. He went in, enjoyed it, and got better each week."

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