When Kyle Shanahan's father, Mike Shanahan, was visiting in December, the San Francisco 49ers head coach felt the elder Shanahan might want some time away from his grandkids. Mike, a former Super Bowl-winning head coach who spent three seasons as the 49ers offensive coordinator in the 90s, jumped at the chance to entrench himself in some football, so Kyle arranged for him to work with his rehabbing quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo was fewer than three months removed from a season-ending ACL injury. He was just three games into the season, his first as a full-time starter, when his year came to a screeching halt. Garoppolo had only started eight games with the 49ers and his third following his first full offseason learning Kyle's offense.

"We all sat around and talked and said, 'Listen, you've got to get your knee and your body right, but we also have to find a way to grow from the neck up this year,'" general manager John Lynch said in January. "He's not a guy who's played a ton of football, so we're going to have to accelerate that growth and experience for him.

"Kyle and the coaching staff did a tremendous job coaching the team, but also, Jimmy is very important to our fortunes moving forward, so they spent a lot of time with him."

The problem was that the team couldn't spend too much time with Garoppolo. Despite already having the playoffs out of reach, it needed to focus on its healthy players and finishing out the season.

This past week, Garoppolo shared with reporters the challenges of trying to grow your mental knowledge of the game while on injured reserve.

"It was tough during the season because they were busy game-planning and stuff like that," Garoppolo said. "But, like I said before, it's been a very productive offseason, whether it was in the film room or out on the field. Even trying new things. Different drops, how your movement is. It's been a very productive offseason."

Having Mike Shanahan around was an added benefit. Garoppolo also discussed what the two worked on during their time together.

"Literally, everything," he said. "We watched our offense, our defense, other teams, teams that played two years ago that he thought a clip could help me. It's applicable in different ways. He's so smart that it was incredible to have that experience and I thank him a lot for that."

While Garoppolo was able to attend team meetings, he also had to fit them around his demanding rehab schedule and could not step on the practice field with his teammates. Mike Shanahan offered Garoppolo a chance to continue growing "from the neck up," as Lynch and the 49ers wanted.

"He's one of the best to ever to do it, obviously," Garoppolo added. "A Hall of Fame guy. He's just incredibly smart. Seeing the game from his point of view is different. He was looking at it differently than a quarterback. It's hard to describe. It's going to help me a lot going forward."

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