“He has that linebacker mentality,” 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan exclaimed during the post-game press conference about quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
His quote was in reference to the one-yard touchdown run where Garoppolo trucked a defender en route to the end zone. Like most anybody watching, I gasped when the veteran signal caller lowered his throwing shoulder into a defender during a preseason game.
For the first time all preseason, it felt like Garoppolo was playing with confidence. Against the Chargers and Chiefs, he looked shaky in the pocket, missed throws high, and seemed skittish under pressure.
Garoppolo finally got to play behind the starting offensive line and had his favorite target in George Kittle back on the field on Sunday. Although the Raiders didn’t suit any of their defensive starters, Garoppolo was decisive, throwing the ball and letting it fly to various parts of the field with confidence.
He finished the game 4-of-7 for 64 yards, including a 24-yarder to Kittle that looked like a play right out of the 2019 49ers’ playbook. While his box score doesn’t tell the whole story, I thought Garoppolo played his best game yet during this preseason, and it might’ve been his best performance since the end of the 2019 season.
Shanahan showed off a preview of his two-quarterback offense, situationally rotating out Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance depending on the down and distance. While it could be easy for the veteran Garoppolo to pout and not want to share snaps with the rookie that’s eventually going to take his job, the former Patriot has done the exact opposite.
The quarterback’s humility and maturity as a leader on the field was on full display when asked about how he handles the whole situation:
“I think that, in and of itself, benefits the team. We had two successful drives with it, scored on both of them. It’s tough for defenses to handle that. And I’ve never been in that situation, but just seeing it firsthand here today, it’s hard on them. So, whatever’s best for the team, I’m here for it. It’s one of those things that whatever’s best for the team, you’ve got to get behind that and be a part of that. And I think that makes you the best player you can be, too. So, it’s all tied together. We’re all in this thing together.”
Garoppolo has embraced the new two-quarterback offense and seemingly raised his level of play on Sunday. That’s the version that the 49ers will need throughout the entire season if they’re going to reach their Super Bowl aspirations.