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How Kyle Shanahan Can Help Jimmy Garoppolo Reach His Ceiling

Former NFL wide receiver Andrew Hawkins had one of the more intriguing tweets during the final weeks of the regular season. Hawkins is a close friend and past teammate of New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown. As Hawkins puts it, the two have future aspirations to work together as a GM (Hawkins) and head coach (McCown), which leads to them "just talking ball" quite frequently.

More than a year ago, the conversation focused on Jimmy Garoppolo, which led to this head-turning quote from McCown.

"If you don't trust anything from me ever again," Hawkins recalled McCown's words in the tweet. "Do yourself a favor and go watch film on Jimmy Garoppolo, because that dude is gonna be the next star QB in this league."

Those are bold words from McCown, who is a respected NFL veteran in his own right.

Hawkins is privy to the entire spectrum of quarterback play as well. He was a part of the Cleveland Browns quarterback carousel for three seasons from 2014-16. Hawkins then spent the 2017 offseason with the New England Patriots, where he practiced with Tom Brady and the aforementioned Garoppolo.

It didn't take long for Hawkins to view Garoppolo through the same lens as McCown, even while playing side-by-side with Brady.

"Tom Brady probably misses one throw every three practices, which is ridiculous, right?" Hawkins began. "I've gone through practices in Cleveland where guys wouldn't hit a throw in three practices. And then there's Jimmy, and Jimmy misses a throw maybe once every 2.5 practices, which is also crazy. So I'm watching this kid … and he studies so much. He's constantly talking ball. He's talking me through routes. He understood the offense so intently."

Garoppolo exuded the "it" factor. Hawkins was working hard to learn the playbook, and Garoppolo did his best to put the receiver in positions to be successful. He explained that the goal was to take advantage of Hawkins' skill set, not the other way around.

"That's when you know you have a quarterback who is confident in his abilities," Hawkins said. "You have guys who say, 'No, I need it my way. I need everything to be perfect around me because I don't want you to make me look bad.' Then there are guys who work so hard and understand the game so well, and have such a skill set, that they make it easier for everyone around them.

"It's similar to how Kyle (Shanahan) is as a coach, you're so confident in your ability that you say, 'Listen, this is what suits you well, so I'm going to take what I do to fit you, just so that we can be successful.' That's who Jimmy Garoppolo was, and that's what you saw down the stretch with the 49ers."

Needless to say, Hawkins wasn't surprised by Garoppolo's emergence as a budding NFL superstar at the end of the 2017 season. Following a deadline deal to San Francisco, Garoppolo led the 49ers to a 5-0 record down the stretch. The quarterback threw for 1,560 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions while completely shifting the national outlook of the 49ers franchise. Just as Garoppolo did with Hawkins in New England, he made his teammates around him better and showed complete control of the offense.

Give Garoppolo a full offseason to work with San Francisco's offensive mastermind of a head coach and the potential is scary.

"I have a philosophy about Shanahan's offense," Hawkins said. "It makes bad quarterbacks look decent. It makes decent quarterbacks look good. It makes good quarterbacks look great. It makes great quarterbacks the MVP. Jimmy and Kyle are the perfect match."

Most knew Garoppolo had potential, but very few saw the hysteria coming this soon or to this degree. Meanwhile, McCown and Hawkins were the first ones on the hype train before anyone else climbed on board. A pairing with Shanahan will only keep that locomotive chugging.

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