It turns out that Jimmy Garoppolo is human after all. Weird right? After watching Garoppolo carve up the San Francisco 49ers defense for the first three open practices of OTAs, it was that same defense that got the last laugh during minicamp.
The Garoppolo-led offense struggled during both practices of the team’s mandatory minicamp. However, not all struggles are created equal. Tuesday was sloppy. The session featured several pre-snap penalties and mishaps that are usually chalked up to a lack of focus.
“We came out just sluggish,” Kyle Shanahan explained. “We couldn’t get the cadence right and we started practice that way. I think it was like four of the first plays we just messed up the cadence. Then it’s kind of a trickle-down effect from there. That was disappointing. It’s not fun, but it’s how you look at it. I think that stuff kind of can help, too.”
Shanahan called it the offense’s worst practice of the offseason program. After the three horns blared signaling the end of the day, Garoppolo kept the offense on the field for additional work. They spent time on the different cadences that tripped them up during practice. Garoppolo made sure everyone was on the same page before the offense finally called it a day.
“Jimmy is as hard of a worker as you’re going to get in this game,” said right tackle Mike McGlinchey. “He’s done a great job taking command of this football team. We’re trying new things and working through some stuff. We’ve only been doing it for a few weeks. We’re going to get through it, and it’s going to be alright. Jimmy and the rest of the group wanted to get it right. We didn’t want to leave the field doing something the wrong way.”
The group cleaned up the mental errors on Wednesday, but the defense still “won” the practice handily. Garoppolo and the first-team offense put a few drives together but was stymied in the red zone each time.
The defensive line got pressure on Garoppolo. Linebackers filled passing lanes. Defensive backs locked up their assignments in coverage. It wasn’t so much that Garoppolo was missing guys, but rather there was no one open to throw to. A few passes were nearly intercepted as Garoppolo tried to fit the ball into impossible windows. The quarterback’s one big miss came on a deep shot for the end zone after Jerick McKinnon sprinted past the defense on a wheel route.
For a second consecutive day, Garoppolo kept a few members of the offense to work on timing in the red zone – namely Kendrick Bourne and George Kittle.
“It’s always nice when you don’t demand anything,” Shanahan said. “You hope it’s their standard, not ours. Like I say, that’s really what makes it real, and I think those guys worked as hard as they could yesterday. It wasn’t a lack of effort.
“What I like is we have guys that it bothers them. You don’t have to sit out there and ‘MF’ them and stuff. It bothers them, just like it bothers us. When things bother people, you usually fix it and that’s what I think our guys stayed out and tried to do yesterday.”
There are multiple ways to look at what transpired during the minicamp. For Garoppolo, although the sessions were frustrating as a whole, they showed him that the 49ers have the right players in the building. Even with a six-week summer break on the horizon, everyone on offense knew that the extra work was needed.
“It shows that guys care,” Garoppolo said. “If someone was to mess something up and just kind of brush it off, it’s kind of annoying. You want guys who care about the game, who care about this team. I think we have a good group in there.”
It’s always a catch-22 when one side of the football dominates. Does this week mean that the defense is just really good? Or should there be real concerns over Garoppolo? I think the defense should be seen as a unit that will be vastly improved in 2018. As for Garoppolo, it all depends on what you think he’s made of between the ears.
There’s an easy case to be made that this was the best possible outcome of minicamp. Kyle Juszczyk went on record this week saying that he has "drank the Kool-Aid" in regards to Jimmy G.
So what’s wrong with a little offseason adversity for the man who has never lost an NFL start? Despite all the hoopla surrounding the 49ers this season, this week proved there’s still much work to be done.
Do you have faith in Shanahan and Garoppolo to get things figured out before Week 1? Your answer to that question will determine how close your hand is to the panic button.