Jimmy Garoppolo faced a lot of criticism last season. It only intensified following the 49ers loss in Super Bowl LIV. Nonetheless, San Francisco's starting quarterback has managed to silence the outside noise. Besides, Garoppolo, too, believes he still has plenty of room for improvement heading into his seventh NFL season.
"In terms of being a quarterback, I still have a long way to go," Garoppolo said. "I'm still relatively young for a quarterback, just in terms of playing time. As a quarterback, you've got to get out there, get the reps, get live action. And I think having a full season under my belt will help me going forward."
Garoppolo now enters the 2020 season with a full year's worth of experience for the first time in his career. It's easy to forget the quarterback was just one year removed from a season-ending ACL injury. Heading into 2019, Garoppolo accrued just 10-total starts over his first five NFL seasons.
Starting all 16 games for the first time in his career, the quarterback registered single-season career-highs in attempts (476), completions (329), yards (3,978), touchdowns (27), rushes (46), and rushing yards (62) last season. Garoppolo threw the fourth-most passing yards in a single season in franchise history last year, behind only Jeff Garcia in 2000 and Steve Young in 1993 and 1998.
Garoppolo was fifth in the league in completion percentage (69.1), sixth in touchdown passes (27), third in yards per attempt (8.4) and eighth in quarterback rating (102.0). To summarize, the quarterback took a lot of heat for an adequate showing in his first year as a starter.
"I thought it was a productive year," Garoppolo said. "Obviously, didn't finish the way we wanted to, but I think there's a lot of things that went well for us. A thing that I always take pride in is being an accurate quarterback. The more accurate you are, the more yards after catch your guys can go get for you. So, in our offense, it's putting the ball in the right spot (and) putting it in the right timing of the play. It's little things like that, that go a long way in our offense. So, I think I was pretty happy with everything how it went. We just want to want the last game of the season to turn out a little differently."
As players and front office alike aim to look past February's loss for a repeat opportunity for a championship, the 49ers added a bevy of pass catchers at the quarterback's disposal this offseason. In addition to the 49ers host of talent in George Kittle, Deebo SamuelandKendrick Bourne among others, San Francisco added rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk in the draft, who led the nation with 9.9 yards after the catch average last season. The 49ers also reached an agreement this week with Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed.
Along with San Francisco's recent additions, the 49ers anticipate the return of several other notable pass catchers, including former third-round pick Jalen Hurd, Garoppolo's favorite go-to target, Trent Taylor, and the anticipated debut of running back Jerick McKinnon, who the quarterback built a swift rapport with ahead of the unfulfilled 2018 campaign.
"I think the speed that we bring in, especially in the offensive skill group, I love that," Garoppolo said. "That helps with the run after catch and it makes my job a little more tough getting them the ball on time and accurately. It's a little different with speedsters like that, but it's a luxury that I love to have.
"It's going to be a competitive camp. And going into the season, we'll see who separates themselves from the crowd. But I think whenever you get more weapons like that (and) the more competition you add to different position groups and things like that, it only adds to a better play."
While training camps across the league are officially underway, teams are still adjusting to the on-going effects (and in-house modifications) of COVID-19. Teams spent the entire offseason program remote, only able to meet via video conferencing. Unlike years' past, there aren't many opportunities for players to build chemistry on the field beyond an abbreviated training camp.
Although Garoppolo was granted a complete offseason without the focus of a rehab or learning Kyle Shanahan's playbook, the 49ers are now challenged with ensuring the quarterback and his host of pass catchers (and new offensive tackle, Trent Williams) are on the same page by Week 1 of the regular season. With training camp currently in motion as of Monday, Garoppolo and Co. are wasting no time getting the ball rolling.
"It's a different training camp than usual, so we've got build quickly, build that chemistry," he added. "Everyone's on the same playing field, so we just got to take advantage of it."