The San Francisco 49ers offseason program is nearing its conclusion. All that stands between the players and a month-long summer break is next week’s three-day minicamp.
As far as Jimmy Garoppolo is concerned, the past two months have been an overwhelming success. It’s Garoppolo’s first offseason with the team which has given him a chance to get acclimated with his teammates.
“I think the team is making a lot of progress in a lot of different areas,” Garoppolo said. “It’s been good competition between the offense and defense, which you love to see this time of year.”
The offense’s growth is due in part to the weekend throwing sessions set up by Garoppolo. Nearly every 49ers pass catcher joined the franchise quarterback each Saturday for a few hours of players-only work.
That time, Garoppolo said, served as one of the most beneficial parts of the offseason program.
“When (it's) just the players, you really see a different side of guys and it allows you to connect with them in a different way,” Garoppolo said. “Just talking to each other, we get on the same page and I think we have a very open group and a very willing group.”
On a personal level, Garoppolo has enjoyed having the time to soak in the minutiae of Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The quarterback spent last season working his tail off just to keep his head above water. His impressive play down the stretch masked the fact that Garoppolo had only a cursory overview of the playbook.
“As the quarterback, you want to be able to answer any question that is asked to you,” Garoppolo said. “If you get put in a tough spot on the field, (you want to) be able to get the team into the right play. Last year, not that I was handcuffed, but I just didn’t know some of the reasons of why we were doing things. It was just kind of a, ‘Get this by Sunday, and we’ll tell you everything else in the offseason,’ type of thing.
“I think learning the why’s has definitely helped me. I still have a long way to go. We’re not even through OTAs yet. It’s a work in progress, but it’s coming along.”
Garoppolo also touched on two of the high-profile additions to the offense, starting with his new center Weston Richburg.
“Wes is a great guy,” Garoppolo said. “Very hard working. We get along great. We joke about when we took the first snap together it seemed like we were doing it for years. It’s great working with a guy like that. He helps me a lot.”
View the top images from Monday as the 49ers took the field for organized team activities.
The other player was Jerick McKinnon, a versatile playmaker who has been targeted quite a bit by Garoppolo during OTAs.
“Jerick, he’s a talent, man,” Garoppolo said. “He does some things that you don’t even know how he does them, is the best way to describe it. He’s like a jitterbug back there, but he’s savvy and smart at the same time, which is a great feeling as a quarterback having a guy like that.”
The 49ers enter the 2018 season with the highest expectations the franchise has experienced since 2014. A vast majority of the national hype surrounding San Francisco is tied directly to Garoppolo’s play during the five-game winning streak to close 2017. Garoppolo posted 1,542 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions in San Francisco’s final five contests.
More impressively, 60 percent of Garoppolo’s drives ended in points (30/50), easily the best in the NFL. However, Garoppolo cautioned that there’s plenty of work to be done before entertaining the lofty expectations for next season.
“I think we’ve got to have a strong finish to these OTAs first,” Garoppolo said. “People always like to talk about the predictions with the season. Even when the season just ends, they start talking about it. It’s all noise on the outside, but I think we have a good group that is locked in right now. We’re focused on OTAs. We’ll go in to training camp, hopefully have a good training camp and take it day by day.”