Jimmy Garoppolo has been the guy on the field that the San Francisco 49ers wanted him to be when they acquired in him a trade with the New England Patriots last season.
He’s also been the same guy off the field before he started his first game, before he led the 49ers to a season-ending five-game winning streak, and before he signed a mega-contract with the 49ers in the offseason.
He’s even been the same guy preparing this week for Sunday’s home game against the Detroit Lions after his poor performance in last week’s road loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Leadership comes naturally to Garoppolo, and that’s one of his qualities that impresses head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“I think Jimmy had so much success winning our team over, because the day he got here, just being the backup, he was one of the guys right away,” Shanahan said this week in a conference call interview with the Detroit media.
“When he took over as the starter, nothing changed. After he won five games in a row, nothing changed. After he came back from (signing) a big contract, nothing changed. He had a tough game Sunday, he’s been here the last three days. He’s been the exact same guy.
Meet the Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
Meet this weeks opponents, the San Francisco 49ers.
“He works his butt off. He’s one of the guys. He communicates with everybody. He’s never too high, never too low.
“His demeanor in this building is exactly what you’re looking for. In order to be a leader, you have to be yourself. Jimmy’s himself.”
The 49ers took a giant step toward respectability last year by winning their last five games. They started the season 0-9 before beating the Giants, 31-21. After a bye week and a loss to the Seahawks made them 1-10, Shanahan went to Garoppolo as the starter.
His impact was immediate. Garoppolo did not have great stats – seven TD passes, five interceptions and a passer rating of 96.2 – but the most important stat was the 5-0 won-loss record. He showed his new teammates that he could be a leader.
In Garoppolo, who turns 27 in November, the 49ers had found their quarterback of the present and future.
As defensive coordinator of the Patriots, Lions head coach Matt Patricia appreciated what he saw in an up-close look at Garoppolo for his first three seasons and part of a fourth. Garoppolo made two starts in 2016 when Tom Brady was serving a four-game suspension from the NFL. Aside from that, Patricia had observed him in practice and the preseason, and limited regular-season action as a backup.
“There was always something a little special about Jimmy,” Patricia said. “Guys when they step on the field with him during a game, you can see that confidence level of everybody pick up, which is very natural when you see what they did last year.
“Everybody kind of gravitates toward him, knowing that he’s going to help them win.”
The 5-0 finish heightened expectations for the 49ers that will be tough to meet. They haven’t won much of anything in recent seasons. The 49ers have had three winning records in the last 16 seasons – all of them from 2011-13 under current University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
They’re solid up front on both lines, but they lack the overall depth and playmakers to overtake the defending division champ Rams in the NFC West.
49ers, Week 1 rewind: They contributed to their own demise by committing four turnovers – three interceptions and a lost fumble – as they trailed from start to finish in a 24-16 road loss to the powerful Minnesota Vikings.
Garoppolo had one of his interceptions returned for a TD by rookie Mike Hughes that stretched the Vikings’ lead to 17-3. Garoppolo’s intended receiver fell down on the play. The lead finally got to 24-3 before the 49ers made a modest rally that ended with the third interception in the final two minutes.
Sherman’s march: One of the most high-profile roster moves in the offseason was cornerback Richard Sherman signing with the 49ers after seven seasons with the Seahawks. Sherman’s 2017 season ended early because of an injured Achilles, but he played all 71 defensive snaps in Week 1 and contributed two tackles and a fumble recovery.
“It was good for him just to get out there,” Shanahan told reporters this week. “Any time you’re coming off a big injury like he had last year, there’s some anxiety. I think he’s happy with it.”
Foster out: The Lions will not face 49ers Reuben Foster, the highly regarded linebacker they drafted in the first round last year. Foster is serving a two-game suspension imposed by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct and substances of abuse policies.