Based simply on stats, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had a very good 2019 season.
He completed 69 percent of his passes, threw for nearly 4,000 years, threw 27 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions and guided the 49ers to the best record in the NFC.
But in reality, the 49ers’ offense was built around the running game, and the team relied heavily on its defense on their way to Super Bowl LIV.
At times during the 2019 season, it appeared coach Kyle Shanahan shied away from letting Garoppolo throw the ball, instead calling plays for the 49ers’ multi-pronged running attack.
Earning Shanahan’s trust in big situations is something Garoppolo must improve in, according to former 49ers quarterback Steve Young.
“There’s something about Kyle and him that you felt through the playoffs, a lack of trust,” Young said on KNBR 680 earlier this week (H/T 49ers Webzone). “And whether it was true or just perception, it doesn’t matter, at some level. That’s the number one thing, if I were Jimmy, that I would be focused on is making sure both truth and perceptually, that Kyle trusts me and is willing to put the ball in my hands at any time, at any place, in any form, and continually.”
Despite Garoppolo’s impressive numbers, the 49ers attempted the fourth-fewest passing attempts (478) last season while running the ball the second-most (498) of any team in the league.
The 49ers should be able to get back to the Super Bowl with the same gameplan, but they might need Shanahan to trust Garoppolo late in the fourth quarter, just like Feb. 2 against the Chiefs. Shanahan put the ball in Garoppolo’s hands late, and the quarterback overthrew Emmanuel Sanders. Kansas City eventually overcame a 10-point deficit to stun the 49ers.
“That’s the thing that this season is really about, to me, is Kyle and Jimmy, and Jimmy earning Kyle’s trust,” Young said. “And Kyle might say, ‘I trust him 100 percent.’ I don’t doubt that. The perception is another piece of the puzzle, and we want to see that out in the play calling and in key moments.”
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If the 49ers are going to get over the hump and bring home another Lombardi Trophy, they need Garoppolo to take the next step towards superstardom. They also need him to make sure his coach trusts him in big moments.
If Garoppolo is unable to do that, the 49ers won’t achieve their goal and Shanahan might have to look for a new quarterback.