Kyle Shanahan last season said he was looking forward to seeing how quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would handle adversity, eventually.
The 49ers’ second-year head coach was given his first chance following the Week 1 loss to the Minnesota Vikings over the weekend in which Garoppolo lost his first game as a starter while throwing three interceptions and completing a career-low 46 percent of his passes.
So far, after a conversation with Garoppolo on the flight home and a film session Monday afternoon, Shanahan is impressed by the way his signal caller is responding.
“You never know until you go through that with guys,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy’s had a lot of success in the games he’s played. He’s a guy you don’t have to beat around the bush with. Even talking to him on the plane last night, he knows the plays he missed and you don’t have to sit there and talk very long about it. He’s as disappointed when he misses a play as anyone. That’s what makes him fun to coach.”
Garoppolo misfired in a few crucial moments, including twice when he missed tight end George Kittle for potential touchdowns and an interception when he overshot rookie receiver Dante Pettis on a slant. The franchise quarterback wasn’t alone in making mistakes, but he didn’t play well enough to help the offense overcome its multitude of errors in the 24-16 defeat.
Garoppolo’s 45.1 passer rating was the worst of his eight games as a starter. His three picks Sunday tied Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Denver’s Case Keenum for the most during the NFL’s opening weekend.
“You can be honest with him,” Shanahan said. “You can keep it real with him. You don’t have to worry about offending him because he’s a guy who’s realistic and understands when he does well and when he does bad. That’s what will give him a chance to recover from not playing as well as he could.”
The 49ers went just 1 of 4 in the red zone, including when running back Alfred Morris fumbled on the 1-yard line in the second quarter to take away an opportunity to tie the game at 10. San Francisco had a chance to get within a field goal in the fourth quarter, but Garoppolo sailed a pass to an open Kittle in the back of the end zone on third down from the 4-yard line.
It was the first time since joining the 49ers that accuracy issues were a significant problem for the 26-year-old quarterback. Shanahan said there’s little he can do as a coach to help Garoppolo fix those errors. Garoppolo will have to improve on his own.
“When you get to a certain level, like in the NFL, when you have guys who are this gifted as throwers, for me to sit there and tell them how I would have thrown it, or something like that, they’d usually laugh at you,” Shanahan said. “He’s a very gifted thrower. And those guys still miss.
“Everything you look at from a coaching standpoint is about timing, where to put your eyes, how to keep your feet under you, when to progress, when to hang on a guy, when to go to number two, number three (progressions). Those are all the things I feel like I can help with or (quarterbacks coach) Rich (Scangarello) can help with.”
Uncertainty along the offensive line — Shanahan doesn’t know who will start at right guard in Sunday’s home opener against the Detroit Lions. The presumed top three options are dealing with injuries and are questionable to practice beginning Wednesday.
Starter Mike Person left in the second quarter Sunday with a foot sprain, Shanahan said. Second stringer Joshua Garnett was carted off in the second half with a dislocated toe. Neither injury is considered serious enough for injured reserve. Erik Magnuson (hamstring) is entering the week questionable after sustaining his injury in the second preseason game.
“Got to see how they respond to treatment during the week to see if we have an idea — whether they have a chance this week, or going forward week to week after that. So we need a few more days to kind of understand that,” Shanahan said.
The 49ers were forced to put rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey at right guard in the second half following the injuries. He was given a rave review from Shanahan for how he handled the situation, but the pass protection along the right side of the offensive line was an issue. Vikings pressure played a key role in the pick-six Garoppolo threw to rookie Mike Hughes and the interception nabbed by safety Harrison Smith in the fourth quarter.
Additionally, receiver Marquise Goodwin is day-to-day after suffering a deep bruise to his right quad. He was held without a catch.
Warner’s positive impression — Shanahan was asked if rookie linebacker Fred Warner would remain the starter after next week when Reuben Foster returns from his two-game suspension to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 23.
“Not sure yet,” Shanahan said. “That’s still another week away. (But) the way he played yesterday, it’d be hard to get that guy off the field. He did a hell of a job yesterday in his first game. That was yesterday, we’ll see how he does this week.”
Warner had a game-high 12 tackles, including one for a loss, a pass breakup and forced fumble. The rookie third-round pick appears to have a strong grasp on a starting role, which would mean veteran Malcolm Smith might be out of luck once Foster returns. Smith missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury after missing all of 2017 with a torn pectoral.