49ers Jimmy Garoppolo talks third preseason game against the Chiefs
Kyle Shanahan doesn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
While the Bay Area was in a collective panic over Jimmy Garoppolo’s preseason debut Monday in Denver, the 49ers coach wasn’t feeling an inordinate amount of stress. To Shanahan, the sky wasn’t falling on his team like many assumed after the face of the franchise played poorly in his first game action after tearing his ACL last September.
“I mean, it’s preseason,” Shanahan said after Saturday’s win over the Chiefs in which Garoppolo threw for 188 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
“If I read all (media reports) all week, I might be stressed,” he said. “My wife was probably stressed, I’m sure. Jimmy’s family was stressed. None of it totally matters. It’s what do you do in the season (that matters). And I’ve been in the league long enough to know that. The season is stressful enough. I’m not going to sit here and get worked up about stuff I can’t control and really don’t matter.”
Garoppolo in the victory over the Chiefs was sharp, completing 70 percent of his passes and spreading the ball to eight different targets. He led scoring drives on three of his five series while his night was highlighted by a 20-yard strike to running back Matt Breida for a diving touchdown grab in the first quarter.
Of course, it was Garoppolo’s return to the stadium in which he tore the ligament in his left knee last September while trying to cut up field during a second-half comeback attempt. Garoppolo acknowledged returning to where he sustained the injury was an important step in getting over it.
“A lot’s happened in a year since then,” Garoppolo said. “I just thought it’d be good to go back there and remember everything I’ve gone through.”
If the 49ers were breathing a collective sigh of relief, they didn’t say so publicly. Performing better as a collective on offense, which meant putting Garoppolo in better positions to succeed.
“Honestly, I can say I was never worried about Jimmy,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “I wanted our offense to go out there and perform well. It was good to have some long drives tonight, some scoring drives. That really was the biggest thing for us.”
Garoppolo played just 11 snaps over three possessions Monday in Denver. The only first down came after Tevin Coleman’s 12-yard run on the first play.
Saturday, San Francisco’s first series lasted 11 plays before turning the ball over on downs when defensive tackle Chris Jones knocked down a throw to Kendrick Bourne on fourth and short.
Garoppolo’s remaining drives went seven, three, 11 and seven snaps for a total of 39. The 49ers had 12 first downs.
Garoppolo had strong throws converting third downs to Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, and hit Richie James Jr. for a 33-yard gain a snap before Breida’s touchdown. He also found tight end Ross Dwelley for a 23-yard connection during a two-minute drive setting up a field goal before halftime.
“It was definitely better than the week before (in Denver),” said Shanahan. “That would have been hard not to do. It was cool to be able to stay out there longer, get in a little bit of a rhythm.”
Said Garoppolo: “All the hearsay and whatever noise is gonna go on, you just have to ignore it and just go play football. I thought it was a good step coming back to K.C. where it all started and everything, so, just to get that out of the way was just another step in the right direction.”
Garoppolo won’t play in the preseason finale Thursday. C.J. Beathard will get the start, Shanahan said, after Nick Mullens replaced Garoppolo in the second half. Mullens completed 8 of 11 for 84 yards.
The 49ers won the game, 27-17, while out gaining Kansas City, 381-248. Jeff Wilson Jr. scored two rushing touchdowns in the second half while San Francisco ran for 124 yards on 35 carries. James led the team in receiving with 66 yards on four catches.
The starting defense allowed its first touchdown of the preseason when Damien Williams beat defensive end Solomon Thomas in coverage and broke a tackle from Jaquiski Tartt to break free for a 62-yard score. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes completed 8 of 10 throws and was replaced by Chad Henne early in the second quarter.
Shanahan’s plan to keep three QBs
One of the most intriguing decisions facing the 49ers during final cuts Aug. 31 is the number of quarterbacks to keep. Shanahan has kept just two on the active roster during the past two seasons.
But on Saturday, he said the initial plan is to keep three, which means Mullens and Beathard will both stick around unless San Francisco is presented with a trade offer they can’t pass up.
“We plan on having three this year,” Shanahan said. “(But) just like every other person on our roster, if someone thinks there’s a way to upgrade our team we’ll always listen.”
The 49ers believe they have their best roster since Shanahan became coach in 2017 and will face some tough decisions when 37 players are set loose. Keeping three quarterbacks is logical given San Francisco used three starters in each of the past two seasons.
“We’re never just going to get rid of NFL players,” Shanahan said. “We have three NFL quarterbacks. They’re not easy to come by. You just don’t give them away. Sometimes it takes years to find (them).”
Ward impresses in two roles
Jimmie Ward returned to practice this week after breaking his collar bone in May and earned playing time at two positions: free safety and slot cornerback.
With K’Waun Williams’ status uncertain for Week 1, the coaching staff determined moving Ward to nickel would be a good way to get the best players in the secondary on the field. Tarvarius Moore played free safety when Ward made his shift in sub packages.
“It doesn’t matter whether he’s hurt or how long he’s been out,” Shanahan said. “When you allow him to go, he’s going. He’s been that way in practice all week. I know we threw him out there today and he was able to play both nickel and free safety, and from what I saw, he played pretty well.”
▪ The 49ers came out of the game mostly healthy, which is a welcomed change from previous weeks. Juszczyk had X-rays on his left hand after banging it against a helmet. It was in an ice pack after the game but the injury isn’t considered serious. Running back Raheem Mostert sustained a quadriceps contusion on Thursday and sat out the game.
▪ 49ers who didn’t play: CB Jason Verrett (ankle sprain), WR Trent Taylor (Jones fracture), WR Jalen Hurd (back tightness), DB K’Waun Williams (knee), S Adrian Colbert (hamstring), RB Jerick McKinnon (knee), CB Tim Harris Jr. (groin), LB Elijah Lee (thumb), DE Dee Ford (knee tendinitis), G Joshua Garnett (dislocated finger), DL Jullian Taylor (back), TE George Kittle (calf), DL Nick Bosa (ankle sprain) and DL Ronald Blair III (groin).