VSANTA CLARA (AP) — Things have been so bleak for San Francisco in recent years that one successful start by the franchise quarterback of the future was enough to get the 49ers faithful dreaming big.
Jimmy Garoppolo is already being compared to greats such as Joe Montana by the fans and talk radio shows after winning his first start for San Francisco, praise he quickly tried to downplay.
“I try not to listen to any of the outside stuff. The Joe Montana comparison, I think it’s a little early for those. It’s only been one game,” Garoppolo said Wednesday before agreeing with one similarity with the Hall of Famer who won four Super Bowl titles for the 49ers.
“We are both Italian. So, we have that in common. But, I think it might be a little early.”
Niners fans can be forgiven a bit for the high level of excitement because of how dreadful the team has been in recent years. After three straight trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl appearance under Jim Harbaugh from 2011-13, the franchise has been in a free-fall.
Harbaugh was fired after an eight-win season in 2014 and then Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly each had one-year tenures and a combined 7-25 record as the team got subpar quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert.
The hire of offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan brought some optimism this season, but there was little tangible evidence of improvement on the field with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard at quarterback, leading the team to trade a 2018 second-round pick for Garoppolo on Oct. 31.
Garoppolo looked sharp in leading the Niners (2-10) to a 15-14 win at Chicago last Sunday, only raising the hype.
“To come in there in that situation and to make some of the plays that he did, when he is in that situation, definitely excites everybody,” Shanahan said.
“I think everyone knows the potential and the possibilities. It’s not that you have to temper, you just have to be realistic. It was one game. He did some really good things in that game and there’s a lot of stuff that we can get better at too from that game.”
Garoppolo went 26 for 37 for 293 yards in his third career start, with his only interception coming on a pass that was on target to Louis Murphy but ripped loose by safety Kyle Fuller.
Garoppolo also took only two sacks and managed the game well despite still learning a new offense. About the only knock on him was an inability to get into the end zone as San Francisco settled for five field goals.
All of those kicks came on drives the 49ers made into the red zone, but failed to score a touchdown.
“We kind of knew that’s one of the tougher areas of the field,” Garoppolo said. “That and third down are always going to take some time. But, there’s some good things to learn from.”
With Garoppolo having now played a full game, putting together a game plan is an easier process for Shanahan, who has a better idea of what plays work well with his new quarterback and what he struggles at doing.
Garoppolo will be comfortable running even more plays this week and the game plan will be able to be even more tailored to his strengths.
“You can talk about that stuff a lot, but you don’t truly know until you go into a game,” Shanahan said. “He doesn’t know the process of how we do it. He knows one thing and we’re waiting to see how it goes together. I thought it was a good first start. It’s more comfortable here just talking with him on Monday and Tuesday, the expectations of the game. I think it will help him practice better this week, having a little bit more idea of what normally was the unknown going into Sunday.”
NOTES: T Trent Brown (shoulder), DE Elvis Dumervil (rest) and T Joe Staley (rest) all did not practice. ... S Adrian Colbert (thumb) was limited.