On Saturday, January 22 at Lambeau Field, Garoppolo once again added to his interception total in his last four starts: Six since the Week 16 Tennessee Titans loss. But the latest one occurred inside the red zone to Adrian Amos of the Green Bay Packers.
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Once again, the calls for Garoppolo to be removed from the starting lineup grew online. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is aware of the criticism and low production. But the 49ers won in dramatic fashion 13-10 with Garoppolo hitting two first down throws of 12 and 14 yards to eventually lead to Robbie Gould’s walk-off field goal with four seconds left.
But was there ever any thought of putting Garoppolo on the bench for his miscues? The coaching leader of the 49ers finally revealed when he truly would’ve gone with Trey Lance over Jimmy G.
The 41-year-old head coach, who will soon coach in his second NFC title game since January 2020, was asked if there was ever any point that he thought of pulling Garoppolo for Lance — particularly when the team was 3-5.
“No, there was never a point where I thought of switching to Trey in terms of I think the stuff that I said at the time was the truth,” Shanahan said via 49ers Web Zone. “I didn’t think Jimmy was the issue. I thought Jimmy, there was games that he could have played better in, but I didn’t think he was playing the way that everyone was saying. And just watching the tape with our team, I didn’t think our team was there, and I didn’t think it was the best thing for Trey.”
However, Shanahan added that during the time the ‘Niners were two games below .500, he and the 49ers were inches away from reevaluating things…including quarterback.
“But when we did have a 3-5 record, I knew we were not one game away, but it was getting close to where the best thing for the team was focusing on some other things and maybe getting some guys some chances to play (Lance included),” Shanahan said. “But I never felt that at 3-5. But you could see that the games were going to come if we didn’t turn this around fast.”
Which Game Convinced Shanahan to Stay With Garoppolo?
There was one game, and one team, in particular that persuaded Shanahan to ride with Garoppolo the rest of the year.
It was on November 15, 2021 on Monday Night Football. And the opponent that evening at Levi’s Stadium? The team the ‘Niners will face on Sunday with the NFC title on the line: The Los Angeles Rams.
Garoppolo only had four incompletions that night. But he completed 15 of his throws, tossed two touchdown passes and was not intercepted at all in the 31-10 rout. Shanahan points to that game on why it was best to avoid pulling Garoppolo.
“Since then, I haven’t had that thought because that got us on a pretty good roll after that,” Shanahan said. “And we’ve never been in that situation since, where you see that nearing.”
Also, there was another key moment involving Garoppolo against the Rams that helped keep the 49ers’ season alive. Noted by David Lombardi of The Athletic on Monday, Garoppolo hit this fortitude throw while getting knocked backwards by the Rams’ most tenacious and menacing trench defender Aaron Donald during their Week 18 meeting:
That play helped spark the 17-point comeback to win 27-24 in overtime at SoFi Stadium…and eventually helped lead to the rematch against the 49ers’ NFC West rival.
Garoppolo Has Notable Stat Versus Rams
Again, most critics will pinpoint Garoppolo’s touchdown-to-interception ratio in the last 16 quarters he’s played as a sign that he’s untrustworthy and Lance should be directing the offense.
But the 49ers continue to win with Jimmy G at quarterback. His composure is a primary reason, including dating back to the game that guaranteed the 49ers wouldn’t be turning in their pads on the Monday after Week 18.
Garoppolo and the 49ers have a momentum wave going to their advantage. And speaking of advantage, here’s what Jimmy G has over the Rams heading into their conference title game bout: He’s yet to lose to the Rams in his NFL career, with a 6-0 mark per Pro Football Reference.