SANTA CLARA — It’s hard to explain why Jimmy Garoppolo played so poorly this week during the 49ers’ minicamp.
He was terrific last season for the brief time he played. Garoppolo started the final five weeks of 2017, and averaged a whopping 260 passing yards per game, even though he didn’t know the full playbook. He came to the 49ers in a midseason trade, and simply memorized their weekly game plans.
Now, he knows the playbook, and has experience with his current teammates. Most people expect he will play even better next season, and he may. But right now, he’s struggling.
On Wednesday, the second and final day of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp, Garoppolo played well early, completing three of his first four passes. Then, he fell apart, and missed 11 of his final 16 throws. His completion percentage for the afternoon was a mere 40. He missed every deep pass he threw.
On Tuesday, the day before, Garoppolo couldn’t even yell the snap count correctly. He caused the offense to commit four false-start penalties in a row to start practice.
“It’s all on the quarterback,” Garoppolo said on Wednesday in the 49ers’ media room. “I mean, I’m the one doing the cadence. I have to make sure that me and all of the other quarterbacks are saying it the same way and sounding similar to one another.”
By “cadence,” he means something like, “on one, on two, blue 42” — the usual things quarterbacks say at the line of scrimmage before the center snaps the ball.
“We have 100 different cadences and we’ve got a lot of different calls and a lot of other stuff that are extremely confusing,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “When you’re thinking about everything else and not thinking about the cadence, you just jump offsides.
“If I was just the offensive coordinator, I would have been very upset. Fortunately, I’m the head coach, so I was happy with the defense. I thought the offense, we came out just sluggish. We couldn’t get the cadence right and we started practice that way. Guys can see how that trickles down and kind of ruins an entire practice.”
As frustrated as Shanahan seemed, he tried to see the positive in Garoppolo’s shaky minicamp. “I like to see Jimmy make mistakes. I like seeing him come in and work on it. I like seeing him correct what he messed up two days ago. He felt the mistake. He understood why it was wrong and then he wants to correct it himself. I want him to understand it. Sometimes when things don’t work out, you learn. You’ve got to know the whys and that’s what allows you to have continued success over time.”
After Tuesday’s disappointing practice, Garoppolo and the rest of the offensive players had stayed on the field and walked through the plays again, just to get them right.
“It bothers them, just like it bothers us,” Shanahan said. “You don’t have to sit out there and ‘MF’ them. When things bother people, you usually fix it and that’s what I think our guys stayed out and tried to do.”
Garoppolo and the offensive players will continue to meet and practice together on their own, away from the team facility, during the next few weeks before training camp, which begins July 26. And Garoppolo will continue to learn and master the 49ers’ playbook.