Former 49er and three-time Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner has never shied away from sharing his feelings on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Currently working as a 49ers analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, Whitner joined the TKB Show on KNBR Tuesday afternoon.
During the discussion, Whitner was asked about what the way Jimmy Garoppolo handled this year and the possibility of him being replaced meant to the football team.
“It means a lot. He’s a tremendous leader,” responded Whitner.
“For anybody that’s competing with somebody in professional sports, it’s tough to take the field every day, be the first guy in for meetings, the guy that doesn’t make the mistakes in practice, consistently play well and have to look over your shoulder.
“Then to go address the media and keep a certain type of aura about you around your teammates, it takes a lot.”
Whitner went on to discuss the success the 49ers have achieved with Garoppolo on the field in recent years.
“When you think about it, if Jimmy Garoppolo wins this game on Sunday, it would mean he’s taken the 49ers to the Super Bowl twice in three years.
“Do you really want to let that quarterback walk out of the locker room whether he wins the Super Bowl or he doesn’t?
“Do you really want to let him leave in preparation for Trey Lance? There’s no guarantee that Trey Lance will continue to get better and can lead the team like Jimmy Garoppolo did.”
One of the reasons many pointed to for Garoppolo continuing as the 49ers quarterback in 2021 despite the draft capital given up for Trey Lance has been his influence in the locker room. Whitner addressed this from his own experience.
“In the locker room, we’re never thinking about draft picks,” said Whitner.
“We’re thinking about ‘Hey, how are we going to win right now? Who gives us the best opportunity, who are we comfortable with?’ When we look at the guys in the locker room, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, George Kittle, Jauan Jennings, all of those guys are having great years with Jimmy Garoppolo. Do you think they want to change quarterbacks?”
With Garoppolo as their starting quarterback, the 49ers have gone 35-15 and reached at least the NFC Championship Game during both seasons. Whitner recognizes this and what Garoppolo needs to work on.
“The offense that Kyle Shanahan has crafted takes efficiency. It’s almost like a trick offense where you’re taking advantage of the defense. If Jimmy can just cut down on those turnover worthy plays, he can consistently keep the 49ers at this level of play.”
During his Wednesday press conference. Kyle Shanahan was asked about his approach to helping Garoppolo reduce the turnovers and if throwing the ball away more often is something the coach would like from his quarterback.
“I think one of the hardest things with Jimmy is when people are covered, he believes he can just put the ball in the right spot, which he does a lot,” Shanahan said.
“The throw to Jauan Jennings on third and five that we were hot, he didn’t have time to throw that ball. And somehow, he created it, which is one of the most talented throws I’ve ever seen and Jauan ended up dropping it. That was unbelievable. Was it the best decision? It was, because it was right on the money, but that’s the stuff not many can pull off and that is risky. So that’s a fine line when you have someone as talented a thrower as Jimmy, that he doesn’t feel the same way always in the heat of the battle that he can’t make that throw.
“Now when you watch it on tape and stuff, then he’ll see it. But you’re not thinking about that when you’re playing a sport. You’re just reacting. And those are the things that I try to put him in better situations, and sometimes when it doesn’t go the right way, yeah, it’s disappointing. But I can’t tell you how many times that I don’t think anyone’s open and there is no play to be made and we need to make one or the game’s gonna be over and he finds a way to make it. And I’m not then saying, ‘Hey don’t do that.’ I’m thanking him for that and that’s playing quarterback in this league, so it goes both ways.”