Shanahan defends Garoppolo ahead of NFC Championship showdown with Rams

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Kyle Shanahan insists under-fire San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo deserves more recognition for helping his team to the NFC Championship Game.

The Niners will travel to face NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday as they bid to reach a second Super Bowl in three years.

They need two straight wins at SoFi Stadium – which will also host the Super Bowl on February 13 – to make history.

The play of Garoppolo has come under scrutiny in the playoffs despite San Francisco's advance.

In their two wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, he had zero touchdowns and two interceptions, with passing yard totals of 172 and 131 respectively.

His future has been in doubt ever since the Niners traded up at huge cost to select QB Trey Lance at number three overall in the 2021 draft.

But head coach Shanahan believes the public support shown by Garoppolo's teammates such as George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner and Nick Bosa speaks volumes for his contribution.

"It shows what our guys think of him," Shanahan said. "And it also shows our guys probably are on social media [seeing the criticism].

"They probably feel a need to stick up for him. I know his social media probably hasn't been that great, so I'm glad they're sticking up for him because what they say is the truth."

49ers are 7-0 when Garoppolo does not throw a pick
49ers are 7-0 when Garoppolo does not throw a pick

Garoppolo also led the Niners to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season, resulting in an agonising loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

He could only play in six games last season as the whole Niners roster was decimated with injuries but led the team in 15 regular season contests in 2021.

"Jimmy is one of the main reasons we're here," insisted Shanahan.

"He's done an unbelievable job. People don't give him enough credit. We win as a team, and that's why he doesn't always have the same stats that some of these MVP candidates have.

"But Jimmy's a very good quarterback - he doesn't worry about any of that stuff. He doesn't worry about social media. That's why he's a little similar to me.

"He never really changes, and I think that's what people respect the most about him.

"He's gone through some ups and downs while he's been here, like most quarterbacks do, but he's the same guy. And that's why people, first and foremost, respect him as a human, as a person.

"And then the way that he goes and battles on the field, everyone knows how tough he is, everyone knows how hard he'll compete running with the ball and our guys also know he can throw pretty well too."

Garoppolo, who arrived in a trade from the New England Patriots in 2017, has a similar view about outside critics.

Asked if he had a strategy to cope, he said: "Well, friends, family, they always seem to remind me of those things, but I don’t know.

"Just knowing yourself and knowing who you are plays a big part of that, because if you get lost in it and start believing some of those things, it could take you down the wrong road.

"So I don’t know, I think it’s just about knowing yourself as a player, as a person, and as long as these guys in this locker room have faith in me and belief in me, that is all I really care about."

The Niners have won six straight games over the Rams in their regular-season series, with a dramatic comeback 27-24 overtime victory over LA in Week 18 getting them into the playoffs as a wildcard team.

But it is NFC West champions the Rams who go into the contest as narrow favourites having knocked off defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round.

The 49ers, meanwhile, won 13-10 in Green Bay despite failing to score an offensive touchdown.

They were just the ninth team ever to win a playoff game in that way - NFL teams were previously 8-103 in playoff games without a scrimmage touchdown.

Avoiding turnovers is going to be critical. The Rams are 8-0 this year when Matthew Stafford does not throw an interception, while the 49ers are 7-0 when Garoppolo does not throw a pick.

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