When his team headed east in the summer of 2016 for a few days of training-camp practices with the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears coach John Fox got the impression the Pats’ backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was a big deal.
“You get to mingle with him some, and (Garoppolo) was held in high regard among their coaches, among their organization,” Fox said. “He’s an accurate passer. He’s got decent mobility, and he’s a smart guy. To play in that offense and be exposed (to) and be around Tom (Brady) for any length of time, I think he’s got a good background in the league.”
Fox and the Bears will be Garoppolo’s opponents Sunday at Soldier Field when the quarterback makes first start as a San Francisco 49er, after they traded a second-round pick to acquire him from the Patriots on Oct. 31.
Garoppolo replaces rookie C.J. Beathard, who started the previous five games, but Fox isn’t expecting a big difference in what the 49ers will do offensively.
“I don’t think they’re going to reinvent the wheel in a week,” Fox said. “I’m sure they’ve just been trying to get him up to speed in their offense (and) their terminology. I don’t know where he is in that development, other than I know he’s smart. So we expect (the same thing) they’ve been doing.”
The Niners come in ranked 21st in total yards, 17th in passing yards, 30th in average gain per pass and 28th in scoring. They’re just 23rd in rushing yards, but No. 9 in average gain per rush, just one spot below the Bears.
Kyle Shanahan is the 49ers’ fourth head coach in as many years, and he’s also the team’s offensive coordinator and playcaller.
“It’s a very good scheme,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “It’s a very well-designed offense. They coach it very well. They call it very well. They have a strong commitment to the running game, yet they throw it deep, short, intermediate. They’ve got the boot(leg)s and the play-(action) pass game that (works) off their running game.”
Garoppolo is the X Factor. He only has started two games — both last year in New England when Brady was suspended — so there’s not a great deal of tape on him. But Fangio has been impressed by what he has seen from the Arlington Heights native who played at Rolling Meadows High School.
“We practiced against them up there in New England last year,” Fangio said. “I remember some of that. We’ve looked at his tape from New England, (from) both regular season and preseason, and the (three) plays he had last week.”
Garoppolo threw a 10-yard touchdown pass on the final play last week after Beathard was injured in the 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Fangio said. “He’s got a really good release. He’s got good pocket presence. He carries himself well, makes good, quick decisions and can make the throws. A lot of people were rumored to be wanting him last year in the off-season, and you can see why.”
Bears nickel cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc was an undrafted rookie with the Patriots during the summer of 2016, so he faced Garoppolo in practice.
“Good quarterback,” LeBlanc said. “Smart quarterback; real precise with his throws. Doesn’t have the arm strength Tom (does), so he tries to (make) closer throws, shorter routes. He’s accurate, and he goes through all his checks.
“He had to learn a lot from Brady. Brady’s the G.O.A.T. At the end of the day, they would always stay out there practicing throws.
“Hopefully he’ll throw us a couple.”
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