Marquise Goodwin stood up and gave Jimmy Garoppolo his first-row seat when Garoppolo boarded the team bus in Chicago. Other 49ers have invited the newcomer quarterback out for a bite to eat or to their homes to hang out.
The gestures are more than niceties, Garoppolo said Wednesday. They’re essential to the cohesion of a team and start to explain why he looked so comfortable in San Francisco’s offense Sunday in Soldier Field.
“Just the camaraderie in the locker room, that helps that so much,” Garoppolo said. “Not as much as timing on the field, but just being on the same page with that guy. Being able to talk the same language as them and see the same things. That goes a long way.”
Garoppolo certainly didn’t operate on Sunday like someone who had spent just three days of practice throwing to the 49ers’ top wideouts. He was 14-14 on passes to Goodwin and Trent Taylor, including a couple of crucial third-down conversions to Taylor, the team’s slot receiver.
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In some ways Taylor is similar to the rabbit-quick receivers – Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman – Garoppolo worked with in New England in recent years, and the quarterback’s fast release appears to be a good match with Taylor’s ability to shake defenders in tight spaces.
“I think Trent’s a very talented player. Very young. He’s still learning things,” Garoppolo said. “But having guys in New England who are very similar to him, I think it’s going to help us acclimate to one another. Him acclimate to me and me do the same to him. He has a savvy-ness for the game that’s rare in a young guy like that.”
Garoppolo also worked closely with Taylor and fellow receivers Louis Murphy and DeAndre Carter during the bye week in late November as Garoppolo crammed the 49ers’ offensive system.
Carter, who played at Sacramento State and who currently is on the 49ers practice squad, spent the 2016 offseason with the Patriots, making him the only player on the squad who had worked with Garoppolo in the past.
He was one of those who eased the quarterback’s arrival.
“It can be a tough situation – switching teams, (you’ve) got to move your family or get a new place to stay and all that stuff,” Carter said. “It can be a rough process. So with any guy that comes in, we try to make him feel at home. Especially with Jimmy, I did what I could, knowing him already, being one of the few guys that he knew here, trying to make him feel comfortable in the area. I think it definitely helps us with the chemistry stuff on the field. You feel that off-the-field connection, that chemistry, and it’ll help on the field as well.”
Goodwin, who had a season-high eight catches in Chicago, agreed.
“Communication plays a huge part in the game,” he said. “Just him having that comfort with us, it makes it that much easier when he’s communicating on the field. It doesn’t feel like he’s talking to a stranger.”
Garoppolo’s comfort level with his new teammates is significant for off-the-field reasons as well. At some point the 49ers will begin discussing a long-term contract, and the level of connection he feels with his new club is bound to play a role in those talks.
“It’s a unique locker room we have in there,” he said Wednesday. “Since the first day I got here really guys were very welcoming, inviting me over to their place just to hang out. Stuff like that. It’s just the little things like that. It’s a very tight-knit group out in there and I appreciate that from those guys. I just got here a couple weeks ago and they welcomed me with open arms. It’s been a fun experience.”
Matt Barrows breaks down the three San Francisco 49ers who have the most on the line as the season nears its end. Produced by David Caraccio. Commentary by Matt BarrowsThe Sacramento Bee