San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led one of the NFL's most innovative offenses to Super Bowl LIV, but the franchise's investment in the 28-year-old star was once considered a financial risk.
The 49ers traded a second-round draft pick to acquire Garoppolo during the 2017 season. Despite limited on-field experience in his first three NFL seasons, Garoppolo had immediate success with the 49ers, winning five straight games to end the season.
After just seven career NFL starts, the 49ers took a risk, signing Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million contract extension that established him as the highest-paid player in league history at the time. Though Garoppolo's tenure in San Francisco has encountered a few speed bumps, he rewarded the 49ers' trust with the franchise's first Super Bowl trip since 2013.
"He just blew our minds, the success he had when he was out there with very little preparation and a little foundation of the offense," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said during Super Bowl media week. "By the time that season ended, I thought it would be hard for him to do, but he made our decision very easy."
While Super Bowl LIV marks Garoppolo's first trip to the game as a starter, he is no stranger to the NFL's biggest stage. The Eastern Illinois University product won two championships while serving as Patriots legend Tom Brady's backup.
Garoppolo's strong year came after a major setback during the 2018 season. In his first full season since signing the record-breaking contract extension, Garoppolo tore a ligament in his knee, ending his campaign after just three games. Without their starting quarterback, the 49ers struggled to a 4-12 record and missed the playoffs.
Garoppolo rebounded in 2019, tossing 27 touchdown passes and nearly 4,000 passing yards while leading the 49ers to a 13-3 record. He also spearheaded a league-leading four fourth-quarter comebacks.
The signal-caller has capitalized on his on-field success by signing endorsement deals with blue-chip companies, including Nike and Bose.
Some pundits have questioned Garoppolo's value to the 49ers' offense, given a top-tier running game that features Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Matt Brieda. He just threw just eight passes in the NFC championship game while Mostert ran for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite the criticism, Garoppolo is focused on playing his own game in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday.
"I do the same thing," Garoppolo said. "I hear all the stuff and everything, but you can't put that all out there all the time. You have to do with it what you will and take it for what it is. Just at the end of the day you’ve got to go out there and play football."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.