The numbers -- 10-point lead blown, less than 30 percent of passes completed in the fourth, a second Super Bowl loss -- don't look good to Kyle Shanahan, but he still believes in his quarterback.
"Same as it was the day before the Super Bowl," Shanahan said of his support for Garoppolo. "There's no difference. He was on his way close to a Super Bowl MVP and we all know we didn't ... make those plays at the end but we made those plays all year, our whole team, that's one of the reasons we were there. Whenever you don't make those plays at the end of the game like that, first and foremost, the quarterback's going to get attacked and then usually the play-caller. We understand that's how it goes."
Garoppolo was on a heater until the final quarter, and his two incompletions on a key drive with the 49ers nursing a three-point lead directly contributed to Kansas City's comeback by leaving plenty of time for the Chiefs to work. But as in all football games, other decisions also played a factor, such as Shanahan's clock management before halftime.
Shanahan explained in the moments immediately after the loss he was essentially playing a game of keep away while also holding out hope that a run play popped for a huge gain. He almost got that big play via the pass, but offensive pass interference wiped it out. And four days later, Shanahan remains confident he made the right call.
"I think that was one of the reasons we were up 10 points going into the fourth quarter," Shanahan said. "Absolutely wouldn't have called a timeout at that time because we were expecting to be backed up inside the 10. We probably should have been at the 1, if they didn't mess that play up. I was as confident as what we did in that situation as anything we've done all year, and I mean that's strongly.
"That's something you work at all two weeks, studying that team, what they're capable of doing. You're not going to give the ball back to them, no matter what in that situation. The way he did a third-and-15 at the end of the game is how he does a two-minute drive. I felt extremely good with how we went. Not using the timeout there was a no brainer."
This wouldn't have been much of a discussion had the 49ers been able to respond to Kansas City's fourth-quarter outburst. San Francisco isn't quite built like that, though, as it succeeds via an offense built out of its effective rushing attack. Down four with only a few minutes left leaves little room to run it, though, exposing the 49ers' much-discussed and supposed weakness: Garoppolo.
The quarterback overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on a deep post that might have ended up wiping out those talks of weakness had it been completed for a likely score. Sanders was still hot about it immediately afterward, and Shanahan said the one regret he had after reviewing each individual decision was not calling a timeout after that play to give his receivers a breather before attempting to run past Kansas City's defensive backs again. Shanahan was stashing those timeouts in case he needed to stop the clock and get the ball back again late, he explained.
Still, as the quarterback, Garoppolo will attract the attention regardless, which will include praise when he wins and criticism when he doesn't. He's still green as a starter, Shanahan contended, and he deserves credit for getting this far so quickly.
"Jimmy's one of the main reasons we got to the Super Bowl," Shanahan said. "He overcame a lot. This is his first year in his career going through an entire NFL season. So, he still doesn't have as many starts and stuff as Baker Mayfield. I think he had a hell of a first year truly playing the position, especially coming off [a torn] ACL where you have to fight through that a ton as a quarterback where your rhythm and everything is not there at the beginning of the year.
"For him to be like that and to not let the pressure get to him and to improve as the year went I think says a ton about Jimmy. I can't tell you how much I love coaching the guy as a player and as a person this year."
Garoppolo was cordial and candid in both press sessions Sunday and Thursday following the loss. He's handled the loss well, at least publicly. Shanahan made it clear Thursday they're not paying attention to evaluation and analysis from outside voices, because those influences didn't get them within seven minutes or so of a Lombardi Trophy.
"I know there's a lot of people probably saying I'm not that good out there and what I can say to you guys is it doesn't change how we feel inside when people tell us how good you are and it doesn't change how you are inside when people tell you how bad you are," Shanahan said. "It doesn't matter. We're playing the sport, everyone else can evaluate all you want.
"I'm as proud as can be of how our team handled everything, how I did, how John [Lynch] did. How everyone did. And now we can deal with whatever because we're proud of how we handled it. And if I wasn't proud of that, then this stuff would be very hard on me. And that's what's cool when you get in these moments and you can feel all this and it makes you stronger. It's a cool feeling."