George Kittle has played with four different quarterbacks in his brief but prolific three-year career. Each of them have started at least a half dozen games alongside the All-Pro tight end. The bulk of Kittle’s record-setting 2018 campaign was in concert with former undrafted free agent Nick Mullens.
Rumor, and reports, had it that Kittle could have been playing with a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback in 2020, and possibly as far back as 2017. But when it comes to former Patriots, Kittle on Friday was unyielding in his support of Jimmy Garoppolo when asked about all the scuttlebutt this offseason linking Tom Brady to the 49ers.
Somewhere, Terrell Owens shed a knowing tear.
“It is what it is,” Kittle said on the PFT PM podcast, per The Score. “People talk. There’s nothing else to talk about. It’s nothing that I took seriously. Jimmy G is my quarterback, and he’s one hell of a quarterback. We don’t get to the Super Bowl without him. So there’s no one that I’d replace him with. What he’s done for this team leadership-wise and on the field, he’s one of a kind.”
For all the turnover Kittle has seen at QB, Garoppolo is behind about half his targets. The two linked up 85 times for 1,053 yards in 2019, as Kittle earned first-team All-Pro honors and furthered his case as the game’s top tight end. It was also the first full season for Garoppolo, and his production belied experience. But an ignominious finish opened the door for speculation over his job security.
Jimmy G closed out an otherwise solid performance in Super Bowl LIV by completing just 3 of 11 passes in a fateful fourth quarter as San Francisco blew a 10-point lead and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.
That, coupled with a few curious decisions from Kyle Shanahan, caused some to question whether Garoppolo has the trust of his coach, or is good enough to earn it. ESPN’s Seth Wickersham reported in the aftermath of Brady signing with the Buccaneers that the six-time SB champion’s first choice was to play for hometown San Francisco, and that the Niners brass discussed the idea before (again) committing to Garoppolo.
With $15.7 million of Garoppolo’s contract guaranteed on April 1, conversation about the 49ers‘ quarterback future is futile for at least another season. It sounds like Kittle is committed for much longer.
“There’s no one else I’d rather be around to throw me the ball,” he said. “You know, I’m just excited being able to play football again with Jimmy G and I know that he’s ready to fling that rock again.”