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Joe Staley explains why Jimmy Garoppolo is playing best football of his career



© Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the 49ers cracked the .500 mark for the second time this season. The 22-16 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers left a lot to be desired on the offensive end, but it’s a result that puts SF within a half game of the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West lead.

Jimmy Garoppolo, for his part, has been solid. When he’s at his worst, Garoppolo turns the ball over in head-scratching ways. At this best, he’s delivering pinpoint balls on time and occasionally making off-schedule plays.

His on-the-run, 33-yard throw to Ray-Ray McCloud was one of the most impressive throws of his career. The 30-year-old has 11 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season and hasn’t turned the ball over in his last two games.

Former teammate and 49ers legend Joe Staley was on hand for the Monday night matchup (watching from Jed York’s private suite) and met up with Garoppolo afterwards.

He agreed with Papa that Garoppolo is playing the best football of his career, saying that it’s largely because he can play without worry this season:

Yeah, he is 100 percent [playing the best football of his career]. I think the reason why — yes, you can look at the weapons that he has around him and everybody always likes to say, ‘Oh, he’s just managing the situation and he doesn’t have to do anything. He doesn’t have to have the whole entire offense on shoulders.’

But even just talking to him yesterday, he had a confidence about him. Because I don’t think he’s putting the pressure on himself that he did earlier in his career when he had got traded there, you got the contract. Jimmy probably felt the pressure of, ‘Hey, this is my team. I’m the franchise quarterback.’

And then last year, too, it’s like, hey, they drafted my replacement. This is chance to show them who I am, or other teams of auditioning for maybe a trade. There’s a lot of pressure that goes into performance on the field.

That burden, Staley believes, has lifted. While the 49ers offense is as stacked as it has even been under Kyle Shanahan, he believes it’s working because Garoppolo isn’t thinking about the pressure of expectations he had earlier in his career.

“He just feels like he’s playing free,” Staley said. “He’s letting the game come to him. He’s not trying to do too much. And I think that, coupled with all the weapons that he does have around him, you’re seeing the best version of what Jimmy can be as a quarterback.”

Garoppolo is currently sixth in the NFL with a 100.0 quarterback rating. He and the 49ers will head to Colorado Springs for the week to get used to high altitude and mountain time zone before taking a trip down to Mexico City next Monday night.

Catch Papa & Lund weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on KNBR 104.5 / 680 and streaming live on KNBR.com.