San Francisco 49ers All-Pro tight end George Kittle is Jimmy Garoppolo's biggest supporter.
Remember the shirt he wore after the Niners defeated the Green Bay Packers in last season's NFC Championship Game?
The 26-year-old doubled down during an appearance on ESPN's First Take on Tuesday by defending his quarterback against ongoing criticism:
Kittle rebutted Stephen A. Smith's notion that it is a bad sign that Garoppolo is not the first player people think of when talking about the Niners:
"How is that his fault? It's not his fault he's on a really good team with good football players and a great head coach. He got us to the Super Bowl, so that's what I'm saying. It's not his fault he has Nick Bosa, he has five first-round D-linemen, he has Richard Sherman in the secondary. That's not his fault. He goes out there and he performs week in, week out. Like I said, leads the league in third-down percentage. He makes throws. He won us two games versus Arizona. He won us the Rams game at the end of the game. He won a shootout with Drew Brees, who, in my opinion, is one of the best quarterbacks to do it. I mean, he shows up every single week.
"Yeah, guys have bad plays. I've had my share of bad plays. His are just viewed more because he's a quarterback. He's the franchise quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, so people see that more. And he deals with it. He doesn't shy away from criticism. He goes in, he had a great conversation after the Super Bowl. He was great with the media. He doesn't shy away. He's a leader through and through, and he's the leader of this football team."
San Francisco lost Super Bowl LIV 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs. However, Garoppolo had outplayed Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes until the fourth quarter, when the Super Bowl LIV MVP led the Chiefs back from a 20-10 deficit with 21 unanswered points.
The 49ers finished the regular season by winning the NFC West at 13-3. Garoppolo notched the 12th-best quarterback rating (58.8) with a career-high 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns alongside 13 picks on 69.1 percent completion.
It was Garoppolo's first full season in San Francisco, as he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3 of the 2018 campaign.
Kittle has been an integral part of Garoppolo's success. The Iowa product recorded 1,053 yards and five touchdowns on 85 catches—all of which led Niners receivers—across 14 regular-season games, while also majorly contributing in run blocking.