This time, he’s got the keys to the car.

After earning two Super Bowl rings as Tom Brady’s backup in the New England Patriots’ victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons following the 2014 and 2016 seasons, respectively, Jimmy Garoppolo aims to win one as a starter Sunday.

In his full year as a starter, Garoppolo piloted the San Francisco 49ers to 13 regular-season wins and two more in the NFC playoffs, setting up a Super Bowl matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. He threw for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns during the regular season, playing to a rating of 102.0, and did so with a changing cast from to week as the offense battled injuries.

Yet there is some talk that Kyle Shanahan doesn’t trust Garoppolo in the way a coach should trust a quarterback. It’s borne from the fact that Garoppolo threw only eight passes in the NFC title game and just 19 the week before in a 27-10 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings.

Tight end George Kittle wasn’t interested in hearing the theory that San Francisco wins around Garoppolo and not because of him.

“He’s a hell of a quarterback,” Kittle said Monday night in Miami. “I’m sure he won us four in the fourth quarter with no left tackle, no right tackle, no fullback and me out for two games. Go and look at his stats.”

The numbers back up Kittle’s thoughts. When he’s had to crank up the right arm, Garoppolo has racked up numbers that should satisfy any fantasy owner. He threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-26 win Nov. 17 over the Arizona Cardinals, then strafed the New Orleans Saints for 349 yards and four scores on Dec. 8 in a wild 48-46 victory inside the Superdome.

And as one would expect from someone who spent any length of time playing for Bill Belichick, Garoppolo doesn’t care how his team wins.

“Whatever it takes to win, whether I pass for zero yards or 400 yards,” he said. “That’s been what our team in general has been about. That’s why we’re tough to .”

In the NFC title game, Garoppolo was a 2020 version of Bob Griese. It might be forgotten by some that Griese threw just 18 passes in the Miami Dolphins’ back-to-back Super Bowl wins in 1972 and 1973. Who needs to throw when you have Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris up 5 yards a carry?

Garoppolo didn’t have to throw against Green Bay on Jan. 19, not with Raheem Mostert galloping for 220 yards and four touchdowns. The stats say if he needs to pass to beat Kansas City on Sunday night in Miami, Garoppolo is fully capable of getting the job done.

–Field Level Media