Garcia Still Receiving Praise
November 8 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Days after what is now being regarded as Jeff Garcia’s best performance Garcia is still receiving rave reviews from players and coaches around the league. Even the guru Bill Walsh was gushing about the third Pro Bowl quarterback in a row that he has brought to the 49ers. After the game, Walsh told Garcia: "That's the best game you've ever played.” And the compliments haven’t stopped.
Bill Walsh spoke to the media about Garcia too: "That performance was as good as Steve Young, Joe Montana or anybody else. I don't see how any of them could have done better. Every decision he made - the tough runs on third down, my gosh. You couldn't have asked for more from any of the quarterbacks we've ever had. It's just incredible, the poise and presence he has. That was his best game."
Walsh has always supported Garcia, but this was really the first time he put Jeff on par with the two legendary 49ers quarterbacks. He wasn’t the only one who felt that way though.
"Jeff Garcia played maybe his finest game as a 49er. He ran for some crucial first downs, managed the clock, managed the game. They were bringing the kitchen sink, and Jeff was great at avoiding the rush and scrambling and making plays. No question about it, Jeff Garcia's been better in big games this year than ever before." Said Steve Mariucci, Garcia’s coach. Mariucci went on to explain how Jeff now has to perform at this level consistently and in playoff games.
Even the opposition was glowing about Garcia. "He single-handedly won that game, there's no doubt in my mind." Said Raiders coach Bill Callahan after the game. "He reminds me of Brett Favre, the way he moves, the way he throws," defender Bill Romanowski said. "He does even better throwing the short stuff than Brett."
Garcia’s team mates were in his corner too. Scott Gragg a starting offensive lineman was one player who spoke in favour of Garcia. "I've blocked for several quarterbacks in this league, and you just see the will and the passion to win the game in his eyes from the first down of the game to the last play. Regardless of the score, he is wanting to win the game. It's indescribable, but it's something you sense and feel in him.
This type of recognition is what Garcia has been striving for since coming to the NFL. It’s what he was used to in the CFL, and what he expects of himself. It wasn’t surprising when Garcia told the media that he is still looking to improve, not being content with his ‘best’ effort. "I look at the film, and I look at ways that I can still continue to improve. I think that I'm getting more comfortable every single day with my role in this offense, with my decision-making, I think that it's been a work in progress. I think that there's still room to improve, though. And that's the harshness I'm going to maintain on myself. As long as I keep pushing myself to get better, I'm going to be best for this team."
Garcia feels the pressure to be the best. He understands the history of the quarterback position in San Francisco and recognizes that there are extremely high expectations for the team and the position. "The quarterback position for the 49ers has been held by two great ones, so there are very high expectations, and there is not a lot of room for error because of those expectations." Garcia wants set those expectations even higher.
Dick Vermeil, whose Chiefs face the 49ers this weekend also had praise for the quarterback. “Jeff Garcia has given his football team a better opportunity to win than any team in football right now. He’s only thrown four interceptions and he’s thrown the ball 239 times. So, when you combine what he’s done on third down, he’s the No. 1 third-down quarterback in football by a huge margin. That’s a reflection of him and it’s also a reflection of his quarterback coach and his offensive coordinator.” Praise from Vermeil, a veteran coach is hard to come by.
The next step is for Garcia to perform at or above the level he was at against the Raiders on a more consistent basis and in even bigger games. This is the Jeff Garcia that Bill Walsh envisioned in the 49ers system, and the scary thought is, he is still looking to improve.