MIAMI – The older this media jackal gets, the better he understands why football coaches sometimes laugh, shake their head and struggle to understand the basis for a fellow jackal's question.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, whose running game steamrollered the Vikings and Packers to reach Super Bowl LIV, was asked if in doing so he had to "sit down" with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to "reassure" him that he still had faith in Jimmy's ability to complete a forward pass if the need arises in Sunday's game.
Some might argue that $137.5 million over five years shows adequate confidence in a young man's abilities. But Kyle chuckled and went another route while explaining that, no, he did not have to hold Jimmy G's hand and help him through this trying time in his life.
"It's really funny that people say that," Shanahan said. "Did anyone notice how good we were running the ball? We weren't just running it to punt and try to win 3-0. There were times, especially that Green Bay game, we had a better chance getting 30 yards running it just from some of the looks we were getting."
In the 49ers' past seven quarters, Garoppolo has thrown the ball 19 times, 11 in the final three quarters against the Vikings and eight for the entire NFC Championship Game against the Packers. And the 49ers outscored 'em 54-23 while running the ball 87 times for 467 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and six touchdowns in those 75 minutes.
"As a quarterback you want to throw it," said Garoppolo, who got two rings without throwing a ball as Tom Brady's Super Bowl backup. "But when you are moving the ball at 8 yards per carry, do you really want to pass it?"
Apparently "no" is not the no-brainer answer based on some of this week's lines of questioning.
"Whatever it takes to win," Garoppolo said. "That's how I've been my whole life."
Garoppolo completed five of six passes for 57 yards and a touchdown on the 49ers' opening drive against the Vikings in the divisional round.
"You look at the Minnesota game, our plan was to run the ball all game," Shanahan said. "We kind of fell into that in Green Bay. But if you look at that first drive against Minnesota, we came out throwing just trying to loosen them up because we knew they would be hard to run against."
Pro-Football-Reference.com notes that Garoppolo is the first quarterback since Miami's Bob Griese in 1973 to advance his team to the Super Bowl with fewer than 10 attempts in a conference championship game.
Griese completed three of six passes for 34 yards and an interception in a 27-10 victory over the Raiders. After that, he completed six of seven for 73 yards in a 24-7 win over the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII.
Add that up and you got 107 yards passing, no touchdowns and two big victories featuring 106 rushes for 462 yards and six touchdowns.
"Football is a big circle," said Chiefs coach Andy Reid when asked about Shanahan's old-school offense. "What's good today won't be good tomorrow, but it will come back the following day. With [Shanahan's] success, [running the ball] will be coming back."
Also, as Shanahan points out, "you can't run the ball if your quarterback can't convert third downs." Well, Garoppolo led the league in percentage of third-down passes that went for first downs. In a 34-31 victory over the Rams in Week 16, he converted two third-and-16s on the game-winning drive.
"If the game comes down to Jimmy's arm, Jimmy's gonna ball," said receiver Emmanuel Sanders when told that Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones said Kansas City wants to put the game in Garoppolo's hands.
Meanwhile, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman took aim at Garoppolo's critics and fired one of his classic dagger rebuttals.
"Idiots," he said, "sound like idiots at this point."
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org