Q&A with Jeff Garcia

Q. Did you ever think you would see the day when the two top quarterbacks in the NFC would be former guy from the CFL and a former guy from the Arena League?<P> JEFF GARCIA: I don't think anybody visualized that. I think within ourselves, we believed that we could be good quarterbacks if given the opportunity in this league, but I think it comes as a surprise to everybody.

I think it just shows that there are loopholes. There are guys out there that are talented enough to play at this level; yet, not everybody can get that opportunity. Fortunately for ourselves, we gained experience elsewhere, and I think we have been able to utilize that experience in order to have some success down here in the NFL.

Q. You did have a lot of experience elsewhere, but what have you learned since coming to the 49ers and Coach Mariucci?

JEFF GARCIA: I think I have just learned through his passion for the game, through his integrity, his intensity for the game, just how to basically maintain a certain level of excellence or a certain level of positive attitude throughout the whole season. I think that is something that Coach Mariucci does such an excellent job of with this team is, through highs and lows he finds a way to be positive. I think that that has started to really, really carry over on to the team's attitude and the atmosphere in the locker room; and I think it just has helped us breed a better situation here, with the 49ers and be able to overcome some of the negative things we have gone through over the past two years.

Q. How is your relationship with Terrell Owens?

JEFF GARCIA: Our relationship with TO is a good one. Mainly based on a player relationship. TO and I get along real well in the locker room and on the field, and I think we are just trying to grow and become better players within the system, and hopefully, be allowed to have enough opportunities on Sundays to go out there and make plays together.

Q. Is this team playing with even more confidence than the last time you saw St. Louis?

JEFF GARCIA: I definitely believe so. We have grown in a lot of ways since that meeting earlier in the season. Again, that came off the unfortunate incidents in New York and Washington, and that was a situation where we, I think the whole league, was trying to regroup and get back into playing form. But I think as a team, we have gotten better since that time. I know that they have gotten better, too, but we have definitely grown. We have matured in a lot of ways. We have become more confident with each week, with every given circumstance that we have approached this season, as far as coming from behind in the fourth quarter, being able to put a couple of teams away the last couple of weeks. It's just a growing period, a growing situation on a weekly basis and it's definitely moving into a positive direction.

Q. Can you describe the different roles of your quarterback coach, your offensive coordinator and coaches working with you?

JEFF GARCIA: I think basically Coach Knapp, who has been my quarterback coach the past two seasons and now is our offensive coordinator, I think he has done just an outstanding job of being thorough with me, of being somewhat hard on me in a sense of not allowing me to relax or rest on the success that I've had, but to continue to push forward.

Those are the things I expect out of myself anyway, but he reinforces that. He's just done an excellent job of that. Coach Olsen who is new to our system, new to the 49ers is still in a big time learning process, but he's had success in previous places and I definitely hold and listen to everything that he says in any sort of coaching type situations that he brings up and tries to help me improve upon. I'm definitely working with him in that way. Then Coach Mariucci basically oversees everything. He makes sure that we are on the right path; that we are doing the right things. When he has to step in during practice and correct either something that I do or something that the team does, we definitely listen to him and hang on every word of his. It's a combination of coaching, but I think it all pretty much is directed through Coach Knapp, who has been more on hands with me over the past two and a half seasons.

Q. What teams worked you out and then declined to offer you a contract?

JEFF GARCIA: Well, the Raiders were one of those teams. St. Louis declined to offer me a contract and worked me out. Jacksonville worked me out and didn't offer me a contract. Then previous to that, two years prior to that I worked out for Green Bay and they didn't offer me, obviously, a contract. Atlanta had shown some interest. Then we had Miami who had offered me a contract the same year that the 49ers did, and I just chose to take the 49er offer over the Miami offer.

Q. The two‑man ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ what do you enjoy about it?

JEFF GARCIA: I think it's just realizing the position that you are in, realizing how much time you have to work with, how many time‑outs you have to work with and you need as far as a score goes. Again, when you're closing out a first half, your situation is much different than it is closing out a game. So I think that we have been able to take those opportunities and have been very efficient based upon not trying to force the issue, but really allow us to just take what the defense is offering and make plays off of that.

We've been fortunate enough to make enough plays in those closing minutes, to be able to give us opportunities to get back into games, or to eventually win games, and it's just been something that we work on every Wednesday in practice. We go against our defense in practice. It's a no‑holds barred type situation. We are out there to win it and we try to do our best. I think that just filters on to the game field on Sundays.

Q. What year were you in St. Louis working out for them?

JEFF GARCIA: It was the same year ‑‑ I worked out for five teams in '98 and early '99 after my last season in Calgary. So there wore five teams that I worked out for and it was the 49ers that I ended up signing with. I would go out there with, I believe, Charlie Army and Coach Vermeil and some of their other coaches and went through a workout. As much as I thought it was a positive thing, they felt otherwise; and actually they had a good situation with who they had coming in. So, it worked out for everybody, I guess.

Q. That could have been you in '99 taking them to the Super Bowl.

JEFF GARCIA: Strange things happen. And unfortunately for Trent Green, he got hurt but that gave we to an opportunity for Kurt Warner and did an outstanding job of grabbing hold of the reins and not looking back, that's for sure.

Q. What did they tell you when they didn't sign you? What was your response? How did you feel? How did you react?

JEFF GARCIA: I realized going into an individual workout, I'm not the type of quarterback that's just going to turn you ‑‑ if you have any doubts about me, it's not in an individual workout where I'm just going to overly persuade you to give me an opportunity. I really believe that everything I had to offer had to be seen through my playing abilities on the football field when everything else is going on.

When those teams didn't show the interest that I was hoping for, you know, it was just one of those things where I felt I had been there before in the sense of being knocked for certain things, not really getting a true opportunity based upon what my actual playing experience had showed, and if it meant going back to the CFL, well, I was really in a situation at that point where I was really enjoying myself in Canada. And as much as I believed I could play down here, if that opportunity didn't happen, I wasn't going to let it disappoint me or allow it to change my mental thought, as far as enjoying myself and being able to play a game that I love to play.

 Q. Was it hard to maintain a low level of expectations the last few years when you with guys were struggling? Were you able to stay patient as a team, knowing it with would turn around eventually?

JEFF GARCIA: It was hard to be patient, especially the first year because I believed that there were so many things going wrong with this team, you didn't really know when the bleeding was going to stop. Then I think as of last year, we really started to see signs of improvement and signs of this team getting better, this team growing up, this team coming together as a team, and especially at the end of the season when we won four of our last six games, there was so much improvement to this team throughout this team. It wasn't just on one side of the ball; it was throughout the team, and I felt that that was something we could really work with because we had a majority of the guys coming back. We were young in a lot of areas and I really believe we were only going to get better.

I believe that going into this year, if we didn't make a run at the playoffs, it would be a disappointing season. I think that we have exceeded some of even our own expectations as of this point, but the year is not over. There are five games left for us as far as this regular season goes and we are just excited to be building upon that.

Q. With the Garrison Hearst comeback and not wanting him to overwork him, the draft of Kevan Barlow, how big was that?

JEFF GARCIA: That was big. I think that was a very positive draft pick for us. Here was a guy who definitely came in and showed that he had the talent, both mentally and physically, to do what we were asking of him. He picked up the offense very quickly. He's a guy who goes out there and makes positive things happen. He doesn't make the mental mistakes that rookies sometimes make, and it allowed Garrison to get to the point where he is today. And it's been a very positive situation with both of them getting playing time, both of them are very different in their styles of running. I think it just makes us that much better as an offensive group.

Q. Did you learn to throw on the run in Canada or did you always have that ability?

JEFF GARCIA: I believe I had that ability. Especially when I played for my dad in junior college, we really utilized a lot of roll‑outs in key‑type plays where I was throwing on the run. So I think it was just something that I started to build upon at that point. In Canada, we utilized a lot of that and it was expected of us to be able to throw accurately on the run, so that was a non‑issue. We were going to roll right, we were going to roll left, we were going to do it every which way. Because Doug Flutie was so successful at it and it was something that I could do, once Doug left and I took over the starting position, it was something that we didn't have to change. We just continued to build on it and I think it has been a very positive thing for us to utilize down here.

Q. What impact did Doug have on your career when you were behind him and playing behind him?

JEFF GARCIA: I think it was a very positive impact. I think being able to watch how he approached the game, how he handled certain circumstances during games, how he was able to have success on the field and not allow certain ‑‑ certain things to get in the way of his success, such as the certain stereotypes that are out there about size and arm strength. The guy was a player and a competitor to the utmost, and being able to watch that and learn from that, I think was a very positive experience in my growing and becoming a better quarterback myself.

Q. Can you talk about the short passes? It seems like most West Coast offenses really throw under the yardsticks, but in some ways, you get to do more in throwing downfield; but what is the philosophy?

JEFF GARCIA: I think with this offense, they try to emphasize not forcing the issue, making good decisions, allowing the athletes, the players who are used to running with the football, to be able to catch the ball and run with the ball and make positive gains after the catch. So much is emphasized about yards after the catch, and often times when you face third‑and‑medium or third‑and‑long situations, it's difficult to throw the ball past the yardsticks without forcing the issue.

There are going to be times when you have to throw under the yardsticks and just allow your guys to work for that positive yardage and get first downs. That's something that I think is done often in the West Coast offense. They emphasize check‑downs. It is very similar to utilizing in such a way like teams use the running game, but you are utilizing the passing game to make good decisions and to get the ball from your hands into your athletes' hands and allow them to make positive yardage after the catch.

Q. You mentioned the 49ers and the Rams have vastly improved defenses this year. When you see the Rams defense on film, what pops out at you?

JEFF GARCIA: I think they are very solid. They don't do a whole lot of different things. They are just very good, very sound at what they do. Their defensive front is a hard‑working, get‑after‑it bunch. They never let up. They allow their athletic linebackers to move around. They are very fast at the linebacker positions. They have flied at the football. They gain tackle. Everybody is around the football. Their defensive backs, they make plays, they intercept passes. They return passes for touchdowns. They just have a very solid, a very good thing going with their team right now.

A lot of that was brought on with their defensive coordinator as far as the team goes, but it's the athletes who are out there making the plays and they are taking that scheme and utilizing it to the best of their abilities. I'm sure they probably think that they can even get better and they probably can. But where they are at right now is ‑‑ they have made a great improvement over where they were last year. I have nothing but positive things to say about them because they have done a great job all season long.

They have made that team that much more difficult to face, especially when you have an explosive offense on the other side of the ball and a defense who is going to get you plenty of opportunities to score points.

Q. You mentioned your father earlier. Talk about how being a coach's kid impacted you as a football player.

 JEFF GARCIA: I think he was huge because in the sense that the mental part of the game was there far before the physical part ever caught up. I was mentally in tune to the game from the age of 8 or 9 years old, just knowing how to understand defenses, knowing where to go with my decisions, where to go with the football. Hopefully making positive decisions based upon what I knew as a player, as a quarterback. I think a lot of that is attributed to just having a father as a coach and growing up on the football field and watching him coach and watching him watch film and just starting to understand the game from an early age.

Fortunately for myself, I had enough physical ability that eventually caught up with me, so I was able to eventually combine the mental aspect and the physical aspect and become the player that I am today.

Q. What do you think Bill Walsh saw in you when you were signed as a free agent by the 49ers?

JEFF GARCIA: I think a lot of that came when he was coaching at Stanford ‑‑ I was playing at San Jose State ‑‑ and we played against each other. On that day that we played against each other, I had a break‑open type day and I think a lot of it was my decision‑making on the field, my athletic ability as far as being able to throw the ball accurately on the run, make good decisions on the run, make positive yardage running the football. And then just my competitive intensity on the field of never giving up, of fighting through everything, of taking hits and getting back up.

 I think a combination of those things, he just saw as a positive image of what he liked in a quarterback. And so, he was able to ‑‑ we were able to keep in contact. He tried to help me when I came out of college. Didn't necessarily open up any doors, but we kept that contact going. When he did finally have an opportunity to make a decision, he wanted to bring me in and take a look at me.

That was a major reason why I signed with San Francisco instead of going to another, I think what would have been a positive opportunity in Miami, was because Bill Walsh was here. I knew that I would get a legitimate opportunity and not just be brought in as a training camp type quarterback to provide an extra arm, but I would be brought in as a guy who was going to compete as the back‑up position to Steve Young, and that's the way it worked out. I think that everybody has been happy ever since.

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