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PEBBLE BEACH — Steve Young and Alex Smith enthusiastically endorsed Thursday’s news that Jimmy Garoppolo will get paid more than anyone ever to work their old job as 49ers quarterback.
“Tremendously good news, and if I had $136 million, I would have given it to him,” Young said as he and Smith golfed together at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
A text alert on Young’s phone informed the former Niners on the front nine at Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and neither had sticker shock at the figures: $137.5 million over five years, with $90 million guaranteed in the first three seasons, per ESPN.
“At this point, with guys you think can go win championships, you’ve got to get them locked up and pay the market (rate), that’s how it works,” Young said.
Smith helped set that market rate last week when the Kansas City Chiefs agreed in principle to trade him to Washington, which promptly gave Smith a contract extension (four years, $94 million; $71 million guaranteed) once the trade can become official March 14.
“Good for him, good for him,” Smith said of Garoppolo.
Smith refrained from discussing his Washington deal in fear of ticking off the NFL before the trade is official, but he did offer context on the league’s ever-friendly market rate for quarterbacks.
“It’s been like that for a long time and will continue to be like that,” Smith said. “As the year goes on, obviously this is going to progress.
“The cap keeps getting bigger. It’s just the nature of this and you’re going to continue to see it. I know some other guys that will probably sign deals (this year), too.”
That group likely includes extensions for Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) and Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons) and new contracts for pending free agents Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints), Kirk Cousins (Washington), Case Keenum (Minnesota Vikings) and Sam Bradford (Vikings).
Garoppolo’s first public comment on the contract came via an Instagram picture of him celebrating in a game last season with center Daniel Kilgore, accompanied by a caption that simply said: “Mood.”
Kilgore, in a text message to this newspaper, reacted: "Very well deserving to a guy who has proven to be a winner and leader! Exciting time for the Niner Faithful"
Other 49ers players shared that sentiment over a quarterback who arrived in an Oct. 30 trade from the New England Patriots — when the 49ers were 0-8 — and finished the season 5-0 as their starter.
“Jimmy really gave us that spark at the end of the year,” left tackle Joe Staley told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Everybody’s confidence level in him rose as the season went on. Their play rose as well.”
Garoppolo, 26, spent a month learning coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook before winning his Dec. 3 debut in Chicago, some 30 minutes from his hometown of Arlington Heights, Illinois.
The week the 49ers acquired him, they extended their franchise-worst start to 0-9 with a 20-10 loss to Arizona.
“He played lights out the five games he played, and I’m glad he sat out the game we played him,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after his AT&T Pebble Beach round. “But he really did a great job for him and he’s deserving for whatever he gets.”
Staley said Garoppolo seized his teammates’ respect from the outset by asserting himself and outline what they had to do.
“He did it in a way where he didn’t come off as arrogant or anything,” Staley said. “It was just like, ‘I’m asserting myself. This is what needs to be done.’ I think a lot of that comes from who he was job shadowing the first three or four years of his career over there in New England.”
Young agreed, pointing to Garoppolo’s pedigree of working under Patriots great Tom Brady since being drafted in 2014.
“He’s been trained well and knows what you have to do to be great,” Young said. “So I don’t think we’re going to see any big drop in what you saw this year.”
The 49ers are betting on that. They haven’t publicly confirmed Garoppolo’s deal, waiting to do so until it’s signed, although they’re not expecting him to ditch their agreement like Josh McDaniels did with the Indianapolis Colts coaching job this week.
Garoppolo, once officially signed, entrenches himself in a quarterback throne that’s produced Hall of Famers in Joe Montana and Steve Young, thus setting a pressure-packed standard for their successors, which included Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005 who ultimately got traded to the Chiefs in 2013.
Asked if the 49ers’ job comes with more pressure than others around the league, Smith responded: “I don’t think so. He walked into a place that was 0-for and went 5-0 as their starter.
“Certainly you embrace the tradition and legacy of any organization, and certainly one like the 49ers’,” Smith said. “But I don’t think that weighs on you.”
Added Staley of Garroppolo: “The franchise is in good hands with him at the helm.”
Fitzgerald, who remains undecided on if he’ll return to the Cardinals for a 15th season, expects the 49ers to be a tougher challenger in the NFC West. “(General manager) John Lynch has done a good job putting this squad together,” Fitzgerald said. “They have a lot of weapons, young defensive players, and they’re going to be exciting for years to come.”