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Why I Believe Kyle Shanahan Wants Trey Lance to Start Week 1

Brian Renick
Jun 28, 2021 at 1:01 PM

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The incredibly dead portion of the NFL calendar is upon us. It's a time when the mind begins to wander without anything football-related to truly engage with. As a football fan, and a member of The Faithful, this inevitably leads to more thoughts about the Trey Lance vs. Jimmy Garoppolo debate.

I believe the best-case scenario for the 49ers would be for Jimmy Garoppolo to start, and succeed, during the early portion of the season. This would build up his trade value and make him a possible target for a team at the trade deadline. Recouping some of the draft capital the team gave up to draft Lance #3 overall would be the icing on the cake for GM John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, who are already thrilled with getting "their guy" at the most important position on the field.

However, in these summer doldrums, stuck in my head thinking about how hard Kyle Shanahan has worked to replace Jimmy Garoppolo, first with a flirtation with Tom Brady, and now by the drafting of Trey Lance, there are a handful of clues that point to Shanahan's desire to have Trey Lance start Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.

The Infamous Pre-Draft Press Conference

Once the 49ers made the trade with the Miami Dolphins that netted the third overall pick, rampant speculation about who the team was targeting became a daily exercise. National writers, bloggers, podcasters, and fans loved to pin Kyle Shanahan down to a specific quarterback based on their interpretation of clues, history, and talent evaluation. The "Mac Jones to San Francisco" rumor became the most prevalent, and it all seemed to come to a head at the 49ers' pre-draft press conference on April 24th, 2021, three days before the start of the first round.

The fact that Kyle Shanahan decided to join this press conference, which was originally only scheduled for GM John Lynch, was already odd to begin with. Shanahan's demeanor in the press conference made it even more strange. He seemed combative, short, and extremely irritated during the entire press conference. Many people felt this was Kyle's way of defending what they already thought was a done deal: the drafting of Mac Jones, whom many considered the fifth-best quarterback prospect, with the third overall pick. With the benefit of hindsight, I think Shanahan's demeanor can be interpreted differently.

The theme that seemed to run through all of Shanahan's comments during the press conference was the need to acquire a "starting quarterback." He used the term nine times, including during his first statement of the call, saying "...we made a decision in this process that we felt we needed to get a starting quarterback this year and add that to our team." Jimmy Garoppolo was still on the roster when he made that comment. Later in the call, in an answer to a question about what he liked about Mac Jones, Shanahan used the term "starting quarterback" six times in his answer.

At the time, many people interpreted these answers to mean Shanahan had zeroed in on Mac Jones, who, outside of Trevor Lawrence, many considered to be the most "pro-ready," and therefore capable of starting immediately. As we know now, from countless interviews and stories, Trey Lance was the quarterback that both Shanahan and GM John Lynch had in mind all along when they made the trade with the Dolphins. So why did Kyle talk about the need for a starting quarterback so often?

I believe this was his way of confirming that he no longer wanted Jimmy Garoppolo to lead his offense. I also believe that Kyle's demeanor stemmed from some conflict between him, Lynch, and team owner Jed York. Both Lynch and York have stated in multiple interviews since drafting Lance that they have no problem having Lance sit behind Jimmy for as long as needed. They are both more committed to Garoppolo than Shanahan is, and they weren't willing to move on from him unless they received what they considered to be proper compensation. An owner and a GM who were willing to spend $27 million this season for Jimmy Garoppolo to remain on the roster overrode a coach who simply wanted someone new, and more dynamic, to lead his offense. Kyle was in his feelings and it showed.

Rookie Mini-Camp, OTAs, and Offseason Focus

On June 19th, Jeremy Fowler, a senior NFL reporter for ESPN, appeared on SportsCenter and said:

"I'm told San Fran spent much of the OTAs and minicamp working on Trey Lance's mechanics, making sure things were compact, and the reason is they wanted to get that down so that in training camp they can unleash the full arsenal. They can show him off as a runner. They don't want to put him in harm's way and have him take too many hits. But they love the dimension he can bring to (head coach) Kyle Shanahan's attack because they couldn't do it with Jimmy Garoppolo. They could do it with Lance as a runner and a passer."

Much of the footage and reporting from rookie mini-camp and OTAs seems to confirm what Fowler was told, as well as the constant barrage of videos on Twitter and Instagram from Lance and his camp, showing him working seemingly daily during this lull before training camp. It appears that the coaching staff is trying its hardest to make sure that once camp starts, Lance can hit the ground running to create a true camp battle between him and Garoppolo.

The Allure of the New Toy

My wife and I just recently purchased a Tesla Model 3. We ordered it back in April and it did not arrive until June 11th. In the two and a half weeks since its arrival, we have driven that car 1,300 miles, and we both work from home. We haven't had anywhere to go, but the allure of driving our "new toy" has led to many drives with no destination in mind.

Kyle Shanahan became "obsessed" with Trey Lance back in January of 2021. He knew he wanted him to lead his offense and that his skill set would take it to another level. He was infamously drawing up plays for Lance on the plane ride back from watching Justin Fields' Pro Day. Kyle wants to drive his offense with Lance at the steering wheel. He's been dreaming about it for five months, and he doesn't seem like a very patient man.

With Trey Lance under center, and with Kyle Shanahan calling plays, the sky's the limit for this offense. Lance is young and inexperienced, but as we've seen, he is a tireless worker, and as Peter Schrager reported on Good Morning Football back on April 23rd, he is "the smartest quarterback in this draft. Not only the one with the most upside athletically. This kid is apparently a savant, not only on the board but just in general in life." A tireless work ethic, along with a savant-like ability to pick up an offense will go a long way towards overcoming inexperience.

I still think that the best-case scenario for the 49ers is to have Jimmy Garoppolo start at quarterback, and succeed, before the trade deadline.

I also think Kyle Shanahan wants Trey Lance to start Week 1.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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1 Comment

  • WildBill
    Follow the KISS rule-keep it simple stup.... Anytime you draft a QB high, you are going to prep him as best as can as one should-only a moron (Harbaugh with Colin) wouldn't. You also always want your pick to surpass or supplant the current else why draft him. However, no one should rush things if they are not ready. People need to ride it and enjoy that the niners are better prepared if Jimmy goes down. You don't want a rookie to get shell shocked and never recover.
    Jun 29, 2021 at 2:49 PM


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