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49ers coach Kyle Shanahan pleased with Garoppolo-Lance QB rotation but declines to name a Week 1 starter

Aug 29, 2021 at 5:26 PM--

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49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is making fans wait a little while longer before they know for sure who the team's starting quarterback will be for the Week 1 opener in Detroit on September 12. But they and the rest of the NFL got a glimpse on Sunday of the type of thing he might have in store for them this season when it comes to quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance.

Garoppolo and Lance were both given a number of reps in the 49ers' 34-10 win over the Raiders in the preseason finale on Sunday, with Garoppolo starting the game and Lance being rotated into the action throughout the game's opening drives. It came as no surprise to see the rookie getting some early action on Sunday given the fact Shanahan has said in recent weeks that he wanted to work Lance in with the starters. What wasn't expected was how often Lance and Garoppolo shuffled in and out of the game, with Lance getting multiple snaps during the first two drives before fully taking over for Garoppolo in the second quarter. Shanahan said the offense had been working through a similar quarterback shuffle during practices and he wanted to give it a try in a game situation before the preseason came to a close.

"I just wanted them to get live action of it," Shanahan said. "We've done it in practice a couple times, and this was the last time before we're going to get into the regular season. It's the last time you can have the opportunity to do it, so I kind of wanted to do it in this game."

The 49ers scored touchdowns during each of the drives on which Garoppolo and Lance were rotating snaps, albeit against a Raiders defense that was resting many of its key players. Garoppolo and Lance each scored a rushing touchdown to finish the drives, which Shanahan thought were a success.

"I thought they did a good job," Shanahan said. "By no means was it perfect, but I thought just the function of it and going in and out and not knowing when it's going to be -- it wasn't a planned rotation or anything, I was trying to make it situational. I was just doing it mainly off impulse and whatever the down and distance felt like, what we wanted to call. Those guys seemed like they handled it good. I'll meet with it tomorrow and watch it all with them, which I'm looking forward to, but today I thought it was good."

Shanahan wasn't the only one to like what he saw while the quarterbacks were being shuffled. Garoppolo told reporters after the game he thought things went well and noted that the shuffling kept the defense off balance.

"You definitely feel it," Garoppolo said. "I think even with me and Trey running off the tempo was still pretty good. There were a couple times getting to the line where they were still making calls and stuff like that. You could tell it was tough on them, so that's what we're trying to do."

Lance chimed in as well during his post-game session with reporters and gave the quarterback shuffling a thumbs-up.

"It's fun. I trust Coach Shanahan, and I know Jimmy does, and our whole team and locker room does," Lance said. "He's going to find ways to get the guys that need the ball the ball and do whatever it takes to win games. So yeah, it was a ton of fun for sure. It was good to get into a rhythm, and obviously those drives when we were going back and forth and ended up with Jimmy scoring that first touchdown was a lot of fun."

Also weighing in after the game was running back Raheem Mostert, who ran for 53 yards on seven carries during the opening drive. Mostert said the decision to move Lance in and out of the game opened up the offense for himself and others.

"(The Raiders) were definitely were eyeing Trey," Mostert said. "That just opened the game for me and other running backs and stuff like that, even receivers -- just the dynamic of everybody. Kyle's doing a great job with both of them. I'm just excited to see how this thing plays out in the season. It's nice though."

Will the quarterback shuffle be something that comes up again during the regular season? Maybe not to the frequency it was shown on Sunday, but Shanahan says it remains a possibility.

"We've got two guys who can play and we've been doing it in practice a little bit, wanted to do it out there in the game, and it's always going to be an option," Shanahan said.

Of course, a much bigger issue than whether or not Garoppolo and Lance will continue to rotate is which one of them will start in the season opener. Garoppolo has been given the start in each of the first three preseason games, and odds are the situation will remain the same against the Lions in two weeks. But, as was the case when asked about the issue last week, Shanahan on Sunday declined to announce who will start when the regular season gets underway.

"I guess we'll have to see," Shanahan said. "I don't like playing this game, but everyone keeps asking that question. I'm not giving the answer just to satisfy the question. I think we've got a pretty good idea, like I've said all along. I think our team does. We're pretty good with it as long as I can keep surviving press conferences."

Whatever path he chooses in the coming days, Shanahan seems to think the players will support any decision he makes.

"You hope you don't have to gauge the locker room's opinion," Shanahan said. "Those guys, it's really hard for them to do their job, it's really hard for me to do my job. It's hard for everybody. So, you hope guys have the confidence that we're doing things right. I think our guys know us well enough. Guys always have opinions, I'm sure, but I think our team's going to support us with whatever we do."

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