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Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers Need to Shift Focus

Brian Renick
Oct 25, 2021 at 2:35 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers entered the 2021 season with Super Bowl aspirations. They were a team 18 months removed from a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, and eight months removed from a nightmarish 2020 NFL season that saw them experience the second-most adjusted games lost to injury in the last 20 years.

Seven weeks into the season, the team currently sits at 2-4. Historically, teams that start the season at 2-4 have a 20% chance of making the playoffs. Nothing that the team has done thus far speaks to a team that has the execution or roster talent to make the playoffs in an NFC conference that currently boasts four teams with one loss (Green Bay, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Tampa Bay) as well as the lone undefeated team remaining in the NFL in the Arizona Cardinals. There are only seven playoff spots total. It doesn't look good for the San Francisco 49ers.

It's time for the team to refocus its goals for the 2021 season.

Start Trey Lance (When Healthy)

Kyle Shanahan's most oft-used reason for why Jimmy Garoppolo is QB1 for this team is because he gives them the best chance to win. While that is a perfectly understandable reason, the team is currently 2-3 in games that Garoppolo has started, and the offense has looked disjointed and lost since putting up 41 points against the Detroit Lions in Week 1, with a glimpse of respectability in the 2nd half of the Week 3 game against the Green Bay Packers.

Trey Lance started the Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals, and while the team only mustered 10 points, Lance kept the team in the game until the very end, especially with his legs. He also suffered a knee injury in that game during one of his 16 rushes, which is a reminder that you cannot sustain that type of usage with your quarterback in the NFL. Many of those rushes were scrambles, but there were still more designed runs in that game than most fans would like from their prized rookie quarterback.

With the playoffs ostensibly out of reach for the 49ers, it's time for the staff to shift its focus towards developing Trey Lance this season, in hopes of having the young QB hit the ground running in the 2022 season.

Elevating Lance to the QB1 position means that he gets valuable in-game reps to work on his pre-snap recognition, timing with his wide receivers, pocket maneuvering, etc., and also the lion's share of the reps in practice as well. Lance's current job in practice (when healthy) has been to lead the scout team offense. The scout team offense's job is to mimic the offense of that week's opponent, so while Lance is getting reps, they aren't reps within the framework of the 49ers' offense. That doesn't seem incredibly helpful in his long-term development.

As long as Lance is healthy, there is no reason why Jimmy Garoppolo should start another game for the 49ers in the 2021 season.

Let the Rest of the Kids Play

Kyle Shanahan and the coaching staff seem to have a reluctance in playing many of the rookies the team drafted this past April. The only rookie currently getting significant playing time is 6th round rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, and that is only due to the injuries that have decimated the running back room.

Guard Aaron Banks, a 2nd round pick, has yet to see a snap in a game. 3rd round CB Ambry Thomas has seen nine defensive snaps, fellow third-rounder Trey Sermon, the RB out of Ohio State, was a healthy scratch in Week 1 and hasn't seen any significant action outside of the Seattle game, when he started, and succeeded (19 carries, 89 yards, 4.6 yards/attempt), due to injuries. 5th round pick Deommodore Lenoir, a cornerback out of Oregon, was impressive in camp, and started in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, then played meaningful snaps the next two weeks, and has been M.I.A. since.

This team currently boasts 35 players with expiring contracts, 17 of whom are current starters or significant contributors. The turnover is going to be incredible next year, and it's imperative they see if any of these current rookies can fill some of those positions before they look towards free agency and the draft.

The 49ers' 2021 season has not played out at all as the decision-makers anticipated.

It's time for them to shift their focus and look towards 2022.
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

  • Jason
    I don't think Trey Lance is the answer. In my opinion, a run first quarterback is not what the 49ers need. A mobile pocket passer, yes. Not a quarterback who's first instinct is to run, rather than check down. This is what we have seen from Trey Lance.
    Oct 27, 2021 at 11:01 AM


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