Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

49ers sticking with Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t a tough decision, says Kyle Shanahan

Jan 12, 2022 at 12:16 PM--

There was a lot of pressure for the San Francisco 49ers to play rookie Trey Lance more. Not just at the start of the season but throughout the entire 2021 campaign. That included the week leading to the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, especially with starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with a pretty concerning right thumb injury.

Garoppolo did play through the pain of his torn ligament and chipped bone in that thumb. He put in a gutsy performance, leading the 49ers to a playoff-clinching 27-24 overtime victory over the Rams.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan did what he could to block out the outside noise, never giving in to the pressure to start Lance. It ended up being the right call, but the coach understands why everyone wanted to see the rookie quarterback so badly.

"I think it's human nature, I guess," Shanahan told reporters before Wednesday's practice as the 49ers begin preparing for this weekend's playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. "When you trade up, and everyone's real excited, and you get a quarterback in the third pick of the draft, I think everyone's waiting to see. Just very rarely do two quarterbacks play. I mean, we did a little bit at the beginning of the year, but that's just not something that happens much.

"I think as soon as you have a bad record, and things don't look right, regardless of whether you have a backup on the bench that everyone wants to see, or whether you don't, when you're 3-5, and you've lost four in a row, whether you're the coordinators, the head coach, or the quarterback, that's just how it is. And when you've got a rookie sitting there on the bench, it's what's expected."

While the chatter was loud outside the building, internally, Shanahan and his staff stuck with the plan they've had all season. Garoppolo is the starter, and the inexperienced Lance would be better served by sitting and learning this season.

"That's what I kind of like about our building," Shanahan said. "I don't think it's something that people missed. It was just what you expect. That is what happens. And when you have an organization that, to me—we really don't splinter in here. Guys aren't just going to get caught up in that stuff and come and force anything like that. It allows you to make the right decisions.

"When you watch the tape, I didn't think Jimmy was playing that bad. I thought, as a team, there was a number of things we weren't doing well. But we'd all go back and watch the tape every Sunday night, Monday; that isn't what we saw. And we did think Jimmy was still giving us the best chance, and we wanted to give Trey more time. Not only just for him but also for our team.

"So it wasn't a tough decision. We just stuck with it because that's what the right decision was based off of film, and based off of where we are in our building and our practice. I'm glad the guys have come through and got us to this point, and I'm real glad we're still playing."
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