Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Juszczyk defends Kyle Shanahan’s use of Trey Lance

Sep 22, 2022 at 10:31 AM--

One of the biggest debates since the San Francisco 49ers' Week 2 win over the Seattle Seahawks has been head coach Kyle Shanahan's use of Trey Lance. Many feel that the excessive use of quarterback runs unnecessarily put the second-year player in harm's way. Lance ended up suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter.

During an interview on 95.7 The Game, fullback Kyle Juszczyk defended his head coach. He doesn't understand the criticism directed in Shanahan's direction, and the growing lack of trust from a very vocal segment of the fanbase.

"I think he deserves that trust, and he's built that reputation to have that trust," Juszczyk told Damon Bruce and Ray Ratto. "He's had so much success in the decisions that he has made here that I think he's built that credit."

Shanahan has guided his 49ers to the NFC Championship Game in two of the last three seasons and got them to the Super Bowl during their 2019 campaign. However, in a "what have you done for me lately" league, fans are focused on the coach's play-calling with Lance as the young quarterback continued to be a work-in-progress, even as a starter.

Lance ran the football 16 times for 67 rushing yards through his five quarters of play this season. That put him on pace for 217 carries for 911 rushing yards.

Juszczyk used math to explain Shanahan's usage of Lance, knowing that he probably won't change anyone's mind at this point. The Harvard math major shared that no matter how often you flip a coin, the odds of landing on heads or tails is 50 percent for each flip. That never changes.

"You get tails 10 times in a row, that 11th flip is still 50/50," Juszczyk said. "So what I'm trying to get at in correlating this with Trey—he broke his ankle. Now, that's a fluke injury. That's not something that comes from wear and tear. That doesn't come from, 'Man, I've ran the ball five times this game. My ankle's getting weak. It's going to snap on the sixth run.' That's not how it works.

"Maybe I could understand an argument if he separated his shoulder or he did something that resulted from repetitive wear and tear, from continually getting hit, but this wasn't that. This was a freak thing on his ankle. And so I think, yeah, he's asked to run some run plays, but I think that was a strength of his, and it was a strength of our team. And that really puts defenses in a bind.

"And yes, he may have been on that pace to [rush] more than all these guys in history, but I don't think that was going to continue. I think maybe that was eventually going to set up a lot of things for our offense. It's just like when you're trying to set up play-action, you're running the ball a lot downhill. I'm leading up on linebackers. We're not going to continue to do that forever. Eventually, we're going build things off of that, and I think that's what we were doing with Trey."

Bruce asked Juszczyk about the specific play in which Lance got hurt and if running your highly-valued quarterback into the teeth of the defense was the right call. Perhaps a run to the outside on the option would have been a better plan.

"I hear you," Juszczyk responded. "Honestly, I just think that was something that's really hard to defend, and we felt like there was an advantage there. And Trey, he's a big strong guy. He can do a good job running between the tackles. It's not necessarily that much safer running outside than it is on the inside. These are all NFL defenses, and quarterbacks run all over this league.

"So I've really got to come to Kyle's defense here on this. I don't think that he really was putting Trey in a bad position. I think he was putting Trey in a good position to execute plays that he's good at and to get us to move the ball down the field, and like I said earlier, set up plays for later."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Juszczyk below.

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