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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Mailbag: Where is Danny Gray and Jordan Mason? Will the 49ers trade for Christian McCaffrey? Will Kyle Shanahan be fired at season’s end?

Marc Adams
Oct 19, 2022 at 9:21 AM--


Every week, we open up the 49ers mailbag for fans to ask questions, or get things off their chest. We respond to as many as we can. Sometimes that means most of the questions and comments. And sometimes, like this week (or other weeks that follow a frustrating loss), there are too many to get to.

I love the passion of the 49ers fanbase. And I appreciate all your great questions. So let's get to it. Here are my responses to your questions and comments.

Danny Gray was a full participant in practice late last week, but why was he a healthy scratch on Sunday when we could've used his speed to stretch the top off Atlanta's defense? Plus, why were we interested in trading for Christian McCaffrey when (1) our RBs don't catch enough passes out of the backfield to consider it, and (2) we can literally use Ray-Ray McCloud for the same purpose of catching passes out of the backfield? - Johnny Y.


I'm not sure Danny Gray was a healthy scratch last Sunday. He had been dealing with an illness all week and didn't practice much, so it's possible he had not fully recovered and simply wasn't feeling at full strength. Additionally, I've written before that Kyle Shanahan doesn't play rookies as much until he has confidence in them. It could be that Gray hasn't shown enough in practice so far.

But I agree that the 49ers could have used his downfield speed in Atlanta.

It may take Gray more time to be ready, and we might need to exercise a little patience. Matt Barrows, of the Athletic, recently wrote, "I don't think Gray's slow start — no catches so far — is all that surprising. When I spoke with his former coaches in the offseason, they A.) invariably gushed about him and predicted he'd be an excellent pro, and B.) thought it might take a while for him to get going. Gray seemed to be just scratching the surface when he left SMU."

As far as the 49ers' interest in trading for Panthers running back, Christian McCaffrey, they show interest in seemingly every player who is on the trade block. They call it "due diligence." But they rarely pull the trigger. And I would be stunned if they do this time, either. Carolina will likely be looking for a first-round pick. And they could get it, though McCaffrey's injury history, along with the position he plays, makes me think otherwise.

If Carolina can get a first-round pick, the 49ers will be out. You'll recall they traded away their 2023 first-round pick as part of the package to draft Trey Lance. I'm sure the 49ers checked in with Carolina to see what they want for McCaffrey, and perhaps what other players they are open to trading.

But in the end, they simply don't have the draft capital to make a big trade.

And if they did make a trade for McCaffrey, who's to say Shanahan will use him the way we hope he would? I tend to think McCaffrey would be a perfect fit for this offense, but it's hard to know if the 49ers would actually get that out of him.

If the 49ers did fire Kyle at the end of the year, what would the aftermath look like (would Ryans be promoted, would Lynch be kept on, would Trey still get a chance…) - Daniel S.


The 49ers are not going to fire Shanahan at the end of the season. It may happen someday. But it won't happen after this season.

If, however, I'm completely wrong, and he is fired, DeMeco Ryans would have to be considered. John Lynch would likely be retained as General Manager, and Lance will still have the opportunity to prove he can be the quarterback the 49ers drafted him to be.

But again, I'd be stunned if it happens. Now if they keep losing, look horrible doing so, and if it's clear Shanahan has lost the team, then I may change my opinion in December.

Did the 49ers get "exposed" against Atlanta? How much did injuries play a part in Sunday's loss? - Matt H.


Did the Atlanta Falcons expose the 49ers? I'm not sure about that. The 49ers' offense has failed numerous times before Sunday. They actually were worse in Denver and Chicago.

What the Falcons did show, however, is that they can do a really good Kyle-Shanahan-led-49ers impersonation. We saw the 49ers own approach beat the 49ers—a strong running game teamed up with a safe passing game, and a bend, but don't break defense. As it turns out, that strategy works pretty well.

And yes, injuries played a part. If the defense wasn't missing so many key players, I doubt the Falcons would have had the success they had moving the ball and scoring 21 points.

What's going on with Shanahan's offense? He's supposed to be an offensive genius and put up 14 on Atlanta's D. - Coltina JL


Yea, that wasn't a good showing. Atlanta's defense isn't the best either. And what's really frustrating is that Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't too bad on Sunday. I think he had his best game, as far as throwing the ball downfield. His receivers just did a poor job of bringing in some passes. Had those drops been caught, Garoppolo might have thrown for over 400 yards.

And the offensive line that I was concerned wouldn't be able to pass protect, has actually done pretty well. It's the run-blocking that's been the problem. And that is a cause for concern. The 49ers have not run the ball very well this season, except in Carolina.

On Sunday, the Falcons rushed for 168 yards. The 49ers? Only 50. To add insult to injury, former 49ers running back JaMycal Hasty rushed for a 61-yard touchdown on Sunday. So the 49ers were outgained by a running back they decided wasn't good enough to make their team this year.

Furthermore, Akash Anavarathan, who covers the 49ers for Niners Nation, tweeted this week that the 49ers' run game has gotten worse each of the last four seasons, saying, "Shanahan's run game has been trending the wrong way and it's having ripple effects on overall offensive output."


Anavarathan also added that Shanahan's offensive efficiency, "gets significantly worse in the second halves of games."


We've seen that. The 49ers struggle to score in the second halves of games. Whatever the cause, the 49ers need to turn this around in a hurry, as in this Sunday. They'll need to score a lot of points with the Chiefs coming to town. Trying to slow down Patrick Mahomes, with a depleted defense, is a scary thought. Garoppolo, Shanahan and the offense will need to have their best game of 2022 in order to win this one.

Kyle is not the answer, folks!!! When is this fanbase going to get it!!!? - SF David


David really likes exclamation points. But he doesn't seem to like Shanahan. I'm hearing it more and more from fans. But I'm not on that train yet.

When can we get a coach? - Douglass B.


We have a coach, Douglas. For how much longer, who knows? But as I already mentioned, I don't think Shanahan is going anywhere anytime soon. That means you will still have a coach for another year.

Perhaps you and SF David can start a support group. I'm sure you'd have plenty of fans join it. Maybe in your group meetings, you can reminisce about the good ol' days when guys like Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly were your coaches.

I get your frustration. But it could be worse. Maybe when Jim Harbaugh is in Santa Clara this Sunday, for the reunion of the 2012 Super Bowl team, we can talk him and Jed York into getting back together.

I'm tired of people saying "injuries happen to everyone, you have to figure out how to overcome them." When your QB, multiple RBs, 2 TE, 3 OT, 5 DL, a linebacker, 3 CB, and safety are all out multiple weeks….it's time to blame one thing and one thing only. - Adam M.


Injuries happen to everyone. You have to figure out how to overcome them. Sorry, Adam. That was rude of me.

I both agree and disagree with you. I agree that the 49ers deal with injuries more than any other team, year in and year out. And those injuries have cost them some games. What I don't agree with is the mindset that we can blame injuries. Because it is true that every team deals with injuries. Even on Sunday, while the 49ers were without many starters, the Falcons were without some of their starters, and even lost a couple during the game.

Yes, the 49ers have many injuries and lost last Sunday because of those. I just don't like blaming injuries.


Why didn't Kyle show any sense of urgency when he was down 2 touchdowns in the 3rd Quarter? Even the commentators noticed it and were talking about it. - Jimmy K.


At first, I read this question as being from Jimmy G. I thought I had unearthed some breaking news about a rift between the coach and QB. Oh well, I guess I'll still answer Jimmy's question.

It's a great question, one that I was asking on Sunday. There was no urgency in the 3rd quarter, or the 4th quarter when they got the ball with 10:30 left in the game. Even though they were down by 14 points, they took their sweet time. They still huddled, still called running plays, and still threw short little passes that went for very few yards. It was confusing. I commented, during the game, that it was like they thought it was still the 3rd quarter.

Shanahan said they didn't get in a hurry because they knew they still had two more possessions. The problem was, they weren't guaranteed anything. And when you get the ball with 10:30 left in the game, at your own one-yard line, then proceed to chew up the clock on an eight-minute drive, you're leaving yourself little to no chance of tying the game, much less winning it.

In the past, I have criticized Shanahan and the 49ers for being unable to milk the clock and put teams away. Sunday, they finally did it. The problem was, they were behind two touchdowns, not ahead. After a 16-play, 8:08 drive in the 4th quarter, they finally put a team away—themselves.

Why can't Kyle's offense score points when they're behind in the game? I get that he wants to run but he's gotta become better with clock management. - Nick G.


As I mentioned above, Sunday's lack of urgency and clock management was extremely frustrating. I just don't think Shanahan has built his offense to come from behind very well.

Sure they came from 17-down, in the last game of the season in 2021, to beat the Rams, but that hasn't happened much in his tenure. It's a ball-control, run-oriented offense with a QB that isn't known to push the ball downfield.

Why is it that when the 49ers win, Jimmy Garoppolo is elite … but when they lose, it's somehow never his fault? - Daniel S.


You must not venture onto social media very often, Daniel, because there is plenty of Jimmy Garoppolo hatred on there. More than I can sometimes stomach, in fact.

And I've heard team beat writers (not named Grant Cohn) say that the fans who attend the games seem to love Garoppolo. That's in contrast to the social media fans who seem to want him shackled and buried at the bottom of a large lake.

During training camp last year (2021), I wrote a "pro-Garoppolo" story. A fan, who apparently didn't like the QB, or my piece, told me I should kill myself. My point is, I see plenty of seething Garoppolo comments. And I see my share of love for the 49ers signal-caller.

One of the things the above-mentioned beat writer criticizes Garoppolo for is his inability to accept blame. But on Sunday, Garoppolo did exactly that, saying, "Self-inflicted wounds were just the story of the day. Those are correctable, but you can't have as many as we had [Sunday]. When you do, you have to overcome it, and we didn't do that. It starts with me, and we have to do better."

Steve Young once said that an offense has to break huddle together 1,000 times before they can really be in sync. With the consistent injury-caused changes at RB and OL, primarily, and not reaching that number, could this be a reason for some of the offensive struggles? - Niner Jim


That's a very good theory, Niner Jim. I tend to listen to Steve Young. He has experience playing the position, he's a Hall of Famer, and he was known as a very smart player. I mean, he earned his law degree while quarterbacking the 49ers. That's crazy impressive.

Consider this: the offensive line is relatively young and new, the quarterback wasn't part of the offseason program, training camp or preseason, the running backs aren't the regular starters, and multiple players have been in and out of the huddle due to injuries or contract disputes. That's a lot of missed reps. It's no wonder they're so inconsistent.

The hope, of course, is that they get Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey and Elijah Mitchell back soon and can begin to build some cohesion.

They need to kick Shanahan off the team! He is the most intelligence-challenged coach the 49er's have ever had! He only wants to play ancient warriors that can no longer stay healthy, any player (ex Bosa) that they draft is sentenced to life on the bench. He is supposed to be "so brilliant" but not if you watch the team play; he does not manage the players and the plays to work well together. It has been more than enough time to see what he can do, and he has not accomplished much! There is a young offensive coach on our team that should be given the next head coaching position for the 49ers! - Lauri H.


Wow, this is a lot to take in. Lauri, I can tell you're angry, so I'm going to write this gently and softly, so as to not push you over the edge. You don't own any weapons, do you?

  1. Shanahan can't be kicked off the team. He's not on the team. And he's going nowhere (see above responses).
  2. Shanahan is the "most intelligence-challenged coach?" That's not possible. Exhibit A: Tomsula, Kelly, Mike Nolan, Dennis Erickson.
  3. Are you calling Nick Bosa an "ancient warrior that can no longer stay healthy?" You realize he leads the NFL in QB pressures, right? He's also missed only one game in his NFL career, if you don't count 2020, when he tore his ACL.
  4. Regarding your statement that Shanahan "does not manage players and the plays to work well," I can't disagree with you there. He needs to be better in that area for sure.
  5. Who is the "young offensive coach" on the 49ers staff who needs to be given Shanahan's job? I'm not sure who that would be. There's a new coach in Miami that I wish was still in Santa Clara, though.
  6. Breathe. It's going to be ok.

Why do we keep so many Players on the IR? They don't seem to have the desire or the ability to #1 Stay healthy #2 want to play. Shouldn't we make room for players that get paid to Play? What good is 12 men on the Sidelines in Street clothes? Pick up some Healthy Players. Thanks. - John C.


Every player has the desire to stay healthy and play. No one wants to be injured, have to miss games, or have to rehab injuries.

The 49ers do make room for players who can play. Players who are injured and unable to play are sometimes designated for IR (injured reserve). Some are lost for the season (like Emmanuel Moseley) and some are designated to return (like Jimmie Ward). Players designated to return have to sit out a minimum of four games.

You're right when you say that 12 men on the sidelines in street clothes do the team no good. But injuries are part of the game. The 49ers are doing their best, within the rule structure of the NFL, to field a competitive roster.

Now if you want to say they need to sign and draft healthier players, it's hard to argue with that. But I'm just not sure it's as easy as saying, "Let's draft healthier players." In some cases (see; Kinlaw, Javon), there may be warning signs. But others are harder to discern. Take future Hall of Famer, Adrian Peterson. At Oklahoma, he missed a lot of time due to injury. But in the NFL, he barely missed any games. Even when he did miss most of a season because of an ACL injury, he came back the next season better than ever.

Why isn't the team using Jordan Mason? He reminds me of Chubb's running, with power. - Victor A.


The only thing I can say, Victor, is to read my response to the first question, regarding Gray, and just replace "Danny Gray" with "Jordan Mason." Shanahan doesn't like to rely on rookies until he can see (in practice) that they can do what he wants them to do in games. That means catching the ball, hitting the right holes, blocking, holding onto the ball, etc.

I'm also not sure we've seen Mason run the ball enough to know if is comparable to Nick Chubb. We don't even know if he's an upgrade over Jeff Wilson, Jr., Ty Davis-Price or Tevin Coleman. Certainly, Shanahan doesn't believe so.

Thanks for your questions. I apologize for not getting to them all. Go Niners!
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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