Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Mailbag: Has Kyle Shanahan lost the locker room? What’s wrong with the 49ers defense? Is another trade coming? And other questions answered

Marc Adams
Oct 26, 2022 at 9:37 AM--

It's been a frustrating week for fans of the San Francisco 49ers. We opened up the mailbag to peek inside the minds of some. What we found were a lot of questions, and quite a bit of venom, mostly pointed toward Kyle Shanahan. At the time of this writing, I count 32 posts calling for his firing, several taking shots at Jimmy Garoppolo, and even a couple of fans calling for the firing of DeMeco Ryans.

To say 49ers fans are upset right now would be an understatement. There were way too many posts to respond to. Thanks so much to everyone who took to time to post a response. Let's get to it.

When BA said, "we're not as good as I thought we were," is he throwing a shot at Jimmy? Or Kyle? - elTony9er

I'm not sure Brandon Aiyuk was throwing shade at anyone. George Kittle said something similar the week before. They're both right. The team is underperforming, and currently not playing as well as we thought they would. The fans are disappointed, and so are the players, coaches, front-office staff, and owners. But we were all disappointed this time last year, and they somehow turned it around.

My biggest concern is the health of the team. Let's hope some players return after the bye.

Has Kyle lost the locker Room? Have players lost faith in our coaching staff? - Denise G.

No, I don't believe Shanahan has lost the locker room. At least not yet. They started off really crisp against Kansas City. That tells me they were ready early on. As the game progressed, they looked less ready.

But I think the team is still on board with the coaches. Think what you will about Shanahan, but this is a really good coaching staff.

That said, if they lose more games like they have the last two weeks, I'll begin to think the team is not in lockstep with the coaching staff. And I might start to rethink my decision of not getting on board the "Fire Shanahan" train.

Given our struggles on the offensive side of the ball recently, what do you think we need to do differently moving forward? - Paul H.

Other than score more? Sorry, Paul, you threw that one up for me.

They have to run the ball more. This team is built on a strong defense and run game. For whatever reason, the running game has regressed each of the past few seasons. If the 49ers can't run the ball, they can't control the clock, and this places a greater strain on an injury-riddled defense. That's how the Falcons were able to beat the 49ers two weeks ago. The run game has to come alive.

They also need to be better in the red zone. That means more touchdowns and fewer field goals.

Is there an offensive lineman that the 49ers can trade for or pick up from free agency that could potentially help? If a trade is required, from which position group or specifically which player from the 49ers could be traded without causing too much damage? - drawkcaB ssA

As you suggested, a trade very well could require the 49ers to trade one of their own players, since they lack draft capital to offer for any player that would make an impact. I have a hard time discerning who that might be. The 49ers wouldn't trade a player they believe can help them win now. I wouldn't expect them to make another trade, unless it's to gain more 2023 draft picks. But again, who are you comfortable letting go of at this point? You can't trade anyone from the defense, especially considering how banged up they are right now. That leaves the offense. But I can't see who that would be either. They need better production on offense, and trading away good players isn't going to help.

As far as a free agent, any offensive lineman who is still without a team is unlikely to be able to help the 49ers this season. I think the 49ers are stuck with the group they currently employ.

Bill Barnwell said the 49ers should trade Trey Lance and re-sign Jimmy Garoppolo. What are your thoughts, Marc? - Rishawn W.

I hate the idea. I really want to see what Trey Lance can develop into. I'm concerned about his inaccuracy, but I like everything else I've seen from him. It would be a huge mistake to trade Lance and re-sign Garoppolo.

If the 49ers continue with Garoppolo, they'll continue to get what they've already gotten. They know him. They may feel comfortable with him. But think about this: would Lance have been any worse so far? I'm not sure he would have been. No, he wasn't great in Chicago, but he was better than Garoppolo was in Denver. Lance would have made more mistakes, but he also would have made more big plays. Maybe Garoppolo is a better matchup against the Rams. But Lance might have been a better matchup against the Chiefs.

Three years in a row the 49ers have had back-to-back east coast games and stayed in WV. Then they lose the first home game back. What might be the cause of that pattern? - Niner Jim

It is a strange pattern. Staying on the east coast is meant to reduce the number of miles the team flies during the season. But it certainly seems to hurt them in the game coming off that trip.

The 49ers actually petition the league each year to schedule their east coast trips back-to-back, so they can stay in that timezone. It reduces the miles they travel, but I'm not so sure it helps in the long run. Why is this? Who knows. But I might be trying something different next season if I were the 49ers.

Flawed team, flawed QB, and flawed coach. The picks we spent on Lance—wasted. It will be his fourth year before he doesn't have an excuse. Next year will be him getting back to football at a level he has never played before. He won't have played in 4 years at that point. - Buck G.

I think it's way too early to say the draft capital the 49ers spent on Lance was wasted. He's only played 14 quarters as a quarterback in the NFL. Give him time.

Right now, I see the two biggest mistakes (as it pertains to Lance) being:

  1. Not playing him more in his rookie year.
  2. Running him up the middle like he's a fullback.

We're really missing Armstead and Kinlaw. Why not bring in a guy like Ndamukong Suh, who would prob come fairly cheap, is durable, reliable, has gas in the tank (12 sacks last 2 yrs), and would bring SB experience to the D line? Are they even looking to add a FA D lineman? - DownByLaw

I'm sure they have been looking at defensive linemen, especially with the injuries to Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw. I agree that Ndamukong Suh should be someone they consider. He doesn't strike me as a very good person, but right now, you can make the case that the defense could use someone mean.

Armstead may still be a few weeks away from returning. And Kinlaw? No one seems to know. It may take him longer. Or he may not return. At this point, his knee injuries appear chronic, and if that's the case, then that's one pick I'm sure John Lynch would like to have back. It's a shame, too. Kinlaw was playing well early on.

Why would you not use McCaffrey on third and three? - Gazza

I think we all wanted to see Christian McCaffrey get more touches. As it was, they used him more than I expected. He had less than two days with the team before he had to play his first game. And yet, he still impressed me.

Let's give him a game or two to learn the offense (and weekly game plans). Then if they are still not using him on 3rd and 3, we'll grab our pitchforks and torches, and head to 4949 Marie P. DeBartolo Way.

Why did we blow 3 first-round picks for Lance when we could have had Parsons or Surtain? - Eric H.

Another anti-Lance question? It's true that either Micah Parsons or Patrick Surtain would look nice in this defense. Imagine Nick Bosa on one side and Parsons on the other. Quarterbacks everywhere are shaking at the thought.

But it's hard to predict injuries. The 49ers had the best pass rush in the league before injuries started mounting. And they had arguably the best secondary in the league before Emmanuel Moseley was lost. If Charvarius Ward gets healthy, and Jason Verrett comes back strong, the secondary could be as good as it was a few weeks ago.

And as I mentioned earlier, the jury is still out on Lance. We won't know if those picks were blown or not for a few more years.

Why didn't the Niners address the offensive line instead of getting another running back? - Rex D.

It's possible they didn't see anyone out there, who was being made available, that they would consider an upgrade. McCaffrey is a star. I don't have an issue with what they've done so far. And if they indeed kept McCaffrey away from the Rams, we might all be glad for that down the road. Remember, McCaffrey isn't a rental. The 49ers still have a few more years of control after this season.

As for the offensive line, on Sunday, Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey were worse than Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford. Jake Brendel isn't good. But who would have thought there would be a game in which the two veteran tackles would hurt the team more than the two young guards?

When are they ever gonna hold Shanahan accountable? Look at his record, he is mediocre at best; we're wasting all this talent!!! - Jason D.

If the 49ers end up with a losing record this season, he will have a lot to answer for.

Why do we keep giving up on the running game (now even with CMC)? Why is our D getting roasted all of a sudden (Falcons ran all over us, Chiefs passed on us at will)? Why do we never seem to be able to make adjustments at halftime like most other NFL teams? - Scott V.

There is a lot here in Scott's question. Let me respond to each question.

  1. I've been asking why the 49ers give up on the run game since Super Bowl LIV. Not only that, but they start off the game with a lot of creativity, play-action, misdirection, etc. But that goes away as the game goes on, as well. I can only assume that Shanahan is better at developing a game plan than calling a game, and adjusting within the game. It's possible that he just has a certain way he expects the offense to work, and when it doesn't, he struggles to know what to do next. I hope that's not the case. How he uses McCaffrey will tell me a lot.
  2. The defense has suffered some big injuries. But it's also possible they're not as good as we expected them to be. My best guess is that they're missing Armstead and Moseley more than we ever thought they would.
  3. See response #1.

Has Kyle the head coach lost his groove bc his brain left for Miami? - Vetta C.

Shots fired! The big question many are asking right now is if Mike McDaniel was the brains behind Shanahan's offense. Time will tell, but McDaniel was the run-game coordinator, and many have suggested that he was the genius behind the run game. If you judge simply based on the first half of the season, you might conclude that to be the case, considering the run game hasn't looked very strong, except against Carolina.

Is Shanahan way over his head with so much talent? - Anthony J.

I'm going to say he's not in over his head, but it's possible that he needs more help, as well as more ideas. The 49ers have so much talent, which is why there is a lot of angst surrounding this team.

There is a consistent problem of not scoring in the second half of games and coming out doing the same thing as the first half. Can't compete as a running team in a passing league; yes you will beat 3/4 of the teams in the league, but the top 6 will out-score you. And you gave up draft picks for the next few years, and no Lance is clearly not the answer. - Steve G.

On not scoring in the second half of games: I completely agree.

On Lance not being the answer: How can you know that? It's been 14 quarters. I feel like I'm repeating myself. Am I?

(Checks notes)

Yes, dang it, I've already said this multiple times. Give Trey Lance a chance!

I think it's time for Brock Purdy. What do we have to lose? - Ted R.

Umm, more games?

I can't envision Mr. Irrelevent being an upgrade over Garoppolo. When Purdy entered the game Sunday, and immediately ripped off a nice completion, I sat up in my chair. After his next few passes, I slithered back down.

Since Belichick benched Mac, maybe we can send Jimmy G back and get Mac!?!? - David K.

I don't think the 49ers want to go down that road. It would be interesting to see. Maddening, but interesting. And isn't it crazy that so many people thought the 49ers would draft Mac Jones number three overall in 2021?

Should the Niners try a Ryan/Garoppolo trade? - Bruno E.

No. Matt Ryan is not good anymore. He may be worse than Purdy at this point. And I've heard, multiple times, that he didn't have the best relationship with Shanahan.

Where is the 49ers' defense? They let the Chiefs score 44 points. - Honey B.

They're still on the field giving up points to Patrick Mahomes. (cue the rimshot)

Technically, two of those points came from Garoppolo's safety. But I get your point. The defense was horrible. And if that doesn't change, they will be lucky to even have a winning record, much less make the playoffs.

Erin Andrews said Kyle Shanahan told her at halftime that he "loves the way his defense is playing." Really? Because I thought they were abysmal.

Will there be more of a run game and heavier protection on the QB? - Brandon M.

I think that is always Shanahan's plan. But so far, they have not run the ball well. They've either struggled to run or have gone away from the run (like they did on Sunday). Jeff Wilson, Jr. had 7.7 yards per carry against the Chiefs. But he only ran the ball seven times. I still can't figure out why. I realize they fell behind, but that wasn't until later in the game. The best way to beat Mahomes is to keep him off the field. You do that by running the ball.

Why doesn't the coach have an OC? He is KILLING US SMALLS! - Annette B.

First off, I don't appreciate short jokes. Secondly, the 49ers have an offensive coordinator. His name is Bobby Slowik. He is the offensive passing game coordinator. (As a side note, I've joked before that you really don't want your offensive coordinator to have the word "slow" in his name. So far, they've been slower at moving the ball, slower at scoring, etc. But they are faster at angering fans.)

Now, I'm guessing your response would be, "Why doesn't the coach have a good OC?" My answer would be that a good offensive coordinator isn't going to want to come to a team who has a head coach that calls the plays. Unless it's an up-and-comer, like McDaniel. But it's hard to find those guys.

Should Jed York talk to Kyle and get him to consider hiring an OC? - Joe S.

See my response to Annette's rude question above. It's the one with the short joke. I'm still hurt over that one.

Here's a question everyone should debate. Is Jimmy G struggling because of Shanahan's play calls and not making adjustments? Or is Shanahan struggling because of Jimmy's limits as a QB? - Willie M.

We may never truly know the answer to this question. If Garoppolo goes somewhere else next season and is a Pro Bowl quarterback, we'll know that Shanahan was the problem. If Garoppolo is even worse and gets replaced by an undrafted rookie, we'll know Shanahan got more out of the QB than anyone could have.

It's also possible that they're bad for each other. Maybe Shanahan's offense (or approach) doesn't truly fit Garoppolo. And maybe Garoppolo's ability doesn't fit what Shanahan wants to do.

It's almost like they're a dysfunctional, married couple trying to stay together. All it's doing is making them worse—and screwing up the kids.

Why do they come out so strong and fall apart in the second half? - Angie B.

Offensively, I think they stink at making in-game adjustments.

Defensively, injuries are taking a toll. And maybe Ryans isn't quite as good as we thought he was. It's possible that he looked brilliant because of the talent on defense. And now that more and more backups are having to play, he's being exposed. But I'm still not ready to think that way.

Shanahan does not know how to use his talent. Carolina used CMC catching short passes and let him run. Shanahan used him as a runner only. Not utilizing his talents. Look at Chicago and Pettis. The guy is a threat and Shanahan couldn't develop him. He simply does not know how to use players for their talent. Where is there another Bill Walsh? - Gene D.

McCaffrey had two catches for 24 yards. In his first game. After being with the team for less than two days.

Be patient. I think he'll be used all over the field. If not, then I'll start to believe Shanahan doesn't know how to use his talent. But until then, let's give them a chance to show us.

Oh, and there will never be another Bill Walsh. Ever.

Do you get tired of people asking you the same old questions over & over, year after year? - Ty A.

For the most part, I get a lot of questions that are new. But yes, there are often themes to the questions, especially after a loss.

The only questions that annoy me are the ones that are based on zero facts—like those calling Trey Lance a bust—after only 14 quarters. You may have sensed that frustration, though.

Thanks for the questions and comments. Have a great rest of your week. Time to take over Levi's South and go beat up on the Rams.
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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