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49ers Mailbag: What did John Lynch say at the combine? Why doesn’t Shanahan use Lance like he does Garoppolo/Purdy? Can SF bring back Jimmie Ward?

Marc Adams
Mar 1, 2023 at 8:30 AM

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It's NFL Combine week, and the San Francisco 49ers are well into the offseason. General Manager John Lynch spoke to the media on Tuesday and addressed a few topics regarding the team.

One of the most notable, though not surprising, things that Lynch said was something about Trey Lance. I expected Lynch to be gushing about Lance, considering the fact that Lance will likely be the starter in week one, but instead, he said, "I think his biggest thing, we just have to find a way and I've had a lot of conversations with Trey, early in my career, I struggled to stay healthy and then I hit an eight-year stretch where I didn't miss a snap, so sometimes you just have to go through that, the rough patches and he has to play. And that's the biggest challenge, we have a team that's ready to go now. He has to get out there and play. Brock [Purdy] got that opportunity this year. He grabbed it, he did great things, we'll see at some point how we get Trey that opportunity because we very much believe in who he is as a person and who he is as a quarterback."

The fact that Lynch mentioned how Purdy grabbed his opportunity, and added, "...we'll see at some point how we get Trey that opportunity" made it sound like the 49ers already believe Purdy is the guy, and Lance will be lucky to get a shot with the team. Maybe I'm reading too much into that, but that's how I took it. And you also have Lynch mentioning how the team is ready to win now, and how that's a challenge in regard to getting Lance playing time, just doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement for the third-year QB.

Among some of the other things that Lynch said:

  1. Purdy will meet his elbow surgeon in Arizona later this week. Surgery could take place early next week if everything looks good.
  2. The 49ers will consider bringing in another QB to "insulate" the team from injury.
  3. They don't expect new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to make wholesale changes. They'll stick with what's been successful.
  4. The 49ers' relationship with Jimmy Garoppolo has "probably run its course." Lynch had good things to say about Garoppolo, as you would expect.
  5. Lance is recovering well and has started throwing.
  6. 2022 was "a breakthrough year" for Deommodore Lenoir.
  7. Safety Tashaun Gipson wants to play another season, and the 49ers would like to bring him back.
  8. QB coach Brian Griese is staying with the 49ers.

I'll have more to say about these things on the 49ers Camelot Show later this week, but for now, let's get to the 49ers mailbag. This edition had more comments than questions, so I decided to include some of the comments I saw.

If Kyle wants to win a SB, why doesn't he play Trey the way he plays Jimmy & Brock? Let him throw the ball more. - Roy K.

Well, I think the answer is pretty simple (I almost wrote "Purdy" simple, but didn't want to make you stop reading).

Kyle Shanahan clearly doesn't yet trust Lance to play the way he trusts Jimmy Garoppolo or Purdy. And the primary reason is that Lance hasn't had the opportunities to show he can do it, or learn how to play quarterback in the NFL. So there's kind of a chicken and egg thing going on here. Shanahan doesn't trust his inexperienced quarterback enough to let him play like a quarterback who is gaining experience. And Lance can't get the experience he needs, to make his coach trust him, because he can't play enough to get that experience. Did I lose you?

Lance is the WORST QB in the league. He would be average at BEST division 1 college QB. Complete, total, BUST. BUST. BUST. - Jim E.

  1. You must not be familiar with Blaine Gabbert, Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Mullens, Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield, Davis Mills, Jordan Love, Josh Johnson, and Russell Wilson. And those are off the top of my head.
  2. Lance has played 15 quarters, Jim. You can't call him a bust after 15 quarters. I feel like I'm in the movie Groundhog Day. Let me grab my toaster and go sit in the tub.

Lance was a horrible pick because he's a horrible fit for this offense Shanahan had to install, a remedial offense last offseason, just so he could function, & the real reason Jimmy G practiced off to the side was that they didn't want people to see how unprepared Lance was by comparison. - Dale G.

Forget the toaster, I'm just going to steal a pickup truck and drive it off of a cliff.

Mac Jones played the same amount of football as Trey, but nobody says anything. - Roemello B.

This is true. Mac Jones didn't play much more in college than Lance did. The difference is that Jones has played two complete NFL seasons, as well as playing his collegiate career in the SEC while playing at Alabama.

Marc, do you see the 49ers being able to keep Jimmy Ward? I think he is a very important piece to the defense as a slot or FS. - Dr. Phani T.

I'm sure the 49ers will make a run for keeping Jimmie Ward. The question is, will Ward want more money than the 49ers are willing to pay?

The 49ers always place a "fair market value" on their free agents. They rarely, if ever, move off of that value. I believe they will try to keep Ward, but my best guess is they will want to keep him at a nickel corner value, and Ward wants to be paid at a starting safety value.

Even though I agree that Ward is a very important piece to the defense, I think he will ask for more than the 49ers want to pay him, and they will let him walk.

Are Jimmy Ward or Mike McGlinchey going to hit the lotto as FA's? I love them both back if the price is right. - DoctorWDS

I already mentioned Ward, but yes, McGlinchey is going to get paid. And probably more than most 49ers' fans think he's worth. Quality tackles are hard to find in the NFL, and McGlinchey was a quality tackle for the 49ers. I was often hard on him, but he wasn't as bad as many of us made him out to be.

Also, Lynch did not sound optimistic about the 49ers being able to bring back McGlinchey when he spoke on Tuesday.

Not sure Purdy hung on to the ball too long when he was hurt. The tight end who was blocking for him didn't do his job. - Dick S.

Dick is referencing something I said about Purdy holding on to the ball too long, on the play he was injured, in the NFC Championship Game.

If you go back and watch the play, Purdy indeed hesitated before throwing the ball. And that was the point of what I said. My statement was a response to my interview with John Chapman, of the 49ers Rush Podcast, in which I asked Chapman what he thought about the play on which Purdy was injured. I wanted to get his take on whether or not it's normal to have a backup tight end block an elite pass rusher.

Chapman said, "It was a, somewhat, unique lineup because it was a wing set. And what I mean by that is you had a tight end to the right side, George Kittle, and then just off the tight end, you know, is kind of a double tight, right? But he's off. So the classification is when you have a tight end and then a tight end that's a little bit off the line of scrimmage, that's a true wing set. So it was wing, right? So you got seven big blockers in there. Now Kittle released on a route and very normal, they actually ran that exact same formation, three consecutive plays in a row on that drive. They did right-wing, left-wing, right-wing. And so the entire way that that is constructed is, look, yeah, they're gonna put their edge guy out on the edge. That's why he is an edge player. That's where Hassan Reddick always goes, whatever, but you're spacing him out by your formation alignment in such a way that it's supposed to give your quarterback more time.

"Because again, he's not outside the tackle, he's not outside the tight end, he's outside the wing. And so he's so far removed from the play, you're thinking if we are gonna have time to get the ball off now, very, very normal to have your number two tight end, [Tyler] Croft, who is a good blocker against him, that's not an issue. The problem was, it was a poor executed block from Tyler Croft. And two, Brock Purdy patted the ball instead of throwing what he saw. And so whenever you combine bad on bad, that's when everything goes bad, because if Croft would've just had a better block, it would've been fine. If Purdy would've just thrown the ball, instead of patting the ball, it would've been just fine, as well.

"And what people continue to fail to mention is that Mike McGlinchey, who's three players inside, he missed his block, as well. And Fletcher Cox was literally right next to Hassan Reddick, about to hit him, as well. So people are just looking for a witch hunt and something to point their finger at and say, 'this is why this is bad.' But unfortunately, if you watch football enough, especially in the Shanahan scheme, you see that happen all the time."

So yes, Purdy did hold on to the ball a little too long. Had it let it go when he saw Brandon Aiyuk open, or if McGlinchey or Croft did their job, it likely would have been a big gain, or touchdown, to Aiyuk. And maybe Purdy doesn't get hurt.

But it kind of goes along with what Greg Cosell told Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan, on the 49ers Talk Podcast. Cosell seemed to suggest that Purdy regressed at the end of the season, missing some throws he should have made. Now he wasn't saying he missed, accuracy-wise, but instead failed to pull the trigger on some throws that were there to be made.

The play in the NFC Championship may have been another.

If Shanahan had his way, the forward pass would be illegal. Shanahan is really old school. The 49ers will never bring in an NFL QB. If the 49ers were to sign Tom Brady, and the 49ers won a SB, Shanahan could not stand it. The credit would go to Brady. Shanahan, in his stubborn ways, wants to get all the attention. - Marvin H.

There's a lot to unpack here in Marvin's statement.

For starters, Shanahan is not old-school. In fact, more teams in the league are copying his offense than perhaps any other offense. If his offense was an antiquated, old-school offense, would that many teams be running it, and stealing his offensive assistants?

Also, I'm not sure why so many fans think Shanahan doesn't like passing the ball. Did you know that in 2022, the 49ers' offense ran the ball 504 times, but passed the ball 512 times? That is extraordinarily balanced, which is exactly what you want. If Shanahan was an old-school coach who wants the forward pass to be illegal, he wouldn't have thrown the ball 512 times.

And I really doubt Shanahan would care if Tom Brady, or any other quarterback, got the credit for the 49ers winning the Super Bowl. He just wants to win it. He'll get plenty of credit if they win one, so I don't think that's an issue.

If you're still not sold on Shanahan as a head coach, after making the NFC Championship three of the last four seasons (this time with a third-string, barely-drafted QB), then check out what Oscar Aparicio, of the Better Rivals Podcast, had to say about Shanahan when he was a guest on my show:

With Kinlaw's constant injury issues, should John Lynch look at a starting DT this FA period? - Jorge C.

Yes. Lynch not only should be looking for a starting defensive tackle in free agency, I think he will be looking for one.

The 49ers can no longer count on Javon Kinlaw to get healthy and make an impact. That doesn't mean he won't do that in 2023, but they can't count on him to do so.

3rd QB - Vet or Draft? I'm 100% in favor of drafting a QB in round 3. Trey has had a vet leader, and it didn't seem to help, and Brock doesn't need one. With all that said - If Matt Ryan would play cheap enough, take him! - DoctorWDS

With Lance and Purdy, and their combined (less than a season) number of starts, I would go with a cheap veteran who is willing to be the third-string QB. Now if Purdy ends up having Tommy John surgery and misses 2023, then my answer will change, and I'll want someone who is a solid number two that Shanahan could win several games with. Maybe Matt Ryan would be a fit, but I'm not sure. I didn't really watch him play last season. I know he wasn't good, but was that the team, or was he part of the problem?

Thanks for all your questions. We'll be back in a couple of weeks, just in time for the new league year and the start of free agency.
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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