49ers coach Kyle Shanahan continues to be all over the place when it comes to his quarterback plan.
After creating the clear impression in the preseason that the team would use both Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance, the 49ers have largely utilized one quarterback. On Wednesday, Shanahan suggested that people misinterpreted his apparent intentions.
“Trey’s our backup quarterback,” Shanahan told reporters. “This isn’t the preseason. We’re not just going back and forth all the time. Trey goes in for specific plays or things we want to do. Trey week in and week out, he gets better each week the more reps he gets on scout team. But there’s not a big decision going into that each week. We put in a game plan for our starting quarterback, the backup needs to be able to do all of that if he gets hurt. And what’s cool about Trey is because of his different skillset we always keep him alive with a couple of plays on situations.”
Shanahan was asked why he changed his mind on using both quarterbacks more extensively.
“I didn’t change my mind,” Shanahan insisted. “We have put him on the field. We do it in situations. You can go with whatever you want what I say in training camp and you can expand on that or not. But I think I was asked coming off the field of our third game if we’d see this in the regular season, I said, ‘Probably not.’ So, I think a lot of words have been put in my mouth with some of that stuff or exaggerated pretty big. So, I pretty much keep it pretty real to everyone, but I don’t just tell everyone the answer. I have no problem with you guys overdoing that and Detroit working on that extremely hard. But I’ve been pretty consistent with what I’ve said.”
So why did Shanahan use both quarterbacks in the preseason finale?
“I mean, it was preseason, it was fun to do, but it has to do with the team we’re playing the next week,” Shanahan said. “It doesn’t have to do with the reactions. It has to do with how people prepare for people.”
Regardless of whether any of that makes sense (I’m not sure it does), here’s my take. Garoppolo didn’t like the two-quarterback thing, and he made that clear. Also, and more importantly, he has the locker room behind him — in large part because Lance hasn’t performed well enough to win over the veterans.
And so the 49ers have decided to ride with Garoppolo until he gets injured. If he does, Lance provides a much better alternative than the backups from past years.
If Lance had developed more quickly — if he’d won over the rest of the team — he’d be playing. But the locker room wasn’t ready for less Jimmy, and Shanahan wisely has made decisions consistent with what the players want.