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49ers overreactions: Is QB change needed to reach potential?

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The 49ers' Week 3 game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night generated a lot of conversation among the fan base.

Heck, the overreactions started late in the second quarter, when a certain beat reporter sized up what he was watching and delivered this tweet to his loyal followers:

Overreaction? Yes.

It was not a rout for long. The 49ers scored the next 14 points, and it turned into quite a game.

But the way it ended with Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers finding receiver Davante Adams down the field a couple of times to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired inspired a lot of reactions and overreactions among the faithful.

Overreaction? No.

The 49ers should always be looking to improve, so it is not an overreaction to state the 49ers should “consider” starting Trey Lance.

Lance has a greater upside than Jimmy Garoppolo due to his arm strength and his running ability. But up to this point, Garoppolo has given the 49ers the better chance of winning games due to his overall experience and decision-making.

When the time comes that Lance surpasses Garoppolo, then a change should be made. But I do not believe it has gotten to that point. And, frankly, I have no way to predict when that will occur.

Overreaction? Yes, but not entirely …

I’m not sure that I would label Kyle Shanahan as “poor” when it comes to talent evaluation, but there is no denying there have been some whiffs along the way.


Wide receiver Dante Pettis and running back Joe Williams immediately come to mind. What makes those worse is that the 49ers traded up to select both players. Neither seemed to be wired for NFL success, and that should have been apparent during the pre-draft process.

At the same time, Deebo Samuel was a great selection. It is too early to tell with Brandon Aiyuk, who has made recent strides to re-earn the trust of the coaching staff.

I do believe Shanahan is a solid game manager. I don’t think he is poor. But there have been enough moves that did not pan out, so it is fair to criticize his moves. As with any coach, it is easy to second-guess moves that do not work out. I've heard about Andy Reid's game management for years from a certain friend who is an Eagles fan.

Let's look at the late-game situation on Sunday night . . . 

Shanahan did not think he was dialing up a play that would result in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Kyle Juszczyk. But nobody was complaining when Juszczyk made an extraordinary effort to get into the end zone to give the 49ers a late lead.

My issue was that the 49ers should have let more time run off the play clock before snapping it on the scoring play. 

But, even then, there were risks involved. The 49ers had three timeouts and they could have gotten a first down without scoring. They had to account for the possibility that it could've taken four or five plays to get into the end zone. If time had run out on them, that would have been a far-greater mistake than scoring the go-ahead touchdown with :37 remaining.

Overreaction? No.

Each situation is different, but they are all fit into the same theme in that rookies Aaron Banks, Trey Sermon and Ambry Thomas were beaten out for significant roles on the team. Sermon played a lot on Sunday night because the 49ers have injuries to the four running backs in front him.

What is interesting is that Jaylon Moore, a tackle selected the fifth round, is suiting up for games as the swing tackle while Banks is inactive. Sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell earned a spot ahead of Sermon, and fifth-rounder Deommodore Lenoir, at this stage, is better than Thomas.

The 49ers have not given up hope that Banks, Sermon and Thomas will all be good players down the road. Time will tell. There have been plenty of good players who do not immediately enjoy success as rookies.

There is no concern about Trey Lance from what I can tell. The 49ers are in a balancing act of doing what’s best for the team and what’s best for Lance’s development.


On Monday night, Alex Smith spoke on ESPN about his own experience. He said he felt being thrown onto the field as a rookie was bad for his development.

"I really felt like it set me back,” Smith said. “My first start, it was a disaster. I had no business being out there."

Shanahan's approach is to bring along Lance methodically rather than throwing him into the deep end of the pool.

Overreaction? No, but . . .

DeMeco Ryans is in his first season as defensive coordinator. Struggles were to be expected.

Remember when Robert Saleh was in his first couple of seasons as defensive coordinator? People were calling for Shanahan to fire him at the ends of his first and second seasons in that role.

Ryans is figuring things out. He wants his team to line up and play fast. The easiest way to accomplish that is to keep things simple. But he must strike a balance of also scheming things up to not be so obvious for opposing offenses.

Former NFL safety Donte Whitner, now an analyst on NBC Sports Bay Area, had a lot of issues with Ryans’ defense on Sunday night. Whitner’s criticisms were reasonable and rational.

Ryans has a good staff around him. He is a good coach, and he will get better as he gains more experience in this position.

Overreaction? No.

Rodgers is one of the best to ever play the position.

On the other side, the 49ers’ defense ranks in the middle of the pack (No. 16) in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

After the 49ers have ranked among the best teams in the league in pass coverage the past two seasons, the team has fallen off in the early going this season.

Some of this is understandable. Jason Verrett was lost to a season-ending torn ACL in Week 1. Emmanuel Moseley made his season debut in Week 3 after being inactive for the first two games with a knee injury.

Overreaction? No

The 49ers expected to have one of the best defensive lines in the league. But that unit ranks 16th in pass-rushing, according to PFF.

Nick Bosa cannot do it alone. He has three sacks in three games. Arik Armstead has gotten off to a very good start, though it is not reflected in his sack total (one). The 49ers need more from Dee Ford, who got off to a promising start in Detroit, and Samson Ebukam.

Every defensive backfield in the league gets exposed with no pass rush, so that is definitely an area where the 49ers can be -- and should be -- better.

Overreaction? Yes.

I’m a believer that building a defensive line is the way to go. I learned that from George Seifert many years ago. And we saw in 2019 how the addition of Nick Bosa transformed the 49ers’ defense — and the entire team, for that matter.


I also believe what the 49ers have done in the past with his secondary was successful. Their pass coverage in 2019 and 2020 ranked first and third, overall, according to PFF.

It is very difficult to play defense against good passing attacks. I think when you watch one team as much as we all watch the 49ers, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that all teams have their issues when it comes to pass defense.

Overreaction? Yes.

I do not believe there are any “big moves” to be made at cornerback.

The 49ers made the biggest moves they could make leading up to their first two games of the season with the free-agent signings of veterans Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick.

Both of those players came to the 49ers with nine years of NFL experience and with a combined 175 starts.

Yes, the 49ers did not close the door on Richard Sherman, but it was clear that a lot more would have to happen before they seriously went down that road.

RELATED: Ex-49ers cornerback Sherman visiting Buccaneers for return

Norman is likely to be a starter for the remainder of the season. He has a chance to get on the field Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks despite sustaining a bruised lung on Sunday night. Emmanuel Moseley is the starter on the other side.

Kirkpatrick and Lenoir are the backups, and the 49ers expect Davontae Harris to return to practice this week after spending the first three weeks on injured reserve.

As noted above, the 49ers’ pass rush has not lived up to expectations through three games. But the talent is there to get it done, so it is too early to give up on that area of the team.

And it is too early to say the 49ers cannot be a contender without making another move for a cornerback.

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