Entering the season, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was open about using a two-quarterback approach with Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. He believed it would give San Francisco an advantage by making a defense prepare for two signal-callers with different styles.
Lance saw snaps on third down and in the red zone early in the season and got the start in Week 5 when Garoppolo was out with a calf injury. However, Lance hasn't received any meaningful snaps since the 49ers' Week 6 bye.
On Wednesday, Shanahan explained how his belief in that two-quarterback approach has changed and led him to stick with Garoppolo even in short-yardage and red-zone situations.
“Yeah, and also I still continue to like everybody preparing for a quarterback that we might use in situational stuff," Shanahan said Wednesday when asked if the cons now outweigh the pros in his mind. "But I also know when you put a guy in situations, they're preparing for what they expect and sometimes you want to get the unexpected.”
There appeared to be a few opportunities to use Lance during the 49ers' Week 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, most notably during the 49ers' final drive when they had four plays to score from the 7-yard line to tie the game but were unable to reach pay dirt.
Shanahan said it would have been unfair to everyone to put an ice-cold Lance in with everything on the line.
"No, not at all. At that time in the game, we had just gone 98 yards on a drive and we’re going to put Trey in who hasn’t played in a month? I don't think that would've been right to him at all or to our team," Shanahan said Monday. "I felt really good about the plays, what we did. I would have loved for [WR] Trent [Sherfield] to come up with that catch.
"He made a real tough one versus Minnesota last week. And it was tough to make that catch with that guy all over him. I still think he could have, it’d have been a hell of a play and it was a good job on the second one. I liked the deal, it was just [Seattle Seahawks DE Carlos] Dunlap made a hell of a play getting his hands up and tipping that ball. We shouldn’t have let it get to that point, but that's stuff you have to live with.”
Following the 49ers' Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Shanahan explained why he hadn't brought the Lance package out of the garage recently.
“It’s more about me to tell you the truth,” Shanahan said. “In terms of calling plays, We get into a rhythm of attacking a defense and what fronts they are playing and what coverages. Every play kind of plays off the next play and you get a feel, our players do and I, of what we are going to.”
Using Lance early in the season likely has forced opponents to continue to prepare for the rookie quarterback in those short-yardage and red-zone situations. Shanahan now views it as advantageous to use Garoppolo in those situations believing the opponent has prepared for what they would do with Lance and therefore will give them a look Garoppolo can take advantage of.
There's a chance Shanahan is overthinking the entire situation, but it's his decision to make. As Don Draper said: "That's what the money is for."