Kyle Shanahan hasn't been subbing Trey Lance into games recently, but that's less about his quarterback’s ability and more about the head coach himself.
The No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft did not take a snap in the 49ers' 34-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Levi's Stadium. In fact, Lance only has played five snaps since suffering a knee sprain during his only career start in Week 5 vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
Not putting the rookie on the field in specific game situations is a departure from how Shanahan called plays early in the season when Lance was called upon in select goal-line situations. The 49ers head coach spoke Monday about why his tendencies have changed.
“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.”
At the start of the season, Shanahan inserted Lance into games several times. The rookie completed his one pass attempt for a touchdown in Week 1 vs. Detroit and carried the ball for a touchdown in Week 3 pacing the Green Bay Packers. Shanahan revealed they will always have a number of packages for Lance in their weekly gameplan but he has been more resistant to call them.
Shanahan believes changing the quarterback may stunt his play-calling abilities. It may even have more of an effect on the head coach than Jimmy Garoppolo who Shanahan believes has played well in both situations.
“What’s been hard on me, that I didn’t realize, is when you do bring in a different quarterback who gets a different set of plays, it’s almost the first play I’ve been seeing of a new defense,” Shanahan said. “You see what fronts and coverages they are doing but they are doing it completely to a plan as a threat of the runner at that position.
“I don’t know what to anticipate with it, and then I got to stay in it for a while to get a feel for that. And then you go back and that feels kind of off for the last guy, so it kind of hurts my rhythm a little bit of understanding what a defense is getting. That’s why personally as the year has gone I’ve gotten a little more away from it because I like to get a feel for what the defense is doing.”
The proliferation of the 49ers' running game in the past three games has taken a little pressure off Garoppolo. It also has lessened the need for Shanahan to feel like he must insert Lance into the game as a potential ball carrier.
The 49ers also currently lead the NFL with a 77.42 touchdown percentage when in the red zone. If what the 49ers are doing is working, there is no need for Shanahan to alter the plan.