Fan discontent has subsided following the 49ers' 33-22 win over the Chicago Bears, but many still have questions as to why Trey Lance, the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, did not see the field.
Not too long after the game ended, while having dinner with media colleagues, a large group of 49ers fans were seated at the table next to us. Celebrating after the afternoon victory the mood of the group was much more positive than it has been for the fanbase through the team’s four-game losing streak.
We exchanged light conversation with the group and even took a few pictures before we left. Outside the restaurant as we were saying our goodbyes, one of the revelers from our neighboring table urgently ran up to us and our initial thought was that we had left something at the table.
“Why is Shanahan being so stubborn?” the fan exclaimed. “Why? I don’t get it. I need to know.”
Without mentioning names, we all knew who the fan was talking about. Still surprising was that even after a win, impatience still permeates the fanbase regarding Trey Lance being named the starting quarterback for the 49ers.
Even though the rookie was active for the team’s Week 8 matchup, he did not see the field. Kyle Shanahan explained earlier in the week that they would be careful with Lance while he recovers from a knee sprain that kept him sidelined in Week 7. Sending a recovering rookie onto the field without two of the top skill players on offense, George Kittle and Raheem Mostert, was not something the head coach wanted to do.
On Monday when Shanahan was asked if Lance was also kept off the field as a result of Jimmy Garoppolo’s productivity, the head coach explained his thought process.
“I don't really look at it that way,” Shanahan said. “I’m not just putting in a backup quarterback just to get them experience. That's great and all, but that's not totally what you do. I put in a backup quarterback because he's got a little bit of a different skillset.
“If you think that makes sense in a certain down and distance or a certain situation, I love having that option. People use a Wildcat in certain situations and I look at it no different. I think what helps a lot more is when your Wildcat is not a Wildcat. That you could call it and he is your backup quarterback and could throw it at any time.”
In Week 1, Lance was on the field for four plays in the team’s win over the Detroit Lions. The rookie carried the ball three times for two total yards, and his one passing attempt went for five yards to Trent Sherfield for a touchdown.
In Week 3 vs. the Packers, Lance was on the field for three snaps, and his rushing attempt gave the 49ers six points.
Shanahan likes having Lance as the ace up his sleeve, with opponents not knowing whether the quarterback will carry the ball or throw it. Garoppolo’s production has nothing to do with the head coach’s choice on if he will sub out the veteran in a game.
“I thought Jimmy was playing pretty good versus Detroit and we did that,” Shanahan said. “Same thing versus Green Bay down there on the goal line. It really doesn't factor into it. Just with him being out those last few weeks, not even sure if he was going to dress and him getting better throughout the week. I wasn't going to just throw him out there and do that stuff, just for situational plays.”