49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has been all over the place regarding his plan for using one or both of his quarterbacks this season. The appearance of confusion flows either from strategy or happenstance.
Earlier this week, Shanahan tried to downplay the expectation, created by the 49ers in the preseason, that we’d see plenty of rookie Trey Lance in the regular season. In so doing, Shanahan created a new expectation that we won’t see much of Lance.
If that’s the case, why say anything? Unless Shanahan is trying to rope-a-dope the Seahawks into thinking they won’t see Lance before unleashing him on Sunday, there’s no reason to say anything other than, “We’ll do what’s in the best interests of the team.”
Shanahan, with an assist from starter Jimmy Garoppolo, definitely created the impression that the 49ers would use a two-quarterback system when the games count. Shanahan has since retreated from that, possibly because Garoppolo didn’t like it — and because he still has the locker room behind him.
That’s the key here. The locker room. If a roster that continues to believe it’s Super Bowl ready also believes in Garoppolo over Lance, Shanahan needs to go with Garoppolo.
The solution, unless Shanahan’s Mr. Magoo machinations are actually Jedi Mind Tricks, seems to be to ride with Garoppolo until something breaks or tears or strains, opening the door for Lance. Indeed, the 49ers went fishing for a franchise quarterback because they can’t trust Garoppolo to stay healthy. So it’s simple. Ride Jimmy until he gets injured, and then go with Lance.
Of course, there’s a chance Jimmy stays healthy all year. And that the 49ers end up in the Super Bowl. And that the 49ers find themselves with the worst of the good problems to have — a veteran quarterback they want to get rid of but can’t along with a younger option for whom they sold out their the future but who can’t get on the field.