Kyle Shanahan is wrongly handling his QB situation with Trey Lance

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers intend to split first-team reps in training camp between Trey Lance and Sam Darnold, but that’s not the right approach at all.

Two things can be equally true about San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

On one hand, he is the best head coach the Niners have had since Jim Harbaugh and arguably dating back to George Seifert, and few would challenge or question Shanahan’s offensive genius.

On the other, Shanahan has frequently mismanaged and misallocated his efforts at quarterback.

And it’s fair to criticize him for it without going as far as to suggest he needs to get the proverbial “boot” from the franchise (he shouldn’t).

Shanahan’s latest mismanagement at quarterback is yet to play out, but the groundwork is already there.

For context, San Francisco no longer has Jimmy Garoppolo in the equation after he jumped ship to the Las Vegas Raiders in NFL free agency, which left both Trey Lance and Brock Purdy as the lone quarterbacks on the 49ers roster.

Until the Niners inked former Carolina Panthers signal-caller Sam Darnold, of course.

Continuing the context for a bit, Purdy and Lance are returning from injuries. But Purdy likely won’t be ready after UCL surgery until the start of the regular season at the soonest.

As of now, it looks as if Lance and Darnold will be the ones practicing during offseason workouts and training camp.

Kyle Shanahan says Trey Lance, Sam Darnold will split first-team reps in offseason practices

When news of Purdy’s recovery timeline revealed a six-month absence, the thought was Lance would be the unquestioned first-team option in organized team activities and training camp.

Even after Darnold was signed, rational thought would suggest the No. 3 overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft would be a backup to Lance and would get second-team reps.

Not according to Shanahan, though, who spoke to reporters like ESPN’s Nick Wagoner at the NFL owners meeting this week:

More of Shanahan’s comments on the situation, courtesy of 49ers Webzone:

"I don’t know how Brock’s going to come back. I don’t know exactly when he’s going to come back, so I don’t have the exact answer for that. But right now, because he is hurt, it’s nice to focus on Trey, it’s nice to focus on Sam, and see how they do [in] OTAs and most likely see how they’re playing, leading us into training camp, because I think it will take some time for Brock."

Granted, San Francisco has been linked to Darnold numerous times before, but the thought of giving him first-team reps at the expense of Lance is not the right approach.

At all.

Trey Lance needs the bulk of practice reps, Kyle Shanahan won’t oblige

If the 49ers are confident that Lance will be their guy atop the depth chart, they aren’t acting like it. At least Shanahan isn’t.

Darnold, despite his $3.5 million in guarantees, is a good backup option, nothing more than that until Purdy’s return.

Lance, who has only four regular-season starts under his belt since being drafted at No. 3 overall back in 2021, not only hasn’t played a full year of organized football since his collegiate days at North Dakota State back in 2019, but he also spent almost all of 2022 in recovery from his ankle surgery.

Not throwing. Not practicing. And, by cutting into Lance’s offseason practice reps, Shanahan is further stunting the quarterback’s development.

Read More: Trey Lance already threatened by 49ers signing Sam Darnold

Sure, Darnold was in bad situations with both the Panthers and New York Jets, previously. But the Niners don’t have much of anything invested in him.

They do in Lance.

But it appears as if Shanahan is already giving up on Lance. If that’s the case, then it’ll be a stain in Shanahan’s evaluation process of quarterbacks, especially in light of what San Francisco gave up to get Lance back in 2021.

If it’s not the case, Shanahan is hindering Lance’s development after nearly a yearlong absence by trying to have him split time with Darnold, who’ll likely be no more than a career backup from this point onward.

Either way, Shanahan isn’t managing this situation well.

Next. 4 landing spots for Trey Lance if 49ers elect to trade him. dark