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Takeaways from Shanahan’s press conference: Why Allen over Witherspoon?

Plus, the decision to bench Garoppolo and the continued offensive line woes

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to the media after the team’s loss to the Dolphins, where the common theme was “embarrassing.” That sums the game up pretty well, as the 49ers looked out-coached and outclassed on both sides of the ball. Here are some takeaways from Shanahan’s postgame press conference.

The offensive line woes continue

There are kind of a few new pieces or guys in different spots on the offensive line. I don’t know. There’s some continuity there. Can you pinpoint maybe what’s going on, because it does seem like maybe there’s some communication problems at times?

“Yeah, we’ve just got to get back to the fundamentals, the basics of communicating the protections and getting it to the backs, the tight ends, everyone that’s in protection and then executing it and getting the ball out quick when we know that pressure is coming. That type of thing, we can definitely do a lot better at that all across the board, offensively.”

All offseason, I went out of my way to start a Daniel Brunskill bandwagon, and I could not have been more wrong about him. Brunskill has made the same mistakes in each game, and it’s been costly. ESPN’s box score credited the Dolphins for two sacks and three other QB hits. It felt like Miami was in the backfield far more than that.

The more I watch this offensive line, the more it seems like the offense misses Weston Richburg. It’s naive to believe Richburg will fix all of the issues, but it’s tough to put into words how critical a top-end center is in a Shanahan offense. The center is responsible for all of the blitz protections and calls. Too often this year, we’ve seen free rushers, no matter who is under center. The miscommunication has ended multiple drives, but we’ve yet to see any adjustments made.

Why’d it take so long to pull Brian Allen?

Why did CB Brian Allen get the start and more to the point is why did it take so long to pull him from the game after four series?

“Just because of how down we were going into the game. We got him off of practice squad this week because of the injuries we had. [CB Ken] Webster was his backup. [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon], he tried to go this week, but he was too tight to go throughout practice all week, but because of our low numbers, we still dressed him for emergency. So, we were trying to hold out, see how long we could go through with that and when Ahkello came up to us on the sidelines and said he wanted to go and wanted a shot, it gave us a little more confidence with his hamstring and he went in, was able to pull it off and get out of the game without tearing it. So, that was the decision on it.”

Shanahan added that the 49ers were going to go with Ken Webster on the next series, but Witherspoon went up to the defensive staff and asked to play.

There are plenty of questions about the decision to start Allen. Shanahan said Webster was in the same boat as him, which is also why the team was hesitant to pull Allen. I don’t want to pile on him too much. Allen hadn’t started a game in the NFL in a couple of seasons and found out he was going to be active for this game on Saturday and didn’t know he’d start until Witherspoon was listed as an “emergency” active player at the last minute.

With that in mind, I’m struggling to figure out why Witherspoon didn’t try to play. He went up to the coaching staff and asked to play, saying he was fine/good to go during the second quarter, but Ahkello didn’t feel the same way 45 minutes earlier? What gives? The coaching staff put Allen in a position to fail. This was tweeted after the first drive:

Allen didn’t stand a chance on the first drive, and that was only going to get worse. I was shocked the team left him out there. Why no Tarvarius Moore, since it came down to emergency cornerbacks? Shoot, even Jimmie Ward? I understand both players have been moved to safety, but they would have been no worse than throwing out practice squad players or Witherspoon, who had a bad hamstring. Trotting Allen out for multiple series may have been the most frustrating part of the game. You knew Miami would keep attacking Allen, and you knew they’d have success doing so.

What went into the decision to pull Garoppolo

“I mean, just the way the whole game was going, just kind of watching how we were playing as a whole, how he was playing. You could tell he was affected by his ankle. You can ask him more when he gets in, but I know he doesn’t normally throw the ball that way. I think he was struggling a little bit because of it and the way the game was going I wasn’t going to keep putting him in those positions and knowing we were going to have to throw it a lot to come back.”

I think it’s that and the combination of how the whole game was going. I knew going into it anytime you have a high ankle sprain that it can seem 100-percent better and you get out there and you do a couple things and it comes right back. That’s something that is going to linger. By no means did it keep him from playing today, but I think it hurt him from being at his best and the way the rest of the offense was, the way the whole team was going today, I didn’t think it was good to keep him out there in the second half with that score and everything and that he wasn’t at his best. That’s why I made that decision.”

There is going to be plenty of finger-pointing this week. If there was any chance that Garoppolo’s injury would linger, he should not have been out there. Before he even took big hits, he had a limp, which made it obvious Jimmy G wasn’t fully healthy. Garoppolo made poor decisions, was inaccurate, and simply did not play well. That can be true while acknowledging he couldn’t push off his ankle, move around the pocket, or put anything on his throws.

Shanahan made the correct decision to put C.J. Beathard in the game. Whether he did it to protect Garoppolo, to give his team the best chance to win, or both, we’ll never know. What’s concerning is that Jimmy’s status is now unknown for the Rams game—a game where the Niners need Garoppolo to win.