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Lynch says Aiyuk hasn’t taken the strides the 49ers expected him to

This feels like it’s more than “tough love”

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, 49ers general manager John Lynch joined KNBR and praised wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk for working hard and earning more playing time:

“Brandon’s worked really hard. He’s a hard worker. He’s a really good kid. He’s a talented kid. He got some injuries. Trent Sherfield was playing well. The credit to Brandon is that he kept working. He put his head down, and he kept working. And he earned the opportunities he got the other night and made some big catches. I think that should give him some confidence.

This came after Aiyuk scored against the Packers and played the most snaps of the season. Fast forward two weeks later, and we are back to square one.

On Lynch’s most recent appearance on KNBR, Lynch said it’s time for Aiyuk to “take that next step.” Here’s his full quote:

“The bottom line is we each have to find a way — I’m talking we as a team and Brandon as a player — because for us to get where we want to get, we need his talent and abilities on the field. Having said that, it’s important you earn your opportunities. You do that during the week. It’s not as if Brandon isn’t working hard. For whatever reason, he hasn’t made the strides we expect him to. We probably hold him to higher standards because he has so much in his body.”

Lynch added that it’s “incumbent on everyone” to make sure that Aiyuk takes his game to the next level, and the 49ers need “explosiveness” that Aiyuk brings to the offense. Here’s more from Lynch:

“Having said that, it’s important you earn your opportunities. You do that during the week. It’s not as if Brandon isn’t working hard. For whatever reason, he hasn’t made the strides we expect him to. We probably hold him to higher standards because he has so much in his body.”

We are not at practice, so there’s no way we can fully know the situation behind why Aiyuk is an afterthought in this offense. However, he had two critical first down conversions against Arizona. He’s also working through the whistle when it comes to blocking and showing great effort.

It goes deeper than what’s happening during the game. You could go down a rabbit hole as to what the issues may be. Is Aiyuk lollygagging in practice? Showing up late to meetings? Running the wrong routes or dropping passes in practice?

Drops were a concern during training camp but never to a point where you thought, “you know what, they could use more Travis Benjamin instead on offense.” Instead, this has become a talking point because the 49ers aren’t winning games. They’re not winning games because the offense is ineffective.

The messaging surrounding Aiyuk has been overly pessimistic. Some have said the team did the same with Deebo Samuel last year, but I’m not buying that. I’m not saying the 49ers should coddle Aiyuk, but I question this type of messaging, which could easily be perceived as public shaming.

Is the team shaming Aiyuk? Of course not. They’re hoping to push him to become the type of player we all know Aiyuk can be. We’ll see how he responds after the bye week. As Lynch said, they need him. And not just or two receptions a game.