There’s an old saying among lawyers: when the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on your side, pound the table. Kyle Shanahan has become excellent at pounding the table over the past year or so with the 49ers. He has repeatedly contradicted himself on decisions he’s made and injury timelines. Any time he is faced with a difficult question or one that tries to hold him responsible for his previous positions, he attacks the phrasing of the question rather than the substance of the question. He did both yesterday.
First, here was Kyle on the injury to Trey Lance’s knee:
“Trey’s coming off a pretty big injury and we’re gonna keep bringing him along and keep getting him prepared as good as you can be to always be ready to come in and help on the plays that we ask him to do.”
Yet when Kyle first explained what was wrong with Trey Lance on October 11th, he said this:
“It’s not a long-term injury...We should have a good idea by the end of next week, whether he’s got a chance for Indy or not. If he doesn’t, they told me it should be like a one to two week thing, but possibly just one.”
So which is it, Kyle? Is it a one-to-two-week injury, or is it “pretty big?” Those two things aren’t close to being the same thing. There are no big injuries that only take one or two weeks to heal. They, in fact, wouldn’t be “big injuries” if they healed that quickly. More and more, it feels like Shanahan says whatever he needs to say in order to justify his current position and keep the follow-up questions to a minimum.
Then, at the end of the conference call, the following exchange took place:
Jimmy’s lost three starts in a row, why are you so confident he gives you your best chance to win right now?
“Our team has lost four games in a row. I don’t look at football like pitchers. This is a team sport. So when you just go off of wins and losses for one person, I don’t think that’s fair to a person and I don’t think that is accurate when you’re dealing with football. That would mean a lot of our guys have lost four starts in a row if you looked at it that way.”
Kyle is smart. He knows exactly what question was being asked, yet instead of answering; he employs a tried-and-true strategy. First, deliberately attack the phrasing of the question so that you doesn’t have to actually answer the substance of the question, which was why Jimmy Garoppolo gives him the best chance to win. In this case, he used the opening phrase as the shield.
In truth, it’s a smart strategy for anyone that doesn’t want to answer questions. I doubt many other coaches in the league could pull it off. The fact is, however, that the question is legitimate. Shanahan has said again and again that he would start the quarterback that gives the team the best chance to win. It’s fair to wonder how a quarterback that is 7-7 in his last 14 starts (including playoffs) with 16 total TDs and 15 total turnovers still gives the team a better chance to win than the third overall pick in the draft.
Fortunately for Kyle, he made sure he didn’t have to answer it.