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The 49ers offense has been consistently inconsistent: Why it’s on Shanahan to figure it out

From the passing game to Brandon Aiyuk to third downs, we expected more from the Niners offense

Las Vegas Raiders v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Figure it out. That’s what Kyle Shanahan has been tasked to do. The 49ers are unsure whether Jimmy Garoppolo will play against the Cardinals as he recovers from a calf contusion.

Since Shanahan decided that there wasn’t a quarterback competition, which left the rookie quarterback the 49ers traded three first-round picks for relegated to the scout team, Trey Lance is behind the 8-ball a month into the season.

We can argue all day and night whether the organization botched their quarterback situation this offseason. Garoppolo has been a polarizing player when healthy. He’s been consistently inconsistent in 3.5 games. In 2016, ’18, ’20, and now ’21, Jimmy G didn’t make it a month before an injury. Betting against history always came with a risk, and we’re answering the same question again in the first week of October.

Sunday’s first-half performance proved that Garoppolo’s “good” simply isn’t good enough. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and Jimmy left too many plays on the field. High throws, late reads, inaccurate passes — there were a lot of yards left on the field.

What kills the 49ers when Jimmy G is under center is that he isn’t sustaining the good plays. The offense doesn’t ask him to do much, and when they do, it shouldn’t be a coin flip as to whether your veteran quarterback completes an open pass.

Now, it wasn’t all on Garoppolo. Timely mistakes such as a sack surrendered by Laken Tomlinson, a trick play, or overall lack of execution were issues all half. Despite a fantastic performance from the defense, the offense converted one first down during the first half and managed only one touchdown despite being spoonfed the ball over and over.

Kyle Shanahan’s job is to score points. Moving the ball between the 20s does nothing for your team. As you can see in the video below, costly mistakes bit the 49ers in the you know what during the first half.

Perhaps we were caught up in the offseason hype and projections for the 49ers. However, I think we can all agree that Shanahan and the offense have been a failure through four games.

I mean on a down-to-down basis, including the talent on the roster, who is calling plays, and the four defenses this team has played.

One of the points in the video above is how Brandon Aiyuk and even Deebo Samuel aren’t on the field on third downs. Why? You traded up in the 2020 NFL Draft to draft Aiyuk with the hopes that he’ll be your No. 1 wideout.

The final four third downs of the first half saw Aiyuk miss three of them and wasn’t targeted after being open on the last third down. Shanahan has his work cut out for him, and his duties go beyond play-calling.

Lance’s bumpy road but bright future

The wheels were spinning for the rookie. He looked like a player who hadn’t taken any reps on offense in practice since the regular season started. Lance started with a couple of errant throws.

From there, he was decisive in the sense that if the side he was looking at didn’t have an open receiver once Lance hit the top of his drop, then he was taking off to run. So in this breakdown about Lance, I highlight how much better he’ll be once the game slows down for him:

Lance went from playing backyard football to looking like a competent quarterback by the final drive. As crazy as it sounds, Lance improved the more he played.

Shanahan talked about Lance needing to rely on his playmakers more, and I went over those plays above. Lance must learn that he doesn’t have to be a superhero and do everything himself. This team is stacked with playmakers. Let them do the work.

It was encouraging how the running game opened up. I also noticed how Shanahan was far more aggressive in attacking the Seahawks vertically with Lance. The offense can stretch the field both down the field and horizontally without reinventing the wheel.

Shanahan deserves some blame for not getting Lance more reps. There’s an argument that could be made for starting Lance in Week 1. Hindsight is 20/20. Shanahan has to get his rookie quarterback to play in a week against the last undefeated team in the NFL.

I don’t think we’ll see Garoppolo this week with the 49ers having a bye after the Cardinals game. The last thing you want to do is rush Jimmy G back and have him suffer another injury or throw him out there when he’s not 100%.

Figure it out. That’s what Shanahan is paid to do. Lance showed glimpses of high-level quarterback play, but he also has a long way to reach the level of consistent QB play that it takes to win in this league. It’s on the 49ers’ coaching staff to develop Lance and prepare him for now and the future.