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49ers in Five: Did Kyle Shanahan tip his hand on the QB decision this week?

Everything you need to know in five minutes

The eyes of the NFL world will be focused on Kyle Shanahan this week to see if he’ll give Trey Lance his first start as a professional quarterback against the Cardinals. Of course, most head coaches are notoriously tight-lipped about any decision, and quarterbacks doubly so.

However, in yesterday’s session with the media, I thought Kyle said something that might have revealed more than he thought.

During the first part of the media session, Kyle went with the typical coach-speak about how Garoppolo is improving but still not quite ready to roll. Then, later in the press conference, he was asked how important it was for Trey Lance to get all the first-team practice reps if he’s going to be the starter:

“Oh, it’s huge. It’s huge for whoever goes in that week. You put in a new gameplan on Wednesday morning and they go out and practice it on Wednesday. And then Thursday, you put in a whole new thing for third down, short yardage, goal line and things like that. And they go out Thursday and do it. And Friday you try to review some stuff, but you put in a bunch of red zone stuff. So that’s why, no matter what the position is, usually the guys you’re expecting to play get all those reps. Because it’s not just the same stuff, you’re doing different numbers, different fronts, different coverages. So, to have a week, I think it was huge for him too having all that time where he could just go play quarterback and do some other cards, some other defenses and not really get tied down to learning what’s in that day. Just playing football and getting better at that. These practices are more about learning what we do all morning, carrying it over to the field, correcting it at night, coming in the next morning with questions and how you build up through the week to where you get to Sunday night and you’re confident and ready to go to play.”

Shanahan made sure to say it’s huge for whoever the quarterback is to be part of practice on Wednesday because that’s when the new gameplan begins to be installed. Of course, we also already know that Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t practice yesterday. So this question facing Kyle Shanahan is a simple one:

Is he really going to play a struggling Jimmy Garoppolo who is less-than-healthy by his own admission and has also missed a day of the game plan installation instead of the third overall pick in the draft?

Then, consider this comment that Kyle made about Trey Lance on Wednesday:

“He’s developing. That’s what you’ll see when you get out to gameday...Throughout the summer, him trying to get everything, I thought he got better as it went. Then when he went into the games, that’d be a new learning process and I think he would get better each week in those games. I thought when he got thrown into battle here, just running the offense and not really his specific plays, I thought he got more comfortable as the game went. Especially going home and watching the tape after the game, I thought there was a lot of encouraging stuff. So, guys that are rookies, second-year players, it doesn’t matter the position, you’re always developing. You’re always trying to get better and he’ll see some things out there that he’s never seen before, but what you like about him and stuff that he might not be ready for he can overcompensate with some of his athletic ability and, to me, how competitive he is and how good of a football player he is.”

That is the kind of progression that you want to see out of the guy you gave up three first-round picks to get. Was witnessing Lance get more comfortable in a real regular-season game the thing that tipped the scales in Trey’s favor?

It sure seems that way to me, but as long as Shanahan leaves that door open for Jimmy Garoppolo’s return just a bit, Arizona will have to prepare for both players.