As we get closer to the start of the regular season and the Polaroid that is the 49ers quarterback picture slowly develops, we’re learning more about the why behind the decisions beyond just the who.
During his weekly press conference with reporters, Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel was asked what the benefit of a two-quarterback system was to the team:
“The benefit is you can really do with players things that they’re really good at. As long as you have the right unit that’s willing to work together, which we do, the right organization, the right people, where it’s about the 49ers winning football games. You just really try and problem solve, ‘What’s the best way?’ It’s literally that simple. So the benefits to us is really that we can utilize skillsets from everyone and do it in a manner that everyone can cohesively play together.”
The key will be in the specific utilization of each player. Obviously Trey Lance has incredible mobility, but if he’s running the ball every time he’s in the game, defenses will quickly adjust to counteract that. The 49ers no doubt know this, but they’re going to be walking on a tightrope with this plan.
If Lance does pass when he’s in there and they don’t connect, some in the locker room may question why the regular starting quarterback isn’t the one throwing those passes. Conversely, if Lance lights it up in limited duty, people may question why he isn’t the regular starter.
Quarterbacks have divided locker rooms in the past - including the locker room of this very franchise. McDaniel was also asked about that possibility yesterday:
“That’s interesting because I could see how that would potentially be a situation at other places. Again, from top to bottom really, that’s not really a concern at all in the 49ers organization because of the leadership and because of the players that we have in the locker room. Everyone really is, from our team meetings to our practice, everyone is so focused on just trying to do whatever it takes to win. Understanding that when you win, personal validations and success happen to everyone, so that common goal has really insulated us from anything. To be honest, I haven’t heard really anybody’s opinion on x,y, or z in that regard because no one really cares. Everyone trusts that their intentions are right and we’re just trying to do the best thing for the 49ers to win and working forward in that regard.”
As I said in today’s Stats & Eggs podcast, that’s easy to say during the preseason. It’s another thing entirely when the regular season starts. Now, as John Madden used to say, winning is the ultimate deodorant. If the 49ers are rotating quarterbacks and putting up 30 points a game, all will be well. If they don’t, however, and the offense struggles, it’s fair to wonder if that insulation that McDaniel talked about will hold up.
To be fair, Kyle Shanahan has done an exceptional job in the past of keeping the locker room together while the team was struggling. In those years, however, the 49ers didn’t have the number three overall pick in the draft at quarterback on the roster, which of course makes all the difference.