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Oh, Hey There: Has Kyle Shanahan already proven he can run a dual quarterback system?

If you think the 49ers are crazy for potentially rotating Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance in and out during a series, maybe this will sway your fears. During today’s Oh, Hey There podcast, Javier Vega and Leo Luna pointed to this piece from Albert Breer about why Kyle Shanahan may be perfectly suited to pull off a two quarterback offense:

“After drafting Robert Griffin III with the second pick that April, Kyle Shanahan built an adapted version of the Baylor Air Raid offense that Griffin ran in college to shorten the learning curve. At the same time, he was developing Kirk Cousins to play within the tried-and-true version of the Shanahan scheme. And one reason there was so much tension at the end of that season, both before and after Griffin tore his ACL in the playoffs, was what happened in December of that year. Griffin had designs on playing quarterback in a more conventional, dropback sort of way, but wasn’t ready to do that at the NFL level. Then, he got nicked up and missed the game on Dec. 16 as a result. So the Shanahans toggled back to playing the scheme that Mike had run for two decades for Cousins—and that incensed Griffin’s camp, who thought that was how Griffin should be deployed. Cousins wound up throwing for 329 yards, two TDs, a pick and 104.4 passer rating that day, in a 38–21 win in Cleveland. Things weren’t the same after that between the team and Griffin, but that’s not the point of telling the story. The point is that I believe if there’s a coach who’s capable of flipping back and forth in identity on offense, it’s Shanahan, and being able to flip from an Air Raid scheme to a West Coast scheme and back again in a span of three Sundays is proof. Now, do I think a Garoppolo/Lance shuttle will work? I don’t know—nor do I know whether Shanahan’s really going to roll that out against Detroit in Week 1. But what I do know is that the Niners have been mulling this for a while, and the idea it could work for them, and be a huge headache for everyone else, really isn’t bonkers.”

As Leo and Javi correctly pointed out during the show, the identity of the 49ers offense actually wouldn’t have to change that much. They still want to grind teams into dust with the run game and gash them down the field with explosive gains from play-action passes.

The real test, they believe, is whether Kyle Shanahan can handle crafting a gameplan to win each week while incorporating the development of Trey Lance into that thought process as well. Kyle himself talked about this in Monday’s conference call:

“I try to start with what gives you the best chance to win. And that’s kind of what you owe to an organization. That’s what you owe to your building. That’s what you owe to all the players and coaches on the team who are grinding every single week. Whether it’s players, whether it’s coaches, whether it’s personnel people, you do what you can to win. And if you’re not, I don’t feel like you’re being fair to people...At the same time, I get spending the draft picks to get a young quarterback and you’ve got to do what’s right for that guy too. And I think what has been tough on Trey is he didn’t get to play football all last year. So regardless of what happens, I’m always trying to make sure that Trey doesn’t go another year without playing football. We’re going to make sure that we do what’s best for him. Getting him reps on the practice field, hopefully in games too and we’ll see how this all pans out. But my order of thinking always starts with what’s best for this organization, what gives our organization the best chance to win. And then after that I’m always thinking of the individual.”

Time will tell how this all plays out, but as they said on the show, the offense should be fun to watch, regardless of who is at quarterback. It will be exciting to see how defenses react, how confused they’ll be, and if that potentially will lead to easy, explosive plays by the offense.

Other topics in today’s show

  • How worried should we be about Trey Lance’s finger injury?
  • 53 man roster thoughts