Some people have wondered whether Brandon Aiyuk somehow managed to tick off Kyle Shanahan when he was basically an afterthought on Sunday. After the game, Kyle pointed to Aiyuk’s hamstring issue as the reason for him not starting, but also gave credit to Trent Sherfield at the same time. During his Monday conference call, Shanahan was explicitly asked if there was anything other than the hamstring that limited Aiyuk’s role in the offense against the Lions:
“No. I just think he’s got a better person behind him this year in training camp and with Aiyuk missing some time and how well [WR] Trent Sherfield played and especially with Aiyuk missing some time heading into that game, it wasn’t a very tough decision. We were going to rotate them throughout the game. I think Trent ended up having 29 plays and I think Aiyuk had 25. So, that was about how we expected it to go. We wanted to split time like that. I thought Aiyuk would get a few more punt returns and I thought he’d get a few more targets, but when guys are rotating that much, 50/50, I don’t really ask much who’s in, I’m good with either one of them getting the ball, whoever is in there at the time. It doesn’t matter to me.”
There’s something about that comment that doesn’t add up to me. If Aiyuk’s hamstring was enough of an issue to split his snaps with Sherfield, why was Kyle willing to give him additional duty as a punt returner?
Also, as if this wasn’t clear enough already, Aiyuk should not feel entrenched as the team’s number one wide receiver. He may be in the eyes of fans and media, but clearly Kyle doesn’t see him that way.
Maybe Shanahan’s goal is to motivate Aiyuk to maximize the obvious potential he clearly has. The team seems to like what they’ve gotten from a supposedly more motivated Jimmy Garoppolo so far, so maybe they’re trying the same tactic with Brandon Aiyuk?
For more on this topic as well as the ripple effects of the Jason Verrett injury, listen to today’s 49ers in Five podcast, available now.