The 49ers surprised many people when they started wide receiver Trent Sherfield, over Brandon Aiyuk in their Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions. Popular sports radio host Rich Eisen touched on the surprising move on this week’s episode of The Rich Eisen Show.
Aiyuk, of course, was drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft and had an impressive rookie season, hauling in 60 receptions for 748 receiving yards and five touchdowns. On the other hand, Sherfield was signed to a one-year deal worth less than a million dollars this offseason and after primarily contributing on special teams for the first three years of his career with the Arizona Cardinals.
In a conversation with MMQB’s senior NFL reporter Albert Breer, Eisen mentioned the oscillation between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance at quarterback and Sherfield usurping Aiyuk for the starting spot:
I mean as if there’s not enough question marks about what Kyle Shanahan’s thinking and really meaning when he talks about his quarterbacks. Jimmy G gets the start, but Trey Lance is the one who throws the first touchdown pass of the season and then, of course it’s who he threw it to, a kid that hardly anybody’s ever really heard of [Sherfield] and Brandon Aiyuk gets 0 and 0... What is going on with this offense in San Francisco?
Breer said he expected the 49ers quarterback situation to play out how it did in Week 1 for the rest of 2021, with Garoppolo taking the bulk of snaps while Lance could see time in a few scenarios. He also compared Aiyuk to Deebo Samuel, who saw a dip in his production during his second professional season. Still, Eisen was clearly perplexed by the situation at receiver.
Eisen circled back to the handling of Aiyuk on the second hour of the episode, going as far to ask, “What goes through the mind of Kyle Shanahan?” Again, Eisen wasn’t overtly critical of the decision but clearly struggled to understand the possible logic behind the move.
While plenty of pundits, particularly on the national stage, have been obviously perplexed by Aiyuk’s apparent demotion, reporting closer to the 49ers seems less concerned about the move.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan has repeatedly reiterated that Sherfield, a preseason standout, earned a larger role, primarily while the team aims to be cautious with Aiyuk. At the same time, he works his way back from a hamstring injury. In his weekly ten observations and predictions piece, The Athletic’s David Lombardi was definitive that “Aiyuk isn’t in the doghouse.”