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Gold Standard: Is Kyle Shanahan’s future with the 49ers tied to Trey Lance’s success?

This week’s guest on the Gold Standard podcast doesn’t think so

Guy Haberman sits down with Niners Nation

If the 49ers were playing a game of poker, all their chips would be in the center of the table right now. They traded three first-round picks (plus more) to move up to draft Trey Lance, and now it appears he’s going to be in the driver’s seat in 2022.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that just as the team’s fate this year is tied to Lance’s success, so, too, is the tenure of the head coach that drafted him. On today’s Gold Standard podcast, however, Guy Haberman doesn’t necessarily believe that’s the case.

“A lot of that feeling from me comes from the way I perceive the organization to view Kyle, specifically Jed [York]. Jed’s tolerance and desire to do a coaching search, and what it’s taken to fire Niners coaches. Think about what it’s taken the last few years. Harbaugh, that was a complete implosion in terms of his relationship with the organization...Obviously Jim Tomsula was one and done, it was a complete and utter disaster. And Chip [Kelly], it was clear that things had to change. Jed is not the owner that wants to do it. He gets paid a lot of money to do it, but I don’t think he wants to do a coaching search.

I think it’s really hard. It’s hard to identify who out there is capable of really doing this. I think if I were him, my belief about Kyle Shanahan would be that Kyle Shanahan has shown me he is capable of doing this, and that belief would go beyond the decision to go all-in on Trey Lance.”

On the one hand, York has shown a willingness to switch gears when it becomes clear the current head coach is not right for the team. He fired Jim Tomsula with multiple years left on his contract, and he did the same a year later with Chip Kelly. On the other hand, paying people, not to work gets old fast, and Shanahan did just sign an extension that would keep him with the team through the 2025 season. Would Jed be willing to fire another coach with years left on his deal one more time? Only he knows for sure.

Here’s more from Guy on why he believes Kyle can survive Lance not becoming a franchise quarterback.

If Trey Lance fails and they need another starting quarterback, I think Trey Lance’s ending and Kyle Shanahan’s ending are not the same. That doesn’t mean there’s not a ton of pressure on Kyle, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be the beginning of the end for Kyle if Trey Lance fails, but I think part of it depends on what it looks like. There’s all these other factors.

If Trey Lance is Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, I don’t think that gets Kyle Shanahan fired. If it’s a Sam Darnold situation, that’s a whole different animal. That one is a lot of egg on your face. I think the question then becomes, what is your win loss record as this is happening? Because one thing Kyle has shown is that he can win some games with quarterbacks that clearly are not starting quarterbacks, right?

So is Trey Lance not good enough for the fifth year option but they’re also a Wild Card team a couple of times because they do other things? There’s all these other ways to parse it.

The bottom line is I think Jed York would be looking for reasons not to fire Kyle Shanahan, not reasons to fire Kyle Shanahan.

The NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and I believe the finish to last season was huge in terms of the patience York has with his head coach. If the 49ers lost to LA in Week 18, Kyle would have missed the playoffs in four of his five seasons with the Niners.

The only other coach that I can think of that kept his job after such a performance was Jeff Fisher with the Titans, but his Super Bowl appearance came in year five, and he had basically been .500 before that point. Regardless, is he really the historical comparison you would want to make as a reason to keep your head coach employed?

Instead, the Rams’ win and the subsequent deep playoff run have significantly reduced the pressure off Shanahan. He now has two NFC Championship game appearances in the last three years, and that has greatly extended his grace period with Trey Lance. Even if Lance struggled mightily in year one, Kyle wasn’t going to get fired. Now with that extra season of success, Shanahan can likely get through two seasons of growth with Lance before feeling the heat.

Take a listen to the whole interview if you have the time. Guy was very generous and sat down for about an hour. Listen to the whole podcast everywhere you get your pods or watch the video.

Other topics discussed in the show

- Could Trey Lance’s ceiling be a faster Steve Young? (:55)

- What’s your favorite “Oh no” Jimmy Garoppolo throw? (9:00)

- Why Guy doesn’t think Kyle Shanahan’s fate is tied to Trey Lance’s success (12:10)

- Guy’s advice on how to properly cook a steak (19:14)

- Deebo Samuel now has zero leverage with the 49ers (22:04)

- Do the 49ers want to look like they “won” the stand-off with Deebo? (26:20)

- How Lance could take the pressure off Samuel next year (28:14)

- Who is the rookie drafted in the 5th round or later that will shine? (34:30)

- Who is the rookie taken in the top 3 rounds that will whiff? (39:33)

- What does Vegas think of the Niners this year? (42:38)

- Does Stats’ Jimmy G. theory hold up? (54:55)

- How does the Garoppolo story end? (1:01:24)

- We change how Shanahan feels about Garoppolo in-season vs. off-season (1:05:04)