I believe that none of these accomplishments represent their greatest strength as the brain trust of the 49ers. The duo’s greatest power is to be able to manage personalities and cultivate a team-first locker room culture in a league that features a growing number of egos and difficult personalities.
You name the situation, and this 49ers’ regime has been able to manage it. Contract negotiations, hold-ins, star player trades, and all the quarterback “noise” from last season. This makes them uniquely well-equipped to handle the quarterback room of Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo — along with any potential drama that may ensue in 2022.
Let’s make it clear: Trey Lance is the starting quarterback, and Kyle Shanahan went out of his way during Tuesday’s conference call with Bay Area media to make that clear. He also made it clear that Garoppolo was brought back on the deal that he’s the backup quarterback.
Similar to 2021, when Kyle Shanahan routinely iterated that Jimmy Garoppolo was the starter (and then stuck with it through the season), I predict that he’s going to stick by Trey Lance as the starter unless there’s an injury or the wheels really fall off of the 49ers’ season.
It feels like many people consider this latest move from the 49ers a “hedge” against Trey Lance in the event he struggles or doesn’t live up to his No. 3 draft status. I look at it as valuable insurance in the event of a Lance injury.
Let’s take a look at Shanahan’s history in 2018 and 2020. Two seasons that were essentially lost due to the injury of a starting quarterback. Given the roster that’s been put together in San Francisco this season, I don’t think Shanahan was willing to potentially risk sacrificing another season in the case something happened to Lance, and he couldn’t play.
This wasn’t Plan A by any means. As Shanahan and Lynch once again repeated on Tuesday, they fully expected to trade Garoppolo at the start of the new league year in March. But a shoulder surgery, paired with extensive rehab to combine with musical chairs at the quarterback position this offseason — Garoppolo was left standing when the music stopped.
Most organizations in the NFL wouldn’t even consider this as a possibility — either because they’ve botched the relationship with the player or the player does not want to return to the team in any capacity.
The 49ers’ refreshingly honest approach to handling business transactions may not always leave their players feeling happy — but certainly has earned them enough respect to be able to maneuver a unique situation like this.
While I say that, I also don’t think Shanahan and Lynch deserve all the credit for being able to piece this back together. It also takes high-character individuals like Garoppolo and Lance to be able to accept the situation and also thrive in it.
It seems like many are focused on potential drama that could ensue from this whole fiasco — myself included at times — but I think the 49ers’ ethos and culture is going to ultimately outshine any potential issues that could result, and I believe it’ll be a fruitful relationship for the 49ers.