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Kyle Shanahan says Sam Darnold started to separate himself from Trey Lance 10 days ago

The 49ers head coach plans on playing Trey Lance on Friday against the Chargers.

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Breaking the news to a player that he’s either been demoted or lost a positional battle has to be high on the list coaches dread the most. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan joined KNBR Tuesday evening to explain his decision as to why he went with Sam Darnold over Trey Lance to be his backup quarterback:

“They were neck and neck for a long time, but really over these last 10 days, we felt Sam started to separate himself. We felt he did it in practice consistently, and has been getting better each day.”

Kyle still has high hopes for Trey, even if it isn’t with the Niners: “I also don’t think Trey, this means that he can’t be with us or someone else ever in the future. I mean, this is just where camp went right now.”

The 49ers will still play Lance this Friday in the 49ers preseason finale against the Chargers. Trey will come in after Sam Darnold, per Shanahan. How much longer Lance is on the roster remains to be seen. Kyle was asked if Lance will be on the roster come Week 1 when San Francisco travels to Pittsburgh:

“I’m really hoping so. This isn’t a thing where we’re giving up on Trey. This is more about how Brock played during his 7 games. Sam ended up winning it. Once I knew that was the case, wanted to make sure I told Trey as fast as I could.”

Shanahan said he’d feel “great” if he had all three quarterbacks on the roster.

Lance will have a reputation as “the worst trade in franchise history,” or “the biggest bust of the decade,” but Trey fell victim to some unfortunate circumstances after he was already behind the 8-ball due to his lack of playing time in college.

During his interview, Kyle said, “Trey knows how I feel about him.” After he sat down and had a talk with Lance, Shanahan said he felt like it was in Trey’s best interest to take Wednesday’s practice off:

“We had such a light practice today, watching how Trey was when we talked, we thought it was better to ‘hey, take the day off, clear your head some, we’ll talk later in the afternoon and get you back in there tomorrow.’”

This isn’t even the most awkward quarterback situation in the past year or so for the 49ers. First, the team traded for Jimmy Garoppolo’s replacement, but he wound up saying his goodbyes and bidding everyone a farewell the following offseason, only for the team to bring Garoppolo back before the regular season started in 2022.

Based on Kyle’s tone during his interview and everything that he’s said publicly about Trey, he’s going to take care of Lance. If there’s a good situation out there, and Lance wants to go there, I’d bet on Shanahan pulling the trigger on a trade.

We’ll never get the full details of the heart-to-heart conversation that Shanahan had with Lance behind closed doors Wednesday, but if Trey told Kyle that he wants to be a Niner, stick it out, and continue to compete, it’s difficult to imagine Lance playing elsewhere this season.

Of course, the right offer may trump any personal feelings, as this is a business and Shanahan must do what’s best for the 49ers organization. Do you take Kyle at his word? Will Trey play Friday? There are several moving parts, and this story still has plenty more to it.