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Kyle Shanahan speaks on not resting starters during blowout win

The 49ers head coach is a bit paranoid from Week 1 two years ago

San Francisco 49ers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

There aren’t too many things to complain about for 49ers fans following a 30-7 blowout in Pittsburgh. Perhaps you’re concerned about the right side of the offensive line, or maybe you’re concerned about kickoff coverage. A popular concern was why Christian McCaffrey and other 49er starters were still in the game with the game in hand.

Kyle Shanahan was asked about the decision to keep his starters in the game on Sunday with a huge lead:

I had a question about when to pull or rest starters. I ask because LB Fred Warner played every snap. RB Christian McCaffrey had like three carries when you’re up 20 midway through the fourth quarter and DL Nick Bosa got at least one snap with like three minutes to go and you’re up 23. I guess it would be easy to say, ‘Get them out of there. They’ll get hurt.’ What’s your philosophy on that and it tough to figure out when to do it?

“Yeah, you pull guys when you think the game’s over and you do that off of experience and we didn’t think the game was over when it’s at that point. Now, sometime in that drive because it took so long, we debated whether to take them out before that drive or not. We’d been in that situation before, we decided not to. We kept Bosa out just for a third down but ended up going longer and then we didn’t want to pull them out in the middle of it. So, we kept that drive. But, that was the last drive of the game. We decided that before it, just went long.”

Did you keep Bosa in to get a sack?

“No, just he helps us get them off on third down. So, we thought he could at least do a third down and end that drive pretty quick, but we didn’t.”

How much did that Week 1 experience in Detroit a couple of years ago kind of shape the way you viewed that?

“That’s huge. That happened to us personally. It was I think 41 to 17 with a minute 58 left. And they had the ball with 17 seconds, 20 yards away, down seven points. So that’s a lot more than that was. That’s a personal situation, but I see it happen a lot of places.”

The idea of resting starters is an imperfect science, and clearly, Shanahan is scarred by his experience in the opener of 2021 against the Lions.

Luckily, this time, the 49ers made it out of Pittsburgh unscathed. Icing the game by running the football could be Elijah Mitchell’s or Jordan Mason’s job instead of McCaffrey’s.

At the same time, is it as simple as using backups at certain positions only over others? There are only so many roster spots and players who can substitute.

Luckily, the NFL doesn’t allow for many blowouts. This seems to be something that is a one-week complaint.

The 49ers have an incredible roster, and keeping them healthy will be instrumental in their run to a Super Bowl, but this Week 1 situation feels a bit overblown as blowouts are not normal in this league due to parity.