Some things are just hard to explain. Brandon Aiyuk’s almost complete absence from the 49ers’ first two games falls into that category.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan claims Aiyuk isn’t in the doghouse. He says that Aiyuk was the victim of an ill-timed hamstring injury during training camp, and that Trent Sherfield was more prepared to start the season because of his performance and health in the preseason.
Even if all that is true, it’s still curious that Aiyuk — who caught 60 passes for 748 yards as a rookie despite the 49ers’ quarterback woes — wasn’t targeted once during the season opener, and only twice in game number two.
So what’s going on? Is Kyle Shanahan upset with the way that Aiyuk has been preparing and conducting himself during practice as has been hinted at? Former 49ers quarterback Steve Young is asking these same questions, and finds it baffling that a player of his caliber would not be utilized, especially with the explanation given.
“He’s a tremendous weapon with the speed, he’s shown such great things,” Young told KNBR on Wednesday. “So what is going on? Why can’t we know? I want to know. I want to know what’s happening.
“You can make your statement to someone in a quarter or half, put him on ice, let him know that it doesn’t work and let them respond. This feels like…what are we doing? They’re obviously not going to answer my question, because people have asked it 1,000 times, but here’s no question that Brandon Aiyuk is a big part of any chance they have to get to the Super Bowl.”
Young’s best guess is that Shanahan’s tolerance for BS is at an all-time low in 2021. Shanahan has now come up empty handed twice in the Super Bowl. He doesn’t want it to happen again, and considering the talent on this team, Shanahan isn’t going to stand for anybody who he doesn’t believe is bought in, no matter how good.
“Who knows? Kyle has a sharp knife. I’ve talked about Bill Walsh when you go meet with him, and you walk away going ‘ah, I think that went pretty well,’ and you’ve got blood dripping down and you don’t know how it happened. Kyle’s the same way. He’ll be like ‘hey, looking good, great, great,’ and then all of the sudden you’re not playing.
“I don’t mind Kyle having a sharp knife…cause in his mind, he’s molding a championship team. He’s been there twice now, not got it done in the Super Bowl, and I think in his mind it’s ‘I am not going to come up short. I am going to do the work in September to prepare, so I don’t have any problems in February ever again.’”
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Listen to the full interview below.