The looming question over the 49ers’ season and perhaps the only question which holds any true significance at this juncture is, ‘When will Trey Lance start?’
San Francisco is on a collision course towards playoff elimination and is without its own first-round pick to provide recompense for that failure. Without being a contender, the only clear value this season has is for the team to develop its young players. Following a week in which just two (Eljiah Mitchell, Talanoa Hufanga) took snaps on offense or defense, there are major concerns that the 49ers will simply continue to lose without effectively developing that young talent.
Foremost among that talent, clearly, is Lance, who’s performance will largely determine Shanahan’s legacy with the 49ers.
Shanahan joined the Murph and Mac Show on Friday to discuss the team, and was asked when Lance will start, and what needs to change for that to happen.
He stressed that his priority is for Lance to develop, mentioning that, if not for his knee sprain against the Arizona Cardinals, there was a “great chance” that he would have started against the Indianapolis Colts with Garoppolo still reeling from a calf injury. That injury, Shanahan said, set his development and likelihood to play back a few weeks.
For Lance to start, he says the moment has to be right. And that moment could come sooner rather than later, especially if the 49ers lose to the Rams on Monday night.
“I’m as eager for that as everyone else is,” Shanahan said. “There’s no hidden agenda here to not play the guy that we committed a ton to, but my biggest commitment, no matter what the pressure is, no matter what anyone says is that we’re going to do it when it’s right for Trey and when it’s right for our team. And we don’t think it’s that moment yet. Could be very soon.”
Shanahan said he was impressed with what Lance did against the Cardinals and now, after two-straight weeks of practice, he’s back on track.
He once again intimated that Lance is likely to become the full-time starter if the 49ers get eliminated from the playoffs, which, mathematically speaking would not be for a while. From a logical perspective, a loss to the Rams would seem to prove the 49ers are not a viable playoff contender.
“It’s very important to me, the staff and him how much work we put into him that he’s getting better every single day because when his time does come, whether it’s this week, whether it’s next week, whether it’s, you know, if we get eliminated from the playoffs, whenever it is, I want to make sure he’s the most ready possible for himself and for the team,” Shanahan said.
Listen to the full interview below. You can listen to every KNBR interview on our podcast page at knbr.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Catch Murph & Mac weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m. on KNBR 104.5 / 680 and streaming live on KNBR.com.