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Steve Young criticizes ‘goofball questions’ about Shanahan’s usage of Trey Lance



© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Few people know the perils of running the ball as a quarterback like Steve Young does.

After Trey Lance’s season-ending injury on a running play against the Seattle Seahawks, there have been some questions. Did Kyle Shanahan use Lance too much as a runner, or too much up the middle? How much, if any, blame should he take for the injury? Is this just all part of the risk of playing football?

Young joined Tolbert & Copes on Thursday to try and answer some of these questions.

He acknowledged that designed quarterback runs — ones that come “out of the huddle” — are dangerous and had concerns about the way Trey Lance was used last season in Arizona, when he ran 16 times, nine of them up the middle by design. He sustained a knee sprain in that game.

“Look, it’s football, and running quarterbacks out of the huddle is dangerous,” Young said. “And remember last year when Trey played against the Cardinals, I think he ran him 13 times out of the huddle. I mean, we all kind of, [thought], ‘Really, is that what we’re doing?’”

But Young believes Shanahan and the 49ers’ approach with Lance was based in their belief that he could run the ball well.

The issue they may have had, Young said, is they had such little experience and tape of Lance in games, that they may not have realized he wasn’t as skilled a runner as they initially believed him to be.

“At some level, you want to believe that we’re putting Trey in the best spot to be successful,” Young said. “And running him, certainly, we saw last year, was going to be in the cards. And so I worry that Trey — there’s guys that can run because they understand how to get down and get out of trouble, and there’s guys that that don’t.

And because Trey has such little history that we can draw on — everything’s new knowledge — is maybe Trey not that guy to be calling quarterback runs [for] out of the huddle? We thought he was, but maybe not.”

Despite those questions, Young thought criticism over Shanahan, in terms of blaming him for the injury, was nonsensical.

The 49ers believed Lance could run effectively, and proceeded with that assumption.

“But as far as Kyle culpability for an injury? Tom, I gotta be honest, that’s kind of a goofball question, because if you run a quarterback, you’re culpable for it,” Young said. “We believed that he was that guy. We believed that he was somebody that — I ran a lot of quarterback runs. I mean, they had three or four called runs that I ran throughout the years. So they believed I could do it. And so that’s okay. And I believe that they believed that Trey could do that…

“A quarterback run for Trey Lance? That’s part of the deal, isn’t it?

Lance will miss the rest of the season after suffering a fibula fracture and ligament disruption. He is expected to be fully healthy well in advance of next season.

Young was heartbroken for Lance and lamented the injury. He wondered if after it, the 49ers might change their approach with him in the future.

“My point is maybe going forward when Trey gets back on the field, now we realize it might not be the thing that really he’s comfortable doing because we’re all finding this out. We don’t have a lot of tape on him running quarterback runs… So that’s what’s hard,” Young said. “But isn’t that part of the deal we made with Trey is that we believed he was a guy that could do that?”

Catch Tolbert & Copes weekdays from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. on KNBR 104.5 / 680 and streaming live on KNBR.com.