Kyle Shanahan has seen the light.
Trey Lance, who saw hardly any first-team reps in training camp, got his first full practice on Wednesday with the starters.
While this is due to the mystery of Jimmy Garoppolo’s calf injury, Lance receiving first-team reps is extremely beneficial to his development. Shanahan himself now acknowledges the importance of first-team reps for Lance.
“Oh, it's huge," Shanahan said. "It's huge for whoever goes in that week. You put in a new game plan on Wednesday morning and they go out and practice it on Wednesday. And then Thursday, you put in a whole new thing for third down, short yardage, goal line and things like that. And they go out Thursday and do it. And Friday you try to review some stuff, but you put in a bunch of red zone stuff. So that's why, no matter what the position is, usually the guys you're expecting to play get all those reps. Because it's not just the same stuff, you're doing different numbers, different fronts, different coverages.
“So, to have a week, I think it was huge for him too having all that time where he could just go play quarterback and do some other cards, some other defenses and not really get tied down to learning what's in that day. Just playing football and getting better at that. These practices are more about learning what we do all morning, carrying it over to the field, correcting it at night, coming in the next morning with questions and how you build up through the week to where you get to Sunday night and you're confident and ready to go to play.”
I find Shanahan’s comments hysterical because it shows how much of a hypocrite he has been on this issue. Suddenly he sees how “huge” it is to receive first-team reps for Lance. And while I get they are more precious in the regular season in the lead up to Sunday, Lance still could have grasped a firmer understanding of playing with starting caliber talent months ago. Instead, Shanahan kept Lance away from it because he didn't think he earned it. The reality is that it isn't just about earning it. It is about getting your rookie quarterback who sat out the 2020 season up to speed
Shanahan held Lance back in training camp just to avoid a quarterback competition conundrum. Shanahan was already annoyed when reporters would ask him about the quarterbacks in general daily. Perhaps he just didn’t want to deal with hearing about it and didn’t want to focus in on developing Lance yet. That would explain why the preseason is when he would roll out Lance the heaviest. It’s when he had to protect Garoppolo the most and it’s the only time he felt comfortable giving Lance serious development.
Ultimately, no matter where you stand on this, Shanahan doesn’t appear to have a real plan with Lance. He is totally mishandling how to bring him up. Everything is short-sighted. He’s too much in “win now” mode, which is why I think he defaults to Garoppolo. Running with Garoppolo means he doesn’t need to develop him. He can just focus on the plan weekly for the offense and any other personnel decisions.
Developing a rookie quarterback, especially one as raw as Lance, is strenuous. But just imagine if Lance had received only a quarter of the first-team reps in training camp. That would’ve easily been a good deflater for Shanahan against the quarterback competition narrative. Not to mention Lance would likely look better at this point had he gotten those reps. It is not like he is getting much help as the backup. All he does is scout team, which doesn't focus on getting him improved.
This is the time for Shanahan to make up for it.
Will he finally let Lance loose? Or he will remain stubborn with Garoppolo?