Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers struggled in sloppy conditions Sunday against an anemic Bears team who looked equally unimpressive, losing in Week 1, 19-10.
The drama surrounding Coach Shanahan's decision to go with sophomore Trey Lance in the QB spot has garnered plenty of criticism.
And after Sunday's performance it's becoming even more clear that the 49ers' success this season, and quite possibly Shanahan's legacy, are intertwined with the decision to go with Lance and shelf Jimmy G as his backup.
Are We Team Trey Or Team Jimmy?
San Francisco's Week 1 showing may make it difficult to drum up the fan base's faith in Lance to lead the team to the postseason like Jimmy Garoppolo did last year in the NFC Championship Game. The fans aren't the only ones who've needed convincing. According to FOX's Jay Glazer, Shanahan and GM John Lynch had to gather some of the team's leaders to plead for their support of the young QB.
"Guys, we need your support here," they said, per Glazer. "We've got to make sure that you get Trey's back. Because there's gonna be some bumpy roads ahead. We've got to make sure with every incompletion, every interception, that people aren't clamoring to move on to Jimmy. We've got to make sure we have your support. Do we have it?"
I'm not quite sure what they were expecting. Can you imagine his teammates looking up at their coach and refusing to back Lance? I'd love to be a fly on the wall of that room after Shanahan and Lynch left. Team chemistry is vital for postseason success and if there is any doubt festering in the locker room it could derail the season.
In Lance's defense, he had a couple good showings in an otherwise vanilla preseason. But preseason is preseason and fandoms want results in the regular season, and it's not off to a solid start for Trey Lance.
The Jury is Still Out On Lance Landing The Job
Lance, the surprising No. 3 overall 2021 draft pick, was selected by San Francisco over more experienced options like Mac Jones. Shanahan has fielded questions about the selection since the draft, but his wildest explanation may have been when he went on former NFL players Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson's podcast, "I Am Athlete." The 49ers coach compared selecting Lance to house hunting and buying a fixer-upper.
"That's what's funny because everyone wants to know that exact moment ... That moment changes every day because when I have two things I believe in, I always check myself a lot," Shanahan said. "I always compare it to how I buy houses. When my wife would bring me to a house she loves, I go through the house and point out every single thing that's wrong with it. Usually, by the end of it, she's in tears and she's apologizing to the realtor for how offensive I've been, and then I come out and they're out there and they're like, 'What do you think?' and I'm like, 'Oh I like this one, let's get this,' and they're like, 'What the hell are you talking about?'
"And I'm like, I realize the things that are wrong and I know we can fix those three things, so let's go off the potential of this and that's how I was with him and Mac [Jones], because Mac had so much good stuff on tape the way he played and Trey, I loved what he put on tape, it was a year of football, so it wasn't totally enough, especially the division. But the more you dive into it, the more I got to know the guy, the more I got to find out some stuff about him, the more I believed in what I didn't see and what I believe we will see."
Shanahan's Leash May Be Long, But The Fans' Leash is Short
The Niners' coach may love a good fixer-upper, but fans aren't tuning in every week to watch a HGTV remodeling reality show. This isn't "Property Brothers." They have expectations to make it back to the NFC Championship Game and win this time, and Sunday's performance wasn't exactly encouraging. Shanahan is committed to coaching and developing the promising second-year player, but if he can't deliver or he overestimated Lance's untapped talent, it will be easy to point a blaming finger at Shanahan.
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