Lynch, Shanahan to blame for 49ers' abysmal 2021 first half originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan get along well and trust each other.
That much was obvious as recently as a week ago, when Shanahan asked Lynch to speak to the team the night before 49ers' game against the Chicago Bears.
CEO Jed York prioritized a strong relationship between the 49ers’ general manager and head coach after the impossible pairings of Trent Baalke with Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.
But just because Shanahan and Lynch have a good rapport, it does not mean they always work well together.
There has been a disconnect this season in the players acquired and how the coaching staff has (or has not) used them.
Lynch and Shanahan were entrusted with the next decade of the organization when they received the OK to trade up to No. 3 overall to select their future franchise quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft.
As much as the 49ers have underachieved this season, there should be no thought given to major changes until there are some actual results from the plan — which, by the way, has yet to be placed into forward motion.
The 49ers selected Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. He figured to remain as the understudy as long as the club was winning and Jimmy Garoppolo was playing well.
But the 49ers are not winning.
Is Garoppolo playing so poorly to warrant being benched? He had an abysmal Week 7 game against the Indianapolis Colts, for sure.
But one NFL grading service, Pro Football Focus, evaluated Garoppolo as the highest-rated quarterback in the NFL over the past two games.
Using passer rating as the guide, Garoppolo ranks 18th of 25 qualifying passers (14 attempts per games their team has played) with a 93.5 rating.
Lance’s time will come.
But, probably, not yet.
Shanahan said he thought Garoppolo played “all right” on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. On the list of things that went wrong for the 49ers, Garoppolo is far down on the list.
The game got away after George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, who had otherwise good games, committed turnovers after catching passes in the first half.
Would Shanahan consider starting Lance next week against the Los Angeles Rams?
“Probably not,” he answered, “but I’m definitely not thinking of those things right now. I’m thinking about this game and the rest of our team.”
Let’s look at the rest of the team.
The 49ers did not expect much of a contribution through at least the mid-point from Lance.
But the lack of impact the 49ers have received from their next three draft picks has been one reason the team is not better than it is.
The 49ers sought to replace right guard Daniel Brunskill, so they invested a second-round draft pick in guard Aaron Banks.
As the 49ers seemed to anticipate, Brunskill has been the 49ers’ worst offensive lineman through eight games.
Yet, Banks is healthy but has yet to play a snap this season. He was inactive on Sunday for the seventh time in eight games.
The only other players chosen in the second round who have yet to play this season are Chicago offensive lineman Teven Jenkins (injured reserve) and Tampa Bay quarterback Kyle Trask, the third-stringer behind Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert.
Guard is a position at which a second-round draft pick should be able to step in immediately and play. That has not been the case with Banks.
Recently, Lynch doubled down on his belief Banks will amount to a good draft pick in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area.
“Aaron Banks, in my belief, is going to be a great player for us going forward,” he said. “I’m very confident in that.”
If that is the case, he should be on the field. Obviously, the coaching staff has not seen enough from Banks to trust that he will be better than the player PFF ranks at the bottom of the team’s offensive linemen.
The 49ers traded back a couple of spots and selected Banks at No. 48 overall.
The Arizona Cardinals selected receiver Rondale Moore with the next pick. The 49ers, apparently, liked Moore but did not think the second round was the spot to take a receiver.
But Moore would have given the 49ers an element of speed that is sorely missing and a slot receiver the 49ers do not have. The 49ers cut veteran Mohamed Sanu last season after about a week.
Sanu was not good enough to make their team in 2020. But, now, he is the 49ers’ No. 3 receiver. That shows how much worse the 49ers are at wide receiver than a year ago.
Meanwhile, Moore has 34 catches for 352 yards and a touchdown while also handling the Cardinals’ punt and kick return duties.
The 49ers’ most surprising move of the draft was to trade away two fourth-round picks to select running back Trey Sermon in the third round (No. 88 overall).
On Sunday, the 49ers opted to suit up Jeff Wilson Jr., fresh off injured reserve after undergoing significant knee surgery after a freak injury in May. Wilson did not play on offense, nor did he contribute on special teams.
Meanwhile, Sermon was healthy and inactive. Whatever the vision was for Sermon when the 49ers selected him, this was not it.
He played 80 snaps in Weeks 3 and 4 when Elijah Mitchell was not available. In the four games since, Sermon has played two snaps.
The 49ers’ biggest need entering the draft was cornerback.
And the personnel department provided the coaching staff with no immediate help there, either.
The 49ers selected cornerback Ambry Thomas at the end of the third round. Later, Deommodore Lenoir was chosen in the fifth round.
The door is wide open for a young cornerback to step in and play on the side opposite of Emmanuel Moseley.
Cornerback Josh Norman became the starter after Jason Verrett sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 1.
Norman has distinguished himself for his un-veteran-like play. In six games, he committed a team-high seven penalties: Four pass interference, two defensive holdings and a taunting penalty on Sunday that finally got him benched.
And when Norman was removed from the field, veteran Dre Kirkpatrick took over. He will always have a place on the highlight reel for Arizona running back Eno Benjamin, who ran over Kirkpatrick on a 21-yard touchdown run that gave the Cardinals a 31-7 lead in the third quarter.
Lynch and Shanahan came to the 49ers in 2017 with six-year contracts because the roster was left in such sorry shape.
They shared in the successes of the 2019 season, which came long before anyone could have reasonably expected.
Now, they must share the blame for the opening eight games of a season in which the 49ers have substantially underperformed.