At the close of the San Francisco 49ers 2021 campaign, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch addressed the media on Tuesday to discuss several offseason maneuvers surrounding the team's personnel, player's availability, offseason plans, and notably, the future at the quarterback position.
Here are five takeaways from their press conference:
1. Jimmy G's Future in SF
Jimmy Garoppolo's future in San Francisco became much clearer back in March of 2021 when the team made it apparent they were interested in selecting a signal caller with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Given the amount of capital the team has invested in acquiring first-year quarterback Trey Lance, signs were pointing to Garoppolo's eventual departure from the team. Since, all eyes have been on the veteran quarterback, however, he's handled the situation with the upmost class and professionalism with his successor waiting in the wings.
Despite the roller coaster season, the quarterback helped lead San Francisco to their second title appearance in three years, and while injuries played a large part of the team's decision to look elsewhere, Garoppolo missed just two games in 2021 while leading the team to the NFC Championship game with a major ligament tear.
Nonetheless, with the start of the new league year not for another six-plus weeks, the 49ers feel confident in their timeline to find an adequate trade partner and Garoppolo along with San Francisco's brass are working together to find the "right destination" for the signal caller.
"The two years he's played, he's taken us to a Super Bowl and he's taken us really close in the NFC Championship Game. So, I've got the ultimate respect for Jimmy, and I'm very excited about Trey Lance. And that's where we're at right now," Shanahan said. "Jimmy's made it a lot harder, because he stayed healthy and he played like he is capable of playing, which is to me one of the better quarterbacks in this league. So we're in a tough situation, not a tough situation, a situation where you have to make some tough decisions that won't be easy, but I'm happy about that. That means you've got the best scenario going, and that's why we have put a lot of thought into this. John and I talking to [CEO] Jed [York] and Jimmy will know everything as we go."
"We're going to make sure to try to make the best decision for this team, which is always still an educated guess because you'll see the results after it happens. But we're not going to be in any rush to do that, because we want to make sure to get it right."
2. Lance's Offseason Goals
With the 49ers likely to hand the keys over to Lance, much of his offseason will be spent on continuing his development in preparation for his first full NFL season. Lance appeared in six total games in 2021, while starting two and owning a 1-1 record during those games.
The rookie alluded to working with a few wide receivers this offseason, including second-year wideout Brandon Aiyuk, while also working through his mechanics. According to Shanahan, he expects the rookie signal caller to take time off from football and focus on his throwing motion before the team returns for OTA's later this spring.
"It'll be real good for Trey to kind of get away from us and just focus on those things," Shanahan said. "And we'll be in touch through the whole thing and we'll get him back here and start talking X's and O's and scheme and footwork, just preparing him hopefully to have a good phase one, two and three of OTAs."
3. Extending Deebo, Nick
The 49ers have seen massive returns out of their 2019 draft class which also comes with a well-deserved raise. Both Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel are in line for contract extensions, especially considering the seasons they're coming off a year removed from injuries.
Notably, Bosa's performance well surpassed his impressive Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign as the pass rusher led the team with 15.5 sacks while appearing in all 20 games (postseason included) just a year separated from a season-ending ACL injury.
Meanwhile, Samuel deservingly earned his first-career All-Pro honors by putting on a performance that has not been witnessed in the NFL before. Because of the distinctiveness of his role in 2021, the self-proclaimed "wide-back" will provide a unique challenge for San Francisco in orchestrating his deal.
However, Lynch made it clear the importance of keeping both players in red and gold is a priority heading into the offseason.
"With (Samuel) and Nick, we fully understand these guys are pillars of what we're trying to do here," Lynch said. "We've been blessed that we've been aggressive, because we've had a lot of players that we believe are some of the best in the league at what they do. And these guys are no different. And so, we have really good lines of communication with their representatives. Those will continue. I'm not going to put any timelines on it, but obviously, planning has been done to account for those guys. And yes, there's some interesting dynamics with Deebo playing multiple positions, but the bottom line, he's an excellent football player. And so, I'm sure that we'll find a way to get that done and like I said, it's been budgeted for."
Samuel posted 77 receptions for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns as a receiver, while adding 365 yards and eight rushing touchdowns as a ball carrier. He also added 154 receiving yards and 137 rushing yards in his three postseason contests while adding two more touchdowns. His impressive season put the wideout at 1,569 yards receiving and 502 yards rushing to add to 16-total touchdowns through 20 contests.
Although his role was created out of necessity, the team does plan to continue to develop his abilities as a receiver and rusher moving forward.
"We have to be careful with that. Running back is different, but he's also built like a running back and runs like a running back. And he just happens to do stuff at receiver also that is really good," Shanahan said. "If you look at his body, he looks more like a running back. But man, we never want to stop using him at receiver and just the threat that he can be a running back at any time is a huge advantage for your team. And it's a huge advantage for Deebo too. It's a way you can make sure that he gets touches, and you can do that at receiver, but not like when you just hand the ball to a guy. So, we always have to keep that threat, that's what separates him.
"That's why that's something I don't see going away for him."
4. Shanahan's 4th Down Decision vs. the Rams
Shanahan received a lot of criticism following Sunday's gut-wrenching loss against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC title game. On 4th-and-2 near midfield while leading by three points, Shanahan opted to punt rather than extend San Francisco's drive.
Los Angeles drove down the field after that punt and managed to tie the game. Following Sunday's contest, Shanahan remained firm on his decision to punt. On Tuesday, the head coach gave some insight to why he doesn't regret his decision.
"I didn't think we were the best on third down this year," he said. "When the game's over, you know the result, I can evaluate that. I mean we lost, so if you've got to do anything over, you'd do everything the opposite, because you know what the end result was. But I have no problems evaluating myself and my decision there. We would've gone for it, if we got into inches or a sneak situation.
"I remember when I called the play, asking the offensive staff like, 'Hey, if we get inside of a yard, what do you guys like for the fourth down call?' We were discussing it, I hear their suggestions and I'm taking it all in, but then we lost half a yard on the 3rd-and-2 call. So, it got to almost 4th-and-3 and I think you guys saw how those two run plays were. They were blowing up the line of scrimmage pretty good. And we also had a lead, I didn't mind changing the field position with a three-point lead and making them go down there all the way to try to tie it up with a field goal or touchdown to win. And I strongly feel that was the right decision.
"If I knew the future, I'd do everything the opposite, but just the way the intent and the way we made that decision, I would do that same decision again if I didn't know the result."
5. Coaching Changes?
San Francisco's coordinators, for the second-straight year, have garnered a lot of attention. Both DeMeco Ryans and Mike McDaniel have been in multiple conversations for head coaching vacancies around the league. Ryans, who was reportedly a strong candidate for the Minnesota Vikings vacancy, recently declined a second interview, opting to remain in San Francisco for at least another season.
Meanwhile, McDaniel remains a strong candidate for the Miami Dolphins vacancy, which would open the door for potentially another in-house promotion for San Francisco's recently filled offensive coordinator role.
"He's interviewing Thursday with Miami. So, if he gets the head coach job there, I'll be very happy for him and his family," Shanahan said of his longtime colleague. "Obviously, I don't want to lose Mike. Mike, I think people made a bigger deal out of Mike this year because he had the title all by himself. But Mike did the same thing this year he has been doing the last five years. So Mike's always been such a big part of what we do here. Yeah, he always focuses on the run game. That's his area of expertise, but Mike helps me in all aspects of offense. We brought Bobby Slowik, who kind of took a little bit of (New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike) LaFleur's role. But that didn't change what we do with Mike and he was just as big in 2019 and as he is this year. So Mike's always been good at what he does. He always will be and he deserves to get some of these opportunities people are talking about."