Kurtenbach: Kyle Shanahan’s grand plan for Jimmy Garoppolo has backfired

It’s funny, the Niners are going to make the playoffs, but that doesn’t seem to mean much when I talk to fans.

That’s because even the most optimistic member of the Faithful knows that this Niners team is not winning the Super Bowl.

No, for everything they do well, the Niners have proven themselves to be a class below the true contenders, and I seriously doubt there’s another level this team can reach in the final five games of the season.

So the question must be asked: What exactly is the 49ers’ goal?

As of right now, it’s to get into the tournament and see what happens.

That’s the nice, in-house way of putting it.

But another way of seeing it is that they’re going to make the tournament (good), maybe win a game (better), but will be no closer to winning a championship this season or in the seasons to come because of it.


Now, if this 49ers team is building for a brighter future, they’re going about it in a bizarre way.

Never forget: The 49ers’ brass, aka Kyle Shanahan, didn’t truly believe that Jimmy Garoppolo was capable of winning a championship. If he was, why was Garoppolo’s contract not extended and why was Trey Lance drafted?

And yet, there’s Garoppolo at quarterback, week after week, while Lance sits on the sideline, not even entering the game for read-option plays. That’s something he, not Garoppolo, is suited to run.

We’re past the point of no return at quarterback. This is Garoppolo’s job for the rest of the season.

And that was the defining decision of the season.

Instead of trying to win a title or giving the future of the franchise valuable in-game reps in an effort to help him assimilate to the NFL faster, so he could then lead the team to a title in short order, the Niners have instead made the goal of this season building up Jimmy Garoppolo’s trade value. Shanahan wants to prove that this lame duck can fly strong and straight.

How’s that going?

Garoppolo is a 30-year-old quarterback who is 6-5 on the season, is completing 66 percent of his passes, and has a 56 QBR (out of 100). His 15 touchdowns to eight interceptions scream one thing:


This guy has no other gear. This is Shanahan pulling out all the stops to make him a viable NFL starter.

So until that loose end of last spring’s trade can be tied, the Niners are stuck in limbo.

With the Niners at .500 heading into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati, I can’t help but wonder what the Niners’ record and outlook would be had they not decided to be cute and just played Lance at the start of the season.

It’s all just a guess, but the optimistic view is that the team would be where it is now, .500 or perhaps a little better. A rookie roller coaster is far wilder than the one Garoppolo has put the Niners on this season, but Lance’s playmaking ability is eons beyond Garoppolo’s. Let’s call it even on the season. But if that was indeed the case, Niners fans would be feeling a whole lot better about their circumstance. No, Lance wouldn’t be taking the Niners to the Super Bowl, in this dream world, he’d be winning now, have the Niners heading towards the playoffs, and he would be garnering valuable experience for future seasons and playoff runs.

All these struggles would mean something.

The alternative, of course, is that Lance would stink or would be injured. Both are real possibilities.

And if that’s the case, at least the Niners would be closer to a decision on whether he’s the right guy or not.

By not playing Lance right away — by not really playing him at all — the Niners have put even more pressure on Lance heading into next year.

Unfair pressure.

The Niners, right or wrong, still think their roster is Super Bowl-worthy. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you today, though I did pick the team to make the Super Bowl in the preseason.

This team’s issue, as it was in August, is quarterback.

Garoppolo will be gone next season — any notion that he will stay is simply the Niners using the marginal piece of leverage they have to drum up a modicum of trade interest. Lance will be handed the keys to the very expensive car.

Do you think you can learn how to drive stick by watching videos on a tablet and talking to a Formula 1 team principal?

The kid needs to play, yet he hasn’t seen a meaningful snap since mid-October.

Indeed, Lance’s on-field growing pains could be inevitable, and if that is the case, then the Niners will have wasted two good years instead of one.

It’s coaching malpractice.

This level of malpractice is going to be plainly obvious when the Niners do not receive a Day 2 pick for Garoppolo after the season, rendering Shanahan’s plan for this season moot.

So maybe I’m wrong.

And if Garoppolo comes back for the lamest of all lame-duck seasons next year?

Well, that could end up being three wasted seasons for the Niners.

That is, unless the Niners drafted Lance to be a backup. If that’s the case, then Shanahan is guilty of personnel malpractice. He would have traded the Niners’ next three first-round picks for a backup quarterback.

Either way, it’s a bad look.

And it’s not going to start looking better until the kid starts seeing the field.

It’s too bad that will have to wait for a while.

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