At the dawn of training camp, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan noted that he expected Jimmy Garoppolo to enter the season as the starting quarterback, reiterating the plan that the club has harped on since drafting Trey Lance back in April.
Following Sunday's 15-10 preseason win over the Los Angeles Chargers, Shanahan was asked if he's ready to make it official and name Jimmy G the starter.
"No, I'm not making that announcement. Nice try, though." Shanahan said with a smirk.
Shanahan noted he's not in any hurry to "name" a starting quarterback, but promised it'd come before the season opener on Sept. 12 against the Detroit Lions.
"Whenever I feel like it," he said of when he planned to make the announcement, per the Bay Area News Group. "(When?) It's hard for me to give a date. It's based off when we know and when we feel like naming it. I promise it will be by that Sunday."
Garoppolo got the start Sunday and led one 15-play drive that ended with an interception on a high pass from the QB that Brandon Aiyuk couldn't corral despite a leaping effort. Garoppolo finished 3 of 6 on the drive for 15 yards and the INT, with a long connection of 9 yards.
Shanahan was asked after the game if anything's changed since the beginning of training camp.
"No, I haven't seen that. I would love for it to be more and more each week, but the situation is pretty similar right now," he said.
With that, the assumption remains the same as it has been all offseason for the Niners: Jimmy G is the presumptive starter with Lance nipping at his heels.
For his part, Garoppolo isn't worried about Shanahan simply not naming the veteran the starter with one preseason game to go.
"Kyle always challenges us," Jimmy G said. "He knows us and how to push guys in certain ways. I'm not too worried about that. I'm trying to get out there now to get ready for the Raiders. We had a productive week against the Chargers, got a lot of good work out of it. There's so many other things to worry about. (It's an) I'll-let-chips-fall-where-they-may type of thing."
Lance entered the game early in the second quarter and got off to a rocky start. The rookie completed just one of his first six passes (9 yards) with an interception and a sack in that span. It took Lance into his fourth series to get into any rhythm and move the offense. Part of the No. 3 overall pick's struggles have come with a fastball that his targets struggled to hang onto. Through two preseason games, Lance's receivers have dropped seven passes.
After the stumbling start, the rookie took off and looked every bit of the dynamic playmaker the Niners traded up to draft. Lance completed 7 of his final 8 passes, finished with 102 total passing yards, two TDs, and the INT.
Shanahan was pleased the rookie rallied from a rocky start.
"It's what we talked about and expected," the coach said. "I tell him before each game, 'Don't try to go in there and impress anyone or prove anything. Just go in there and try to get better. Whether it's good or bad, this is your second game in about 500 days, so just soak it all in, make sure you learn from it.'
"I was happy for him. You understand the situation: Whatever Trey does, the eyes are going to be on him. I don't want him to have that pressure but it's also the reality of this business. Last week, he had that big throw (80-yard touchdown pass), which is fun to watch for a lot of people, so that takes some pressure off, but he didn't play as well after that (last game) as much as he'd like. This game, he came out much more locked in, more comfortable and I thought we had a chance to start fast and we didn't. ... It seemed like he was going in the wrong direction, and that's why I was pumped about getting that two-minute drill."
Sooner or later, it's believed Shanahan will make it official that Garoppolo will start Week 1. But you can tell by his responses that week by week, his infatuation with Lance, and what the rookie can bring to the offense, grows. In time, Lance will eventually get the starting gig, whether that comes in Week 7 after the bye, before that, or after if Jimmy G opens the season hot.
Shanahan's reluctance to name Garoppolo the starter might be simple semantics for the coach. But it sits squarely juxtaposed to how Matt Nagy is handling his rookie QB situation in Chicago -- the Bears coach continues to openly declare Andy Dalton the Week 1 starter. It feels as though Shanahan is willing to keep the door slightly open to Lance changing his mind than Nagy is regarding Justin Fields. In the end, both veterans are likely to start the season.
But in San Francisco, the Lance train is barreling down the tracks. The question is simply how soon Shanahan is ready to bring it into the station.