HomeSportsGraziano: Don't be surprised if the 49ers miss the playoffs

Graziano: Don’t be surprised if the 49ers miss the playoffs

The 49ers sure know how to grab the national spotlight. On Tuesday, we spent nearly half an hour on a conference call with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch talking about one position.

For a team with a handful of superstars, the quarterback position remains the main topic of conversation. However, I believe that the talent on the roster elevates anyone who is in the middle. Shanahan hinted at that during the off-season.

However, there is always a ‘what if’. Would Trey Lance be so far behind the learning curve that the Niners struggle so much that they miss the playoffs? ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote an article where he went through a “don’t be surprised” segment with each team and let the San Francisco season end without a postseason run:

Don’t be surprised if… they miss the playoffs.

What I hear: Trey Lance can be a lot of fun to watch, but he’ll probably also struggle to overcome the lack of experience he brings. Even some recent public comments from the 49ers indicate that they feel the same way. They’re questioning four of the five starting offensive line spots, which don’t get nearly enough attention during the preseason hype. The defense looks championship worthy, which could save them, but there are enough questions at key points in the offense to make you wonder if we’re assuming too much when we think they’ll just hold up well.

Kyle Shanahan’s record as head coach of the 49ers is 39-42 (including 43-44 playoffs), and the team has failed to rack up seven wins in three of its five seasons. So it wouldn’t be the first time people have overestimated the 49ers in the preseason. I think Lance is going to be good in the end, but I think this season could be pretty rocky.

For the Jaguars, it was like making the playoffs.

It’s fair to question the offensive line, especially considering how they performed during the preseason. Plus, Mike McGlinchey’s health is in the air, which doesn’t help. Still, I think too much is being done on Lance’s inexperience.

Last year, the 49ers had training wheels on the attack for Garoppolo down the road. That has been the case for a few years now. Jimmy is at his best in two minute drills when the offense has to be shot. Beyond that, you have to hold your breath as he falls back to pass.

Will the 49ers win if he is below center? They do. If I were to ask you what was Jimmy’s best game last year, which game would you pick? Based on some of the decision making, you would think Garoppolo was inexperienced.

That is, Shanahan knows how to plot a quarterback. If he doesn’t believe Lance can pull off his attack, he’ll cover it up. We’ll see Kyle move the bag, use bootlegs to cut the field in half and make reading easier, rely on Lance’s legs and get the ball in the hands of his playmakers so they can do the job.

That wouldn’t be much different from what we’ve seen in recent years, other than the quarterback running game. The Niners have had offensive success with multiple backup offensive linemen in play. At least the preseason showed that Lance is able to run without pockets and keep the attack on track.

Whether it’s substandard QB play, turnover or inconsistent play in general, we have evidence that this team is overcoming all of that and still winning. But now we worry about it?

Using Shanahan’s record as the topic of conversation removes all context. First, see what he did to Nick Mullens. Now look what everyone has done to Mullens. And that’s not to say this season won’t be rocky. Lance will have a hard time, but pretending he’s the only one, and if he does, it costs the team, is naive.

The 49ers have a top-5 roster, supporting cast around the quarterback, play-callers on both sides, and defense. A lot must go wrong not to play mid January.

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