Garoppolo or Lance? Why the finale is a referendum on Shanahani

Kyle Shanahan announced in August, though the decision was probably made earlier: Jimmy Garoppolo would be the 49ers’ quarterback this season.

Shanahan’s reasoning was simple: Garoppolo, a veteran who led the Niners’ offense to a berth in the Super Bowl two seasons earlier, gave the team “the best chance of winning” this season.

Trey Lance, the number 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, will have to wait. His development will take place behind the scenes as a scout-team quarterback and Sunday overseer of Garoppolo.

In the name of maximizing the potential of this Niners team, Shanahan was prolonging the inevitable—Lance was his starting quarterback.

It was a big call. A polarizing call. The quarterback is everything in this league, so it was a decision that overshadowed almost everything the Niners have done so far this season.

And as the 49ers entered the biggest game since that Super Bowl two years ago, we don’t know whether it was a right or a wrong decision.

The Niners Week 18 contest against the Rams in Los Angeles is a must-win. Technically speaking, the Niners can make the playoffs with a loss, but if they win, they are in.

And that makes Sunday’s game a referendum.

Not only on the season, but also on Shanahan’s quarterback call.