SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- On the day the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos officially named their Week 1 starting quarterbacks, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan again declined the opportunity to do the same.
Much as he did Sunday night after the Niners' preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Shanahan did not make his decision between incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance known publicly. He did, however, acknowledge that he knows where it's headed, while leaving himself some wiggle room in case something changes.
"I've got a pretty good idea," Shanahan said. "But as you guys can see with everything, I don't know our schedule a couple days from now. So, I've always had a pretty good idea. But there are lots of days between now and then, at every position."
About 20 minutes later, Garoppolo was asked if he had been told who the starting quarterback would be. While he also declined to answer, the big smile that hit his face when he was asked seemed to offer a clue.
"I have a pretty good idea," Garoppolo said. "I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now and everything and just the offense as a whole. Kyle's the head man. He'll make the call."
From the time the 49ers drafted Lance in April, Shanahan has repeatedly pointed to Garoppolo as the starter, with Lance working as the backup. That would change, according to Shanahan, only when Lance proves that he gives the Niners a better chance to win.
Because most of this training camp and the preseason have pointed to that remaining the dynamic, though, Shanahan also revealed earlier this month that Lance would play this season, at least situationally.
In recent days, those efforts have clearly ramped up. In the first few weeks of camp, Lance's only first-team reps came sporadically and were limited to one designed running play. That hasn't been the case in the past couple of practices.
Lance played an entire eight-snap series with the starters in a joint workout with the Chargers on Friday and then got a few reps with the starting offensive line in the preseason game. On Wednesday, he was even more involved with the first team.
After Garoppolo took all the starting reps during the first four rotations in team drills, he and Lance split work with the starters and backups for the final three "move the ball" rotations (sequences more like real games in which the offense continues drives when gaining a first down).
By unofficial count, Lance took five snaps with the starters in those periods and five more with the backups. Perhaps more interesting was that it was the first time in camp that Garoppolo worked with the backups. He had eight reps with the first team and four with the second.
Whether that means Lance is still in the mix to be the starter is unclear, but one explanation for his increased reps with the starters is that Shanahan wants Lance and Garoppolo to get used to subbing in and out so they're ready when Lance gets his situational snaps. The idea is similar to how the New Orleans Saints used Drew Brees and Taysom Hill in recent seasons.
"I think I'm doing a little bit more of it here these next two weeks, just for me to get used to it and stuff, so the guys get used to it," Shanahan said. "Watching New Orleans doing it with Drew Brees and Taysom has been pretty cool over the last three years. I'm sure that took them some time to kind of get the flow of that. But it's nothing that you can say, 'Hey, we did this in practice so this is how it's going to be.' You adjust to that in games and you prepare for everything, but you don't know until you go through it.
"So, that's why I don't sit here and pretend like I have all the answers, because I don't. You prepare for every situation, you work the guys to the best of their ability, and then you see what your game plan is and you figure out what gives you the best chance to win that game. And you try to keep your thoughts just to that."
At some point soon, Shanahan will likely announce his starter, though he also said he believes there's no real competitive advantage to doing so, especially this far removed from the Sept. 12 opener at the Detroit Lions.
From his point of view, Shanahan said he sees only one real benefit to making an announcement.
"If there would be one reason I can think of by naming it that would help, it'd be to end those questions," Shanahan said, smiling. "If you could give me another reason that it's a big advantage that helps our team, affects anything that has to do with us, then I will name it. But I don't think it does. And you know, why tell people? I know you guys want an answer, which is fine. I get the suspense of it, but I'm not just going to answer it to end your guy's suspense."
But Shanahan also sees the outside value in continuing to build that anticipation.
"Hey, I'll try to get you more clicks," Shanahan said, laughing.