Why adding running back Marlon Mack makes sense for 49ers

The 49ers not only lost to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but they also lost Elijah Mitchell for about two months. The running back was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.

Mitchell’s injury marks the second year in a row in which the 49ers have lost their starting running back in the first half of the season opener.

During his media conference call on Monday, Kyle Shanahan noted the injury to Mitchell came on an 11-yard run a few plays before Deebo Samuel scored the 49ers lone touchdown of the game.

With Mitchell sidelined, the 49ers will sign veteran running back Marlon Mack, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Mack spent five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. During his time in Indianapolis, Mack carried the ball 567 times for 2,484 yards and 20 touchdowns. Mack also gained 448 yards on 57 receptions, with two going for scores.

The addition of Mack may be about something other than what he can do with the ball in his hands. Outside of Jeff Wilson Jr, the 49ers have two rookie running backs on their roster in Jordan Mason and Ty Davis-Price.

Kyle Shanahan was asked about his comfort level with the remaining running backs on Monday.

“We’ve always been comfortable with Jeff just because of his experience and what he has done here. We know what we’re going to get,” responded Shanahan.

“The other two guys, they made our team for a reason. They’re two talented players who we think can help us a lot running the ball, but they have to grow up fast. They’re trying to compete and learn how to play better without the ball in their hand. With injuries, they’re going to have more opportunities to get some carries, but they have to grow up and get this experience while on the run. So a lot of more pressure will be on those guys and we’re going to have to pick it up as a group to help them out.”

It appears the 49ers have some concerns with the ability of their young running backs in pass protection. Adding Mack to the practice squad will buy Mason and Davis-Price a few weeks to improve in this area and help keep Trey Lance on his feet in the process.

This article has 37 Comments

  1. Jack,
    Mack injured his achilles during the 2020 season. Can you tell me how far into the season he was injured?

  2. Can I say something out loud? Who here believes, truly believes, Kyle Shanahan is the guy who will take the 49ers to the “promised land?”

    1. Well obviously not you but I’m pretty sure most knowledgeable people believe he can. He’s already taken the team to the Super Bowl and last season to the NFC championship.

    2. Not me. I don’t believe in Kyle in his current position. Let me clarify:

      If Kyle Shanahan was strictly the Head Coach of the 49ers, and not the de facto GM as well as HC, I would say yes, Kyle has what it takes. Kyle is absolutely brilliant in terms of X’s & O’s, game planning, play calling, all while having his players motivated to run through walls for him. These are all qualities you need from a HC who runs the offense, and Kyle scores high grades in all of these aspects.

      The problem with Kyle goes beyond these things. Kyle is an absolute control freak. He has a absolute need to be the ultimate “decider”, as George W. famously described himself. But Kyle fails when it comes to most of the big organizational decisions, because he’s not cut out to be making the big decisions. He’s far too emotional, singular-minded, and set in his ways, to be in charge of and entire organization, yet just can’t let go of the gavel.

      I could post some long-winded post describing all of Kyle’s shortcomings for you guys, but I won’t. I will only point to Kyle Shanahan’s ongoing failure to figure out the most important position on his team (QB), as a glaring example of his failures as the 49ers de facto GM!

      1. On paper, paying Jimmy a $6.5M Base to be the 49ers backup QB this year, looks absolutely terrific ON PAPER! But NFL football isn’t played on paper, just in case all of you fantasy-football junkies have lost sight of.

        Like my guy Peter Schrager, one of the biggest 49ERS fans on a national TV network, said about the decision to keep Jimmy Garoppolo on this team to “backup” Trey Lance this season: “It’s all going to work out well, UNTIL IT DOESN’T!”

        In other words, the 49ers locker room is a tinder box now with Jimmy G waiting to pounce. For all of those who say it’s no different than it was last season, when the rookie Trey Lance was the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, and coexist in the same locker room, don’t understand the dynamics of an an NFL locker and don’t understand how the dynamics have been flipped on it’s head, and how volatile the situation is now. The 49ers have set themselves up to have the mother of all quarterback controversies.

        And now if the 49ers don’t get off to a good start, and if Trey doesn’t get off to a hot start, you guys are all about to find out how hard it is to win in the NFL, even with one of the league’s most talented rosters, when the 49ers team chemistry goes up in flames, due to one of the most volatile QB controversies the league has ever seen, IF the 49ers fall behind early in the NFC West!

        And the irony is that, if Trey Lance was just given a fair opportunity to develop, as all young QB’s deserve, he’d likely be a far superior QB to Jimmy G – a QB who no other team even seems to want leading their franchise! A QB who has been in the NFL since 2014, and hasn’t improved a lick since his first start for the 49ers, all the way back in 2017! In fact, Jimmy has regressed over the years, and that’s when he’s even healthy enough to take the football field, which isn’t often enough either!

        I am already sick and tired of this QB controversy and we are ONE game into the fricken season. It’s pathetic really!

        1. The great – Joe Montana took some time yesterday to weigh in on the 49ers mother of all quarterback controversies:

          “I think it’s good that they brought him back,” Joe Montana told Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Yeah, they moved on, but they also know that they can win with Jimmy, at least to a point. It gives them an option if Trey isn’t getting it done.”

          Did you all catch Joe’s big qualifier about how the team knows they can win with Jimmy – “at least to a point” – in his statement? That means that even Joe knows the 49ers don’t believe they can win a championship with Jimmy G!

  3. Rob,
    When you fire a winner (even if they have never won the SB) IE Mariucci/Harbaugh many times you end up losing for many years. Its not just true with the 9ers but it has happened across the league. As long as he consistently gets us to the playoffs we have a chance at the big one. Maybe we should hire Erickson or Nolan or Singletary or Tomsula or Kelly.

    1. Following that logic; How about QB’s
      Montana last SB appearance 1990
      Next appearance 5 years…
      Steve Young 1995
      Next appearance 17 years…
      Colin Kaepernick 2012
      Nexk appearance 7 years…
      Jimmy Garoppolo 2019
      Next appearance ???

  4. They spend so much draft capital on disposable Running Backs… why not just spend a higher one and get a tough, solid RB that will last a while? Usually they can be had in Round 3 but here we are again.

  5. At the high rate that 49ers RBs go down, I’m wondering if the outside zone scheme might be playing a part in the injuries.
    Just looking at the physics on a RB getting hit from the side or the back in this scheme as opposed to a front tackle makes the RB more vulnerable, imho.

    For me, this outside running scheme is more risky and Shanahan’ history of injured RBs would likely bear this out.
    We don’t need a quality high draft pick at RB. We need more quantity at RB.

    1. AES
      * With Lance at QB, the 9ers are running inside zone, not outside zone. On occasion they run outside zone, but no longer have a RB with the speed to run outside.
      Also, with Lance at QB, KS will use the read option (Lance doesn’t line up under center), that forces the D to
      account for his ability to run, so the D no longer have a numbers advantage.

      1. Thanks GEEP.
        I guess that my interpretation of outside zone was running to the outside flanks as opposed to hitting the holes between the tackles.
        Appreciate the correction.

    2. But that’s my point. I’m not advocating going into round 1 or 2. I’m just hoping we finally use our 3rd rounder on someone who is dependable.

      The thing with the zone running scheme is that it works fine in the regular season and perhaps against wannabe opponents in the playoffs. Once you start playing real contenders it never seems to work and our running statistics are pathetic. That’s when we’ve relied on Jimmy G to win the game and clearly he didn’t have it often enough.

      I’d like to see a team able to pound the ball inside because when you need the tough yards (think playoffs) you’re confident in being able to get it, without having to run your wide back into the teeth of the defense over and over again.

  6. Anyone else ready to ask the big question: How many games will it take before the 49ers’ locker room implodes?

    I’m setting the OVER / UNDER @ 7.5 games. Can you guys please make note of this, so that I can come back with the receipts? Thanks guys.

    1. After the recent loss, I’ve not heard one player dissent or finger pointing. In fact, Lance referenced that he made some mistakes that hurt the team. Not sure where your assumed locker room implosion is coming from. And what does the number 7.5 mean? Does the implosion take place at halftime during game 7?
      Did we think that we would go 17-0, breeze through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl?
      Darn me, too many questions.

      1. AES
        The only implosion Jaxson16 is going to experience is his head! Why? Because he’s viewing the 9er season thru his belly button, commonly referenced as……A severe case of inverted anal cranial injection. And a very common condition, when your an LA Lam, or Seahag fan.

    2. Jaxson 16
      Did the 9er locker room “IMPLODE” last year, when the 9ers got off to a slow start and a 3W – 5L record thru the first eight weeks (games)? Oh, and remind me again, how the 9ers did in the playoffs?
      * In case you have amnesia, the 9ers were an INT away from going to the SB…REMEMBER? LMAO @ U

      * “I’m setting the OVER / UNDER @ 7.5 games. Can you guys please make note of this, so that I can come back with the receipts?”
      Yes Jaxson 16, I’ll be more than happy to rub your nose in that anal prediction! Except I seriously doubt you’ll still be around then!

      1. **Correction**: I meant to type that these guys AREN’T worried about Trey Lance’s LONG TERM success! Most of these players only care about this season, because this season could be their last. And most of these NFL players don’t make tens of millions of dollars and can’t afford to take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward, even if that’s what is best for the franchise long term!

        This isn’t a hard concept to understand, GEEP!

        And unfortunately perception is reality. These guys believe they can go far with Jimmy, even if Jimmy can’t win a Super Bowl. They have no idea how far Trey can take them. So if you give them a choice between the veteran QB that they have a history of winning with, and a young, inexperience QB whom they don’t know if they can win with, then you’re screwed unless the kid never struggles early in his career!.

        1. Jaxson16 : “This isn’t a hard concept to understand, GEEP!”
          * You’re right Jaxson 16….The question is……Why YOU don’t understand it?

          * In case you haven’t been paying attention, “THESE GUYS” as you call them, do believe! And if they don’t, KS and JL will make sure they’ll be playing for a team other than the 9ers!
          That’s the part you’re too obtuse to comprehend, it’s called DISCIPLINE and being PROFESSIONAL!

    3. Jaxon,
      Let me ask you a question (absolutely no offense intended) Would you rather be correct or would you rather the 49ers were winning?

    4. So you’re buying into the sports media sound bites, huh? There’s no indication of an implosion, nor is there expected to be one.

  7. I’m pleased with with the Mack acquisition. He had a pretty good preseason game versus us this year and pretty good stint in Indy pre injury. I would not be surprised if he splits carries with JW by week 3. We need to fix the RB situation. Mitchell will most likely be out until after the BYE – week 10. Lance running the ball 10x per game is not viable and will get him seriously injured. There is no continuity in our run game. Every year under Shanahan there has been a new leading rusher. I get why we spend medium and high round draft picks on RBs , but we need to get it right ( Joe Williams, Sermon , Price)

    2017 Hyde 1,288
    2018 Breida 1,075
    2019 Mostert 952
    2020 Jeff Wilson 733
    2021 Mitchell 1,101

    1. Rollo, imo the jury’s still out on Price, but I don’t dismiss that you might be right about him. He might not be shifty enough for inside zone in the NFL. Jordan seems to be.

      1. I agree that both Price and Jordan look promising. Like Shanahan said ” they have to grow up quickly”

  8. It’s not like the 49ers didn’t have other options.. they brought in several other backs and it took 1 session for Mack to outshine them all. He showed in preseason that he’s still an explosive runner.. if he’s able to stay healthy, it’s a huge upgrade over Wilson. Worst case is he’ll be a great source of knowledge for the rookies.

  9. Had never considered the criticism being directed at Lance was racist. But leave it to Grant Cohn to suggest it is. He says some people are being extra critical because they don’t like the idea of a young, unproven black man taking an older white man’s job. This is nonsense. Cohn just has to be looking for clicks.

      1. Cone the elder used to post how proud he was of little Cone. I wonder if he is still proud? I assume little Cone is putting on an act but who really knows? I know I really appreciate the professionalism of Jack.

        1. Ditto on Jack and his professionalism. Jack is a terrific commentator and host. As for Cohn, I lost any respect after that dust-up he orchestrated with Javon Kinlaw. Such a juvenile and unwarranted stunt! What was he thinking anyway???

  10. I will be very disappointed if Danny does not play. The fastest guy on the team. The only guy with the speed for the outside zone. just the threat of this could force beneficial adjustments.

  11. Fantastic post! Because you shared so much of your expertise with us, I owe you an incredible amount of gratitude.

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