On August 22, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area and Nick Wagoner of ESPN both mentioned how the former third round pick of the 2021 NFL Draft could be left off the roster. General manager John Lynch, however, told the Amazon NFL Thursday Night Football crew that Sermon had been one of the best players in 49ers camp — giving off a clue that his role in the backfield was safe.
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Sermon, still, was among the backs released on Wednesday, August 31 and just one day after the 49ers finalized their final roster with his name listed.
He’s since become a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, who claimed him off waivers the following day.
How did the 49ers handling Sermon effect head coach Kyle Shanahan? And does he have a reason on why Sermon was released? The sixth-year head coach broke his silence on Sermon’s departure with KNBR’s Tolbert and Copes Show on Thursday, September 1. Included: Shanahan coming clean about the former $4.8 million running back Sermon’s rookie season.
‘It Was Tough’
Shanahan let it be known to both hosts: This wasn’t as easy of a decision as fans and media may think.
“I mean, it was tough,” Shanahan said of cutting Sermon, who they took at No. 88 overall.
Then came Shanahan putting Sermon’s first NFL season into context.
“Trey didn’t have a good rookie year, as good as we wanted. I think that’s well documented,” Shanahan said. “But he came back and did everything we asked him the second year, and he did a really good job in practice. I thought he did a good job in the games.”
The latter part was why Shanahan revealed the reason why the 49ers kept a higher number of running backs on the final roster per normal, saying “He really did good enough for him to make our team. That’s why we kept five [running backs] the first day.”
There’s another reason behind the cut, though. And it involved a riser in the depth chart.
‘Scared’ to Lose Key RB
Losing key players for depth purposes is always a difficult choice for head coach including Shanahan. But it also comes at the expense of awarding those who have been diligent and showed a strong desire to make the final 53.
And in the case of the 49ers and Shanahan, a new fear surfaced: Losing a fast-rising talent from their roster.
“Unfortunately, though, it really came down to us being so scared we were going to lose J.P. [Jordan] Mason,” Shanahan continued, as J.P. stands for Mason’s first and middle names, Jordan Ponchez. “We didn’t really expect for him to be where he was at. We thought we’d be able to keep four backs and keep him on the practice squad. But the way he turned it on at the end of camp in practice and then what he showed in those preseason games, we just really felt we were going to lose him.”
Mason would’ve likely commanded some attention on the waiver market given his hard-nosed running style. Even NFL analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Brian Baldinger raved about Mason, saying “there’s something about the who who can run through contact.”