Let me put this out here now: Trey Lance will be the starting quarterback in San Francisco sooner rather than later.
The countdown to the end of the Jimmy Garoppolo era has officially begun. The 49ers kicked off their preseason last Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of Super Bowl LIV.
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan showed fans early in this exhibition which of his two quarterbacks he felt more confident in running his offense.
Jimmy G started the game as expected, recording three passes, all completed, for a total of 26 yards. All three were check-down passes in which the receiver (in this case, tight ends and running backs) racked up most of the yardage after the catch.
While YAC yards (yards after catch) are as good as any, Garoppolo’s style has been at the heart of criticism surrounding the QB. Of his three pass attempts on the opening drive of this game, not one of them was thrown more than a few yards past the line of scrimmage, at best.
Although Garoppolo has been a winning QB during his career, he isn’t exactly known as one who will air it out all over the field. In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers a couple of years ago, Garoppolo passed just eight times, completing six for 77 yards. The Niners did win that game and advance to the Super Bowl, but that type of performance out of your QB will end in a loss more times than not. Eight passing attempts in an NFL game today is the definition of a game manager.
Back to the present, the first drive of the game is the only action Jimmy G saw on Saturday. This is when Shanahan’s confidence (or lack thereof) in Garoppolo came into play. Rookie Trey Lance went into the game with the starters for the second 49er drive. Shanahan showed the world immediately with his first play call how confident he is in his rookie QB.
Play number one for Lance was a play-action pass that he zipped to his wide receiver only to see it slip through his man’s hands and fall to the ground. Lance then completed a couple of short passes on his first drive before the Niners punted the ball back to the Chiefs.
The second drive for Lance began the same way, play-action, though he connected this time for an 80-yard touchdown pass to Trent Sherfield. Lance played out the rest of the first half and into the third quarter, finishing 5/14 for 128 yards and that bomb of a TD. Not a great stat line, but that 80-yard pass shows a ton of promise.
That type of arm talent, size, and versatility are what Shanahan is looking for in this offense. Lance is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and can do things athletically that Jimmy G couldn’t do in his dreams. Garoppolo has proven to be a good QB when everything around him is working. Great defense, solid run game, good wide receivers, etc. Lance is in the mold of other young successful QBs around the league like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen, to name a few. Big, young, and athletic. That’s what it is about now at the QB position.
Coach Shanahan has become a master at playing mind games with the media. Leading up to the draft in April, word “leaked” that Shanahan was sold on former Alabama QB Mac Jones.
Right up until Shanahan and the 49ers were on the clock with the third pick, rumors were buzzing that Jones would be the pick over Lance. We now know this was not the case.
Looking back at it, Shanahan had the wool pulled over everyone’s eyes. The Niners themselves may have leaked the rumor about Jones going third overall to San Francisco to throw us off the scent. If this is the case, it worked. Many major media outlets took hold of this rumor and ran with it.
I refuse to fall for the okie doke this time. Shanahan is ready to move on from Jimmy G as his starting QB. The coach has already confirmed that Lance will see playing time in the regular season. Shanahan hasn’t named the rookie as his starter yet. But it’s going to happen soon.
Garoppolo’s days are numbered as the starter for the 49ers. It’s only a matter of time before we see Lance trotting onto the field with the starters during a regular-season game. With the 49ers opening the season in Detroit against the Lions then heading to Philadelphia the following week for a showdown with the Eagles, we could see Lance a lot sooner than anyone could have predicted going into the season.
Realistically speaking, I can see Lance being named the starter by week five against the Cardinals with the bye week following that game. Jimmy G could also force Shanahan’s hand and thrust Lance into action long before that.
Please pay attention to the signs, ya’ll. Don’t let Shanahan’s coachspeak, deceive you into thinking what he wants you to think.