Before I get started, I want to make something clear. Trey Lance’s injury history is something that cannot be understated. He needs to stay healthy, and if he can’t, he shouldn’t be considered a franchise-caliber quarterback. This isn’t about his history of serious ouchies and boo-boos sidelining him for practically the entirety of his first two seasons. That’s obviously awful. This is about what we’ve seen from him when he actually plays.
Through 148 career pass attempts, the quarterback managed a 52 percent completion percentage, 1,061 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions — good for a 77.6 passer rating, all while rushing for 354 yards and three touchdowns. Yeah, it doesn’t sound too impressive, right? Anyone who thinks someone with these numbers could blossom into a superstar surely has no idea what they’re talking about, right?
What? You’re telling me the stats I just listed don’t belong to Trey Lance? Yes, I’m aware. Those aren’t Trey Lance’s numbers. Those are Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts’ rookie numbers. Hurts was 22 years old when he put up those figures in 2020 — the same age Trey Lance was last season. There’s an argument to be made that Lance’s rookie season was actually more successful than Hurts.
Not included in the tweet above is that, according to Pro-Football-Reference, Lance was also superior to Hurts in both yards per pass attempt (8.5 to 7.2) and on-target throw percentage (60.7 percent to 73.9 percent). Hurts held the edge in almost every rushing category, but the alleged bust Lance was actually much better statistically than Hurts as a passer. Hurts did show signs of improvement throughout his rookie season that Lance didn’t quite match, but if Hurts could develop into one of the most dynamic passing threats in the NFL, which he has, why can’t Lance? Why is the young phenom Brock Purdy so much better and considered by many to be the team’s sure-fire starter come this next season?
Now, obviously, this comparison isn’t foolproof. The pair’s situations were drastically different. Hurts was working with Doug Pederson as his head coach. While I think Pederson is great, it’s clear that Hurts didn’t break through until Nick Sirianni came around. The same situation isn’t applicable to Lance, who had Kyle Shanahan each of the last two years and will likely have him for many years to come, barring the 49ers trade Lance, which is apparently a rumor now along with Tom Brady coming out of retirement yet again.
Regardless, as long as Lance is in San Fran, he’s going to be in a Shanahan system. Lance also had a litany of high-end weapons in Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. Hurts didn’t get DeVonta Smith until his sophomore season. Dallas Goedert was still developing. Zach Ertz was tailing off. AJ Brown obviously wasn’t there yet. The Eagles’ leading receiver in 2020 was Travis Fulgham for goodness sake. Lance had the luxury of jumping into a system that was ready to contend for a Super Bowl. Hurts didn’t. Still, that doesn’t mean everyone was sold on Hurts as the guaranteed future in Philly.
I can’t help but think how the narrative surrounding Lance would be different if Brock Purdy never existed. If Jimmy Garoppolo had remained the 49ers’ starter for the entirety of 2022, would Lance be viewed in a kinder light? I believe so. Purdy’s story was so easy to get behind. He is so easy to root for that everyone wants him to be better than Lance. Despite his success in 2022 though, that’s not necessarily the case. Hell, Purdy may not have even been better than Jimmy G, who many fans can’t wait to see shipped away from Santa Clara. The two of them were somewhat similar statistically this past year.
Jimmy Garoppolo: 67.3 completion percentage, 5.2 touchdown percentage, 1.3 interception percentage, 7.9 yards per attempt, 103 passer rating
Brock Purdy: 67.1 completion percentage, 7.6 touchdown percentage, 2.4 interception percentage, 8.1 yards per attempt, 107.3 passer rating
Obviously, some of these statistics are going to be skewed based on game script and other external factors in such a small sample size.
I understand that the argument could be made “Well Purdy is cheaper than Garoppolo and has time to develop.” But I’d say the same for Lance — at least the “time to develop” part; he’s definitely more expensive than Purdy. Lance is actually younger than Purdy, despite Lance heading into his third year.
Yes, obviously, the injuries are a concern, and I don’t blame anyone for being concerned with Lance’s health, but if you’re going to call Lance a bust due to his play, I don’t see it YET!
It’s been four starts. Give him a little bit of time. If you’re unwilling to do even that, clearly you have little faith in the 49ers’ scout team, Kyle Shanahan, and everyone involved in Lance’s development. I’m not guaranteeing that Lance becomes a superstar. But at least let him compete with Purdy for the starting job, because one of those guys has more NFL experience and it’s not the one everyone’s already labeling a bust.