Despite trading three first-round draft picks in order to move up to draft him, Trey Lance’s most important job with the 49ers this week will be trying to emulate Aaron Rodgers in practice. Will he get the opportunity to play like Aaron Rodgers during the Niners’ divisional round matchup against the Green Bay Packers? Probably not, unless Jimmy Garoppolo’s arm gives out in the middle of the game, but still he’s being asked to practice how one of the most talented and statistically accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history plays.
In all fairness, Kyle Shanahan explained what he meant, saying he only wants Lance to play more aggressively. “We need Trey to be very aggressive, let it rip,” said Shanahan yesterday. “Hopefully if he does make some mistakes in practice, our defense will catch it and make him pay. But we need him to be aggressive in everything he does because Aaron doesn’t miss many of those opportunities when they’re presented to him.” This makes a lot more sense. Lance has a big arm. It’s always been one of his biggest strengths, so merely asking Lance to take deep shots in practice is much more manageable than actually asking him to be Aaron Rodgers.
According to reports, Lance has been asked to mimic other quarterbacks for practice several times throughout the regular season. Not only has he done this in the past, but Lance claims he’s actually benefited from these experiences. “Obviously, our D-line is really good, so I appreciate it when I can play kind of how I play and be off-schedule. But when I’m emulating, for the defense, a quarterback that doesn’t move necessarily a lot and doesn’t play off-schedule, I think there’s things that I gain from that for sure. I get used to making different throws that I don’t necessarily see myself making. But at the same time, it’s good to get those reps.” Being forced into situations where Lance is asked to throw when he normally wouldn’t has helped him develop his accuracy — arguably his biggest drawback as a prospect prior to the draft.
Clearly, Shanahan doesn’t actually want Lance to play like Rodgers, merely make some more risky throws to see if the 49ers’ defense is capable of defending those types of throws. If he was, this would be an impossible ask for the North Dakota State alum. If the 49ers don’t trust him to play better than Jimmy ‘one-read’ Garoppolo, how in the world is he supposed to be Rodgers? Even if he manages to show he can play as well as Rodgers, his team is still going to go with a quarterback who’s been dealing with injuries in his throwing hand and shoulder.
Rodgers is going to be a difficult adversary for the 49ers regardless of how prepped they think they are. 2020 All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said it best when he told reporters “It’s one of those situations where you don’t really feel Aaron Rodgers until you’re out there against the man himself. You can watch all the tape you want, think you’ve got him figured out. But you’ve got into the game and get into the flow of things to really get things going.” Of course, the best prep the 49ers could’ve possibly had for Mr. Discount Double Check would’ve been to draft him first overall in 2005 instead of Alex Smith, but alas, that’s way in the past.
Rodgers has a career 6-6 record against the 49ers, but is 0-3 against them in the playoffs. In his 12 career games against the team he grew up rooting for, Rodgers has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 3,357 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. His passer rating of 104.7 is the highest all-time for any opposing quarterback when playing the 49ers with a minimum of ten starts.
With no Raheem Mostert and no Colin Kaepernick, this matchup is going to be much different than any other Rodgers has had against the 49ers in the postseason. It’ll be interesting to see if Lance can prep the 49ers accordingly. As long as he doesn’t start threatening to leave the 49ers in order to host Jeopardy! or avoiding questions about his COVID vaccination status, I’m sure he’ll do a fine job.