If you listen to an ever-growing number of folks outside the 49ers’ facility, with no clear connection to the team, Trey Lance is not ready to take over as San Francisco’s quarterback next year.
Whatever “ready” means.
No evidence is ever presented to back up such claims, either. Just a general statement that he’s “green”, “young”, or “inexperienced”.
He’s, indeed, all of those things.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of starting for the 49ers in Week 1 next season and helping them win games in 2022.
And besides, arguing over whether Lance is ready or not at this juncture — February 2022 — is a foolhardy exercise. The season doesn’t start until September. Lance merely needs to be prepared and in control of himself and the playbook by then.
After that, buckle up — it’s going to be a fascinating ride.
The truth is that I, you, those randos have no idea if Lance is going to be the kind of quarterback that can take advantage of the 49ers’ open Super Bowl window.
We can all make predictions, but that’s just guessing. No, we won’t know until the season actually starts. Speculate all you want, but we don’t have enough game film on Lance to say that he’s a bust.
We also don’t have enough game film to say that he’s going to be a star, either.
He’s still an unknown commodity.
And while I understand that folks are uncomfortable with going into a season with a question mark at the quarterback position and will say anything or do anything to avoid that feeling of not knowing, I have one question to ask those people: What do you think the 49ers have done every season since Kyle Shanahan arrived in 2017?
San Francisco is moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo for the same reasons that they never gave him a contract extension after the team’s outstanding 2019 run. They don’t trust him.
They don’t trust that he’ll stay healthy.
What did he do this season to alleviate those fears?
They don’t trust that when he is on the field, he can raise his game to the level where he can win them a Super Bowl.
What did he do in the NFC Playoffs that proved that belief wrong?
This is a team that reached the NFC Championship Game last season because of the 50-something men around the Niners’ starting quarterback. Garoppolo was downright terrible in the postseason, completing 58 percent of his passes for 178 yards per game and throwing more interceptions than touchdowns.
It was the same for the version of Garoppolo that was carried to the Super Bowl in 2019.
So this time last year, the Niners decided that they had maxed out with No. 10 under center.
They wanted to upgrade at the position, so they kicked the tires on Matt Stafford and inquired about trading for Aaron Rodgers. When they were denied on both fronts, they re-evaluated. If they couldn’t bring in a truly elite quarterback, then they would need to keep an elite roster around their quarterback. To do that, though, they would need to reset the team’s spending.
There’s only one way to simultaneously upgrade talent while cutting costs: Draft Garoppolo’s replacement.
And there isn’t a single draft pick who is a sure bet.
Another argument I hear from so many people is that Lance couldn’t beat out Garoppolo — how could he, a year later, take over for him?
This is faulty logicd because it ignores the fact that Lance gave Garoppolo — a veteran with years of experience in the system — a legitimate run for the starting quarterback job this past training camp. Let me be clearer: The Niners seriously considered starting Lance Week 1. He looked that good in the preseason.
But ultimately, the big-picture plan won out. The tie, as it were, went to the incumbent quarterback. One could argue that the plan was vindicated by the Niners’ NFC Championship Game appearance. I could argue playing the 2021 season with Garoppolo was a mistake because of how the NFC Championship Game ended.
There’s no right answer between the two. In this case, the tie means Garoppolo is not the guy.
And remember: Lance was still his backup, and he saw time in six games — two-and-a-half as the top quarterback on the depth chart.
Lance might not have been “ready” to play every week last year, to lead the Niners to a title in his rookie campaign, but that’s no indictment on his talent. If he wasn’t capable, would Shanahan have played him in Week 17 — a must-win game for the 49ers in their hunt for the playoffs? No way.
Jordan Love, up in Green Bay, was drafted to be Rodgers’ heir. The first year he was there, Green Bay didn’t even let him suit up for games. He wasn’t deemed capable enough to even be a backup.
And to compare the Lance and Garoppolo situation to that of Rodgers’ benching behind Brett Favre is to insult the Hall of Fame quarterback.
Yes, Rodgers sat behind Favre for three years.
But that was well more than a decade ago. That was three collective bargaining agreements ago. The rules of the game have literally changed multiple times over on and off the field.
Plus, it’s Favre — one of the best to ever do it. Garoppolo is the fourth-best quarterback in his own division.
But despite all the speculation, noise, and unsubstantiated nonsense that’s being spouted as tangential analysis to Garoppolo’s imminent trade this offseason, there is one fact that remains has remained in place since Lance was drafted:
This was always the plan.
One year behind Garoppolo. One year learning the system. And then Garoppolo would be gone, and Lance would be QB1.
The 49ers have not deviated from this plan at all.
Why would they?
Tom Brady pipe dreams? That’s a non-story created by bored football writers speculating during the two weeks a year where storylines aren’t spoon-fed to them.
Rodgers? He’s not a free agent. The Packers don’t have to send him anywhere they don’t want. I know they don’t want to send him to a rival like the 49ers.
And again, Garoppolo didn’t do anything this past season to force the Niners to keep him on the team.
The 49ers are treating Lance like the team’s starting quarterback right now because they expect him to be the starting quarterback in September.
As for whether or not he’s “ready”, check in with me in six-plus months, when the season actually begins.