Everyone is evaluating 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance after he made his first career NFL start in Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Cardinals. Longtime Niners left tackle Joe Staley shared his thoughts on Lance's performance when he hopped on KNBR's Papa & Lund show on Monday.
In his final three seasons, Staley played in San Francisco from 2007-2019, playing under current head coach Kyle Shanahan. A good friend of Shanahan's, Staley is well-versed in the head coach's tendencies and the offensive system.
Staley said he was "very excited" to watch Lance finally get his chance under center and compared him to veteran starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I think when you look at the quarterback situation, you know what you’re going to get out of Jimmy. He has the understanding of the offense, and I think he does probably give this team the best opportunity to consistently win games throughout the whole entire year because of the understanding of where to go with the football.
Given his close relationship with Shanahan, it's worth noting that Staley's insistence that Garoppolo gives the 49ers a better chance to win aligns with what team brass has signaled all year. Staley went as far as to say, "I think he [Shanahan] made his decision before the season even started... If Jimmy's healthy, he's going to be our quarterback this year. They want to use it as a red-shirt year."
With that said, Staley came away from Sunday's performance optimistic about the 49ers' future under Lance. Despite his insistence that Garoppolo gave the team a better chance to win right now, he acknowledged that Lance provides the offense with a far higher ceiling.
“But the offense isn’t nearly, I don’t feel, as exciting [with Garoppolo], and the potential isn’t there for different layers to be added, as what Trey brings to the team.”
The unknown brings plenty of excitement. Lance's athleticism allows him to run escape pressure and his arm strength adds an added layer to the 49ers' offense that we haven't seen.
The question is about consistency. That's why we could see Garoppolo remain as the starter. Jimmy knows the offense. It's evident Shanahan has more confidence in him by his words and actions.
We started to see more dropback passing from Lance once the 49ers were forced to throw the ball in the fourth quarter. During the first three quarters, the offense looked far different from what we're used to seeing. They were over-reliant on Lance's legs.
If Garoppolo gives the team the best opportunity to win consistently, then Shanahan doesn’t have a difficult decision to make.