Kyle Shanahan didn’t have much to say about Trey Lance’s debut after the game on Saturday night, but he did offer a few interesting nuggets during a conference call yesterday.
The thing I found most interesting was a line Kyle mentioned about Lance getting excited and reverting to his old mechanics in the heat of the moment:
“I think he started out good, got a little excited sometimes which he does. And you get a little excited, some of your technique and stuff you lose which will be fun to watch with him. Trey’s a guy who’s tough on himself and loves to correct things and since we’ve had him he’s been very good at correcting mistakes.”
That idea in and of itself isn’t new. However, many quarterbacks have been asked to adjust their mechanics only to immediately un-adjust the second they get into a real game, with a real pass rush.
Will Lance watch the tape and drill down on the changes, or will he adjust in practice only to rely on the muscle memory he’s built up to this point in his career?
It could also be possible that the 49ers thought Lance would be better able to change his throwing style exactly due to the fact that he had far fewer pass attempts in his college career than Justin Fields or Mac Jones. Only time will tell.
Beyond the physical corrections, Kyle also said he wants to see how Lance responds to the struggles he had Saturday night:
“We all know Trey has the ability to play well and do some special things...but that’s not playing quarterback in the NFL. I mean, you’ve got to have the ability to get into the club, but it’s how you respond to adversity, how you can play over the course of a game, when you do make a mistake, can you come back and make another big play? It’s not just about going out there and keeping both teams in the game. You’ve got to go out there and find a way to win it for one team.”
This, I think, is far more important than any footwork or throwing alterations the 49ers may have implemented. There have always been quarterbacks with wonky deliveries that have had long and productive careers. What we haven’t seen is guys stick around as elite players that aren’t mentally tough.
What will ultimately determine whether Lance is a temporary stopgap or a franchise quarterback is how well he can take lessons from his mistakes, maintain confidence, and continue to make big plays no matter what adversity may have come before.