After the 49ers faced off against the Los Angeles Chargers in a joint practice on Thursday, head coach Kyle Shanahan was once again asked about the chances that rookie quarterback Trey Lance could be the team’s starter to begin the regular season. While Shanahan has no incentive to show his cards before he has to, he was far from committal with reporters, leaving the door open for incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo to begin the season on the bench.
“I’ll answer what I think you’re trying to ask. They’re competing their a**ess off. They’re doing a good job. It’s not about one guy versus the other guy. It’s about how good can Trey be, how good can Jimmy be. I think both of them, when you go through camp, you go through games, you go through practices, it’s up and down throughout the whole thing. So that’s why I don’t sit and go ‘Who’s ahead of the other, what’s going on,’ after each practice. They both bring different elements to our team. Both of them, I believe, can play at a high level and I’m trying to see which one does that the best for us.”
Despite an impressive performance in the preseason opener, Lance still seems to be lagging significantly behind Garoppolo in the race for the starting job. While Shanahan later said he hopes to give Lance some reps with the first-team offense by the end of the week, Garoppolo took every first-team snap on Thursday.
Ironically, after Shanahan spent much of the offseason trying to convince people that he was comfortable starting Garoppolo this season, it seems that he’s now fanning the flames for Lance to ensure uncertainty for the Niners early-season opponents. But, of course, there’s still a significant amount of preseason left, and until Shanahan makes an official announcement, there’s no reason to rule anything out.