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Would the 49ers offense look like it does now with Trey Lance under center?

The 49ers will have to answer that question this offseason

Once the 49ers’ third-string rookie quarterback took over, their offense kicked into high gear. And yes, I am aware of how crazy that sentence is to write. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we have seen a sound running game, crisp passing, and a devastating play-action attack for the last four weeks.

On today’s Gold Standard podcast, Levin Black and I wondered if all of this was due to Brock Purdy or simply not having Jimmy Garoppolo under center.

Over their last four games, the 49ers have averaged almost 380 yards per game in total offense. They’ve scored 31.5 points per game, and three of those four opponents have been playoff teams. You couldn’t ask for me as a 49ers fan, though I’m sure their perfectionist coach has done just that behind the scenes.

The question is, how much of that success has to do with the play of Brock Purdy, and how much of it has to do with having a competent quarterback under center that sees the game differently than Jimmy Garoppolo?

Levin gave his answer during the show:

“A good bit of both, I would say. Jimmy Garoppolo managed to not have the critical mistakes this season. But I still think he had a lot of plays where there was a guy streaking wide open deep down the field, but instead he was like, ‘I’ve got this five yard safe pass, and I’m taking it. I’m not taking any risks, ’ even though the guy is literally open by 10 yards.

Whereas I think Purdy looks for that. He at least gives it a glance. ‘Hey is that completely wide open? No? Okay I’m gonna take this safe thing.’ And if it is completely wide open we’ve seen him let it rip a couple of times. As long as he’s letting it rip once or twice a game, the defense has to stay honest. They can’t cheat like they started cheating with Jimmy.

So I think part of it is Purdy, and part of it just life without Jimmy Garoppolo. I think most other quarterbacks would go, ‘Hey this guy is wide open 20 yards down the field, I’m gonna take that one over the five yard one.’ I don’t think it’s a huge thing that Purdy is so amazing at, it’s just that Purdy does the logical thing and throws it to the guy that’s open further down the field.”

None of this is meant to disparage either Brock Purdy or Jimmy Garoppolo. Brock has played better than anyone could have expected and made a multitude of plays outside of the structure of the offense. Jimmy was the more conservative quarterback but also cut way down on his turnovers.

Up until the last four weeks, we simply hadn’t seen this offense for an extended period of time operated by someone with more skill than Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard. If Trey Lance had stayed healthy and was currently under center, would the offense also be putting up these kinds of numbers?

As I said earlier, the 49ers have averaged 376 yards per game over the last four weeks. In the three games that Lance started and finished as a 49er, the offense averaged 361 yards per game. Trey also saw the field similarly to Brock Purdy, often looking deeper first before working his way back to the check down closer to the line of scrimmage.

The big difference, of course, has been the points. While Purdy’s offenses have scored more than 30 points per game, Lance’s starts have produced an average of 16 points per game. That’s a massive difference. I happen to think that a little more experience for Lance would make up some of that difference, but we haven’t gotten the chance to see that, thanks to Trey’s injury troubles. Oh, having that Christian McCaffrey guy might help, too.

As we all know, we won’t get an answer to that question until next season. But with so much capital invested in Lance, it is something the 49ers will have to ask themselves before training camp starts next summer.

Other topics discussed in the show

Derek Carr is on the bench and the Raiders are in disarray (2:33)

Is Kyle about to rest Nick Bosa? (4:32)

One Raiders star with something to prove this week (8:36)

Will Derek Carr being available affect Jimmy Garoppolo’s market this offseason? (11:42)

Brandon Aiyuk makes a hilarious joke on social media (15:03)

Would the offense also look like this with Trey Lance at quarterback? (18:02)

The 49ers are so good they haven’t trailed in a game in a month (25:33)

Levin’s work emergency that took him off the Instant Reaction podcast last week (29:50)