The 49ers have broken the one rule of drafting a quarterback with a high first-round pick: Take advantage of the rookie deal. From the second that pick is made, every single transaction the team makes has to be geared towards putting that quarterback in a position to succeed. Unfortunately for Trey Lance, that can hardly be said about the 49ers right now.
This was supposed to be the start of a new era of 49ers football. Jimmy Garoppolo was given his farewell press conference at the end of the year, and he was supposed to be traded shortly thereafter to make way for Trey Lance. Even Garoppolo himself expected that to happen quickly.
Lance, for his part, was supposed to be in an ideal situation for a young quarterback. He’s on a team with young playmakers on offense, a solid running game, a brilliant offensive coach, and a championship-level defense. Some of those things are still true, but unfortunately for Lance, not all.
Thanks to circumstances both in and out of the team’s control, things aren’t looking as great for the young kid. First, the guy that he was supposed to replace will likely still be on the roster come training camp.
Jimmy Garoppolo could be cut, but that seems unlikely right now. Matt Ryan is now in Indianapolis, Marcus Mariota is in Atlanta, and Jameis Winston has returned to New Orleans. Only the Panthers can bail the 49ers out now, and it’s entirely possible Carolina looks to the draft for their next QB. Good luck trying to establish yourself as the leader of the team when the guy the entire locker room loves is still in the building.
Second, the offensive line upon which the offense is built now has question marks at every position except left tackle. Laken Tomlinson left for the Jets, which leaves a second-round draft pick that could barely dress for games last season, let alone get on the field as the presumptive starter.
Alex Mack might be back at center, but that hasn’t officially been confirmed, and he’s 36 years old. Daniel Brunskill plays right guard - ‘nuff said. Mike McGlinchey is trying to come back from a devastating injury at right tackle, and his backup left for Denver. This is really the group you want to protect the future of the organization? This is the group that’s going to have to synchronize their blocking to make the ground game work to take pressure off Lance’s shoulders?
Third, there are new position coaches at every single level of the offense - including quarterback. Yes, Chris Foerster remains the offensive line coach, but several assistants below him are new. While some of this is due to coaches leaving for better jobs, some of it is also the 49ers’ doing as well.
There’s been so much turnover on the coaching staff that Kyle Shanahan had to miss the Combine in order to teach the offense to his staff. To do some “scheme work,” as John Lynch put it when he met the media in Indianapolis.
How is any of this good for Trey Lance? Can he grow as a player when he’s going to be looking over his shoulder and wondering if Jimmy Garoppolo is going to take his job? Can he grow as a player on the field when he’s going to be looking at pass rushers coming at him left (ish), right, and center?
The 49ers have not done everything they can to put Trey Lance in a position to make a comfortable transition to starting quarterback. Coaching staff changes, roster mismanagement, and the erosion of the offense’s foundation have, in fact, led to almost the exact opposite.
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