Trey Lance is the future of the 49ers. Not many people would argue with that statement. However, determining whether Lance is ready or how much of an impact he’ll have in 2022 is a different statement.
Last week, we heard pundits such as Chris Simms say, “the Niners are afraid to start Lance or put him on the field.” However, Simms’ comment doesn’t hold any weight as San Francisco just began their offseason program this past month and haven’t had workouts with pads on.
If the Niners were skeptical of Lance, there would have been more whispers along the quarterback front this offseason of them bringing in a player like Marcus Mariota, Mitchell Trubisky, or some established veteran to push Lance in case the youngster wasn’t ready. That didn’t happen.
Larry Krueger and I spoke about Lance and some of the discussions around him. Here’s Larry:
“I think that they understand that as soon as he hits the field they’re going to be evaluated on a topic that could impact their professional impact around the league. I don’t think Shanahan would be out if Lance was a bust. And probably not even Lynch. But that would be a mark and they would lose face somewhat in the NFL crowd.
Anytime you’re projecting a player, you just don’t know. I think Lance is going to be really, really good. Because he has all of the elements that it takes to be good. That includes loving the process. If you love the process that means you’re going to work at it. If you’re going to work at it and have the requisite talent, guess what, you’re going to be good. Unless you’re a total idiot. Guess what, he’s not a total idiot. He’s really, really smart.
The combination of the cerebral aspects, and the desire, he’s going to get there. I don’t know if it’ll be by Week 1, and I think Kyle and John understand the environment with the expectations of the fans and the media, and even the team.
This team was one win away from the Super Bowl last year. Nobody in that locker room wants to take a step back. How many rookie quarterbacks step into the NFL and lead their team to the Super Bowl, or even the playoffs for that matter? They’re entering into a difficult transition, and we’ll see how much patience everybody has.”
Watching the patience play out this season will be quite a ride. In our season predictions, I had the 49ers finishing 10-7. Of course, there will be inevitable wow moments from Lance. But we can’t ignore the clunkers that come with playing a quarterback who hasn’t started a full season in two years.
You can tell Lance knows what he’s doing based on how he plays from the pocket. That was evident at North Dakota State, and we saw flashes in two starts where Lance went through his progressions, reads, stood tall in the pocket, and didn’t look uncomfortable.
When you say that, fans' minds will jump to the negatives like the interceptions Lance threw. I’m not saying there aren’t areas he can’t clean up. But, there are areas where George Kittle can improve as a player.
Doubting Lance is typical off-season talk that’s being compounded by people who will naturally root against him for whatever reason. So perhaps a better way to put it is the people out there who will enjoy explaining Lance’s failures:
“That’s bizarre. For everything you just mentioned, he’s charismatic, too. He’s a QB that we’re seeing take to social media and call people out who are wrong about the 49ers. That should make him more likable.
I think once we get to the season and they see him make a couple of ‘wow’ plays or make a couple of those Trent Sherfield preseason touchdown throws that we saw last year, it’ll be easy to root for him.
Because of the unknown, because Jimmy Garoppolo did lead the 49ers to the playoffs, you are going to want to see instant success. He hasn’t had a chance to do that. But because Jimmy is on the way out and Trey is on the way in, his expectations are sky-high.”
You can watch/listen to the rest of the conversation below, where we pick up on the conversation about our top concern about Lance heading into 2022. For me, it’s hoping Lance doesn’t revert to becoming a conservative QB and lets it fly:
“In college, one of my biggest issues was, and when people say, ‘he didn’t throw any interceptions in college,’ to me, that’s not a good thing. That’s telling me he’s being too cautious with the football, and he’s being too careful and not letting it rip.
I was wondering if that would be a problem in the NFL. Because he’s very good in the pocket, and if he’s not willing to let it rip, play with more variance, and take some of the chances that Jimmy didn’t either, which ended up costing them.
But we did see him uncork it and unleash it a little bit in the NFL. But when you’re the starter, and you’re terrified of making mistakes, you don’t want the coach to jump down your throat. So that’s something that I’m keeping an eye on.
I don’t know if I’m worried about it, but it’s something to watch for. It was true in college, and to think it’ll go away in Lance’s first full season of starting that’s something to keep an eye on, just being aggressive and letting it fly. They have playmakers all over the field. There’s no real reason for him not to. We’ll see if they’re able to coach that out of him.”