Without question, the most common thing people say when they are explaining why Trey Lance might not (or should not) be the starting quarterback next year is, “he’s not ready.” It’s a phrase that has been uttered by many an NFL analyst and fan alike since he was drafted last year. One prominent voice cutting against that narrative, however, is Hall of Famer Steve Young.
As long as the 49ers continue to hold on to Jimmy Garoppolo and refuse to declare Trey Lance the starting quarterback publicly, they provide fuel to takes like this one from Peter King on The Herd yesterday.
“Sometimes you need your quarterback to not lose the game. Last year Jimmy Garoppolo on several very big occasions, piloted the team, did well enough, didn’t lose the game, and they went on. That’s why, to me, unless somebody gives San Francisco a decent offer, I will not be surprised if they do the same thing this year with one exception: I do think that unless he is simply not ready to play, I do think the starter opening day will be Trey Lance.”
Let’s just put aside the fact that despite what Peter King says, on many “very big occasions” last season, Garoppolo quite literally did all he could to lose the game for the 49ers. The phrase “not ready” became the magic words anyone could say when they wanted to end a conversation about the 49ers' starting quarterback situation without explaining their position.
On the Rich Eisen Show earlier this week, Steve Young explained why that narrative just doesn’t cut it anymore:
“The word ‘ready’ is just loaded. It’s not right. He’s played two games so, ‘Oh, he’s not ready” is an easy - it doesn’t mean anything. Who’s ready? You’ve got to go play and prove it out. One thing about Trey that everyone has to understand is that he has not played a lot of football, in general. A lot of things that you figure out in college over the years is just marking receivers, understanding what your arm can do. Things that you figure out by reps and doing it over and over. When they say he’s not ready it’s because there’s not that body of work of him being on the field. They see what’s on the field, amazing talent, amazing arm and all the things, but there’s so much more to quarterbacking. So, when someone says he’s not ready, well that’s easy to say because he hasn’t done it.
I think the more important thing is, is he capable of kind of the on-field recognition of routes, getting through the routes, who is open, anticipatory throwing, getting the ball out. It seems like he has that. The thing that you worry about the most about being ready, I feel like he has.”
Young is exactly right. Finish the conversation. If you say Lance isn’t ready, that’s fine, but then the question becomes, what does he have to do to be ready? Watch more games from the sidelines? Sit in another film session with his fellow quarterbacks? What exactly is he going to learn from his 25th week of studying film that he didn’t learn in week 23 or week 20?
The answers to all of the questions about Lance will only come when he gets out there on the field. All of the things Young talked about are only discovered, engrained, and refined in real games, against real competition, facing real pressure. Nothing could take place before the regular season that would let us know for sure that Lance will be a great quarterback. Acting otherwise is simply not living in reality, and waiting for a moment that will never come will only stunt Trey’s development.
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