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49ers in Five: Was Rich Scangarello against the Trey Lance pick in 2021?

Possibly. Does it matter?

Everything you need to know in about five minutes

There’s no question that 49ers fans have their radars up for any analysis of Trey Lance, good or bad. But, somehow, we missed Rich Scangarello’s comments from March on the Tape Heads podcast. In talking with hosts Greg Cosel and Bob Wischusen, Scangarello said a couple of things that some are taking as clues that he wasn’t on board with taking Trey at number three in 2021.

The main thrust of the conversation was about how to evaluate quarterbacks in general that are coming out of college. Scangarello was asked how you adjust things for guys from smaller schools.

“One of my favorite things about quarterbacks historically, the mid-major to smaller Power 5 schools — those over the history of time have been some of the best players in this league. And when you can take a quarterback who’s a multi-year starter at a mid-major for example, and he can take them a level that they’ve never season — let’s say they’re an average program, and then all of a sudden for two years they’re winning conference titles or competing for it — that tells me that quarterback has the ability to raise the level of everyone around him. For Josh Allen at Wyoming, the two years he was there, they won more games than probably ever in the history of that program. They had never had eight-win seasons. I think they’d had one or two in the whole history of the program. That tells me the guy is a winner and he has the ability to elevate the people around him. Those things are important to me.”

It’s possible you could say that’s a dig at Lance, but I don’t really see it. Historically, Scangarllo is right. The majority of the league’s best players have been from the big schools because those are the places that typically get the best recruits. In terms of talking about someone elevating a smaller school, there wasn’t really any higher North Dakota State could go. The Bison crush people every year, and that continued under Lance’s reign. He went undefeated in his only full year as a starter, didn’t throw an interception the entire season, won the championship, and was named the MVP in that game.

Scangarello also talked about the traits that are, in his eyes, non-negotiable. In his eyes, starting as a rookie in the NFL, you had to have started multiple years in college.

“If you have any aspirations of playing a guy Year 1, he better have been a multi-year starter in college. To me, the experiences and taking the snaps and what you do when you’re in charge and banking those reps are so important. You come out, you’re a one-year guy, it’s very difficult for you to just jump in and play in the league. You just haven’t played enough football to hone your craft. So I’m always looking for guys who have a lot of starts. Do they take care of the football in those moments when it could go sideways, or do they create positive plays? Do they make smart decisions in critical situations? How do they play in two-minute situations?

There are guys I’ve evaluated in recent drafts where they’re on such good teams at Ohio State or these other schools where maybe they don’t even have a two-minute situation that really matters in their entire career. Give me a guy who has played a lot of one-score games and found a way to win, and show me in those situations how he is under duress.

In college football, you forget, you don’t get to talk to the guy in the helmet so in two minute when he’s out there he’s on his own. In the NFL, us as coaches we’re babying these guys through a lot of stuff. ‘Hey, do this, do that.’ You can talk to a guy. They’ve got to be a coach for you out on the field in college football. So in those moments where they can’t look to the sideline and have an answer, how do they handle it? When you’re looking at the entire picture and make a decision that will decide a franchise’s course, their history, where they’re headed, a GM, a head coach, everyone that’s weighing on what will be the outcome of this pick, you have to un-turn every stone. Those things are very, very important.”

Again, I think these are statements of fact more than anything else. Lance didn’t have any meaningful two-minute drills in college because of the dominance of the team on which he played. Would you have liked to have seen those things on film for Lance? Of course. When evaluating a QB, you want as much information as possible. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out that way.

Does any of this mean Scangarello didn’t want Lance to be the pick two drafts ago? Maybe. Unless he comes right out and tells us, we’ll never know.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if Rich Scangarello didn’t want Trey Lance because Trey was the pick; he’s on the team now. Rich, of course, is not. He’s now Kentucky’s Offensive Coordinator and has been replaced with Brian Griese. Was Rich not retained because he didn’t want Lance, and clearly Trey is going to be the starter next year?

Maybe. That’s entirely possible.

But remember this: When a guy is drafted, there usually isn’t universal agreement within an organization that he was the right pick. Football teams involve many different people. Do you think everyone in Buffalo was thrilled when they took Josh Allen a few years ago? Or Lamar Jackson? Or even Peyton Manning back in 1998? Of course not.

The draft is an imperfect science, so people will always disagree.

What matters is that Trey was the pick, he’s going to be the starter next year, and he’s surrounded by people who are all pulling in the same direction.