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Gold Standard: Can we expect Trey Lance to produce like RG3 in 2012?

Shanahan wouldn’t mind those results...

The 100th episode of the Gold Standard podcast was all about settling a score. Then, Levin Black tweeted something that got under the skin of fellow Niners Nation podcaster Michelle Magdziuk.

The two put on the boxing gloves and had it out on today’s show. During the course of the discussion, they touched on something I thought was worth writing about. If Robert Griffin III is the closest quarterback to Trey Lance that Kyle Shanahan has coached, is it reasonable to expect Trey to do what RG3 did in 2012?

Despite not having a ton of experience with mobile quarterbacks to that point, Kyle Shanahan’s system for RG3 delivered some impressive results:

  • 3,200 passing yards (213.3 per game in 15 games)
  • 20 TD
  • 5 INT
  • 8.1 yards per attempt (led the league), 12.4 yards per completion (5th in the NFL)
  • 65% completions
  • 120 rushing attempts
  • 815 yards (54.3 per game)
  • 7 TD

Griffin took home the Offensive Rookie of the Year award (over some guys named Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson), and Washington won the NFC East at 10-6. If Kyle could do that with Griffin, why couldn’t he replicate that production with Lance in an easier passing era?

Well, for one thing, Griffin had way more experience than Trey Lance. RG3 threw 1,192 passes at Baylor in 41 games. Lance had 317 attempts in his 17 full games at North Dakota State. That’s 24 games and 875 pass attempts worth of experience that Lance simply does not have under his belt. That’s not to say that Lance is destined to fail, but he simply might take a little longer to get his feet underneath him than RG3 did in 2012.

One thing working in Lance’s favor, however, is that he has way more talent around him than Griffin had in Washington. Their receiving corps was led by Santana Moss and a couple of former 49ers in Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk are way more talented than that group.

Another reason Lance might have a shot to equal that production is because he’ll likely get more passing attempts. In 2012, another former 49er in Alfred Morris carried the ball a staggering 335 times out of the backfield, which helped limit RG3 to 393 attempts. In his five years as coach of the Niners, Kyle Shanahan has only had two people carry that ball even half as many times as that (Carlos Hyde in 2017 and Elijah Mitchell last year). Shanahan has also never had a 49ers team throw the ball fewer than 478 times in a season (2019).

Breaking the franchise’s single-season passing yardage record is setting the bar too high for Trey’s first season as a full-time starter, but an output similar to the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year is definitely possible. You can hear the full argument on today’s Gold Standard podcast - anywhere pods are found.