The Athletic’s Matt Barrows interviewed quarterbacks coach Jeff Christensen, who has worked with over 200 quarterbacks, but spent time in Dallas this offseason working with 49ers quarterback Trey Lance and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Christensen told Barrows that he can generally diagnose what’s wrong with a quarterback’s delivery within a day. But with Lance, it took four days. Even the biggest Lance supporter can admit there must have been significant issues with Lance’s throwing motion if it took a quarterback coach who has been in this field for more than a decade, four days to figure out a problem.
It’s easy to buy in when you see the greatest quarterback maybe ever right in front of you apply the same thing the coach is telling you:
“I said, ‘Watch this. Watch what he does here. It was something I was telling him to do that he wasn’t quite doing. And then he saw Patrick apply it perfectly. And I think that visual buy-in, that mental buy-in, helped him past that mental hump.”
“And to his credit he just kept getting better,” he continued. “(Over) the last seven days, every day was a substantial jump.”
Christensen said Lance’s retooled motion eliminated Lance’s ongoing arm fatigue, something that’s plagued Trey since his rookie training camp. Barrows reported by the end of their time together, Lance went from needing to take a day off after three days of an intense workout to waking up one day and that arm soreness no longer being an issue:
“And I called him in ’Frisco on Saturday at noon,” he said. “And he thought for sure his arm would be killing him. And I said, ‘OK, how’s your arm?’ He said, ‘I cannot believe I woke up and it was not sore at all.’”
Asked if Lance has had any soreness issues since the 49ers offseason program began in mid-April, Christensen said, “zero.”
This is positive news all-around and, most importantly, it indicates that Lance is progressing. Once Christensen found the root of the issue, Lance’s accuracy improved, as did the spin on the ball, which shouldn’t be taken for granted. Finally, Trey’s delivery time became shorter.
An improved spin on the ball means that Lance’s passes will retain their speed, and hopefully, spiral, the further they go down the field. So, in essence, we should see Lance be able to control the ball more if this is accurate. He won’t throw what’s known as a “duck” where the ball is rotating all over the place.
If Lance’s delivery time is shorter, that’s icing on the cake. I’ve always felt as though that aspect of his game was made out to be a bigger issue than it was on the field. His throws would get there quicker than most quarterbacks due to his arm strength. Batted passes at the line are the result of staring down your target, not an elongated release.
It’s one thing that Lance needs to get better. It’s another that he’s willing to put in the work to do so and take his game to another level:
Christensen credited Lance with being eager to learn and to push himself through the awkward phase every passer experiences when he’s trying something new.
“It’s a different feeling and it can be kind of weird,” he said. “And it can be kind of scary. And so it’s a whole different feeling when the ball leaves your finger. To his credit, he slowly kept applying and kept believing.”
“He really fit right in,” he said. “Pat really thinks the world of him. He’s just a really good person, conscientious. He wants to be great. And he’s one of the few kids whose actions match his words. He backs it up. He shows up every day and he wants to learn. And that’s why I teach him.”
Christensen finished by saying, “he was 25 percent ahead of where I thought he’d be” by the time they finished and “I think he can be incredible,” speaking of Lance in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lance go back to Christensen after OTAs and continue to work on improving and getting used to his new mechanics. Lance’s work ethic paired with his natural skill set will make him awfully difficult to keep on the sidelines with the weapons the 49ers have.