clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Processing the end of the Trey Lance era

Some thoughts about what could have been, what will be, and moving on

Warning: this is starting with a breaking bad spoiler. If you haven’t seen the show, go do it before real regular season football takes over our lives.

Officer Hank Schrader said his last words to his brother-in-law, Walter White. Walter was staring at the situation in shock, pleading with the Neo-Nazi holding the gun to Hank’s head to spare Hank’s life. Hank sneered at Walter… “Don’t you know I’m already dead?” and the neo-Nazi shot him.

They’re not Brocks... they’re MINERALS

Morbidly, I thought of that scene when I learned about yesterday’s trade. I figured there was an ongoing QB competition to back up Brock Purdy, and Kyle seemed to confirm it with his comments last Tuesday. One more preseason game, maybe, several more practices, with the faint glimmer of Trey’s 49er career still smoldering like an ember.

Turns out this fire was put out weeks ago, and this break-up was in the back of Kyle’s mind for quite some while. An outsider fan like myself didn’t grasp that Trey’s future as a 49er is already dead. Some people might have a told-you-so attitude, but I don’t care for it. The last few days were a shock on how fast everything happens - months and years worth of history happening over the course of several days.

Life comes at you fast. One day, John Lynch is reminiscing about racing up the hills outside his beach house in San Diego with Lance and Aiyuk, the next day, Lynch is in tears at the press conference while Aiyuk is posting Lance’s former back up on IG.

When Trey was drafted, I was vocal and excited about him. I’ve been openly bullish on Trey Lance throughout, and I still think he’ll do great once he gets his shot. Part of the moving on process as a fan is reconciling with the things you were excited about that you’ll never get to see, and I’m sad that we never got to see that Lance play with the full starting line up of Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk.

When Trey hit that deep shot to Deebo against the Texans his rookie year, I wish we knew it were in the good times, so I could savor it. It’s gone now. The last we saw of Trey, he was tossing to dudes that might not make the roster, and that’s the part I’ll never not be sad about. What could have been.

There’s no time for the Niners front office to reminisce and cry too much - even the lessons they may learn from reflecting on this Trey Lance experience won’t help them sign Nick Bosa, figure out their nickel situation, or find a kicker.

Because Lane Johnson, Cooper Kupp, and Pete Carroll are licking their chops at the prospect of only having to go up against Clelin Ferrell, Lenoir/Oliver, and whoever the hell is kicking field goals. It’s clearly one of those things that you feel what you feel about, and then you move on, forever.

For now, at this moment before the first regular season game, 49ers fans can take stock in the fact that any worry about Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch is presently only a linger. It’s there in the back of our heads, but the only way to keep the intrusive memories of how bad the front office messed this trade up is things working out the way they’re promising it will.

But make no mistake: this is an all or nothing gamble of Kyle’s whole legacy on the elbow of Brock Purdy and the improvement of Sam Darnold.

That said, the odds are in Kyle’s favor. As of right now, this starting line up inspires a lot of confidence. Christian McCaffrey is clearly a difference marker, so the offense should always be capable of making plays at any given moment. The talent is explosive. Brock can clearly, unmistakably get it done. It remains to be seen if it’ll be consistent enough and at the crucial moments, which will be the difference between winning a Super Bowl or not.

If it works, and they win Number Six, Kyle and John become immortal. Winning despite making the worst trade in NFL history would be a remarkable sports achievement that’ll be uttered in the same breath as LeBron’s Cavs title run. It’ll hit bigger than all three Giants rings at once. It’ll pick up the “leash” they have on their jobs and lasso it around like a Cowboy.

If it doesn’t, and they don’t win a ring by Brock’s extension, it’ll approach Buffalo Bills losing four straight super bowls in a row territory. It’ll make 28-3 seem like a foretelling rather than a reckoning for Kyle’s career. It’ll look outlandish for the Niners to go four-plus years with this roster and this level of talent without winning a Super Bowl.

The defiance of it all is so Shanahan. And to use the Breaking Bad reference again, he’s doing it on his own Heisenbergian way. To his credit, this all seems tethered in reality - the guy is mad, but he sure is a scientist. There’s a real data-driven case he has at his disposal, and the final product is what ultimately matters. It always is.

Breaking Bad ends and then Better Call Saul begins - if Kyle Shanahan is what we all hope he is, he’ll display the Vince Gilligan-like ability to outdo himself once again. The stakes were set in March 2021, raised in May 2021, and exponentiated in August 2023. Kyle is now rolling into week 1 with what feels like everything on the line. Let’s see what he’s got.