Trey Lance starts week 5 for the San Francisco 49ers. (AP Photo / Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers Rookie No. 3 Pick Trey Lance will make his first NFL start when the young quarterback and his team face the undefeated Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Evidence has been pointing in that direction all week after Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a calf injury in the first half of the Seattle Seahawks loss last Sunday.
Garoppolo has not trained all week, a clear indication that Lance would be called to a 49ers team in desperate need of a win after losing two games in a row.
“Since this is his first start, he’s just trying to give him things he’s comfortable with, things we’ve been through him. You don’t want to sit there inventing too many new things,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan about Lance on Friday: “It’s only a few days to practice and we just want to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible.”
Lance replaced Garoppolo to open the third quarter last week in a 7-7 game at halftime against Seattle. The North Dakota rookie saw San Francisco fall 21-7 in the third quarter before leading two touchdown scoring drives. In the end it was not enough with a 28:21 defeat.
Lance saw his first extended season in the regular season, completing 9-of-18 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns without interception. He added 41 rushing yards on seven tries.
Trey Lance gets a real chance of getting a job
Regardless of Garoppolo’s calf injury, it would be foolish to believe that Lance is a stopgap here. Should the young quarterback perform at a high level and lead the 49ers to an angry win over the only undefeated team in the NFL, he’ll most likely be the starter moving forward.
This situation is not too dissimilar to that in San Francisco in 2012. Alex Smith had led a team many were expected to be playoff contenders to a 6-2-1 record that season before facing then-St. suffered a concussion. Louis Rams in week 10.
A young Colin Kaepernick quarterback started next week’s Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears, leading San Francisco to a 32-7 win. The rest is pretty much history. Kaepernick led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance that season, while Smith was evacuated almost immediately after the championship game.
It would be absurd to conclude that the end result here will be the same. But there is a backstory to this whole situation. We know what the 49ers brass said in public. Garoppolo is the quarterback when he’s healthy.
But that’s nothing more than a PR spin at this point. The same brass, after there were two future picks in the first round and a move to # 3 for Lance, hinted that Garoppolo’s injury story was the main motive. In his first three full seasons with San Francisco, the Super Bowl quarterback missed 23 out of a possible 48 games. It’s just not sustainable.
At the same time, a strong performance by Lance against one of the NFL’s best teams on the road could start a changing of the guard.
The finances are not complicated
Trey Lance starts for the 49ers via Jimmy Garoppolo. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire … [+]
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Garoppolo plays under a five-year extension of $ 137.5 million he signed in February 2018 and expects to see $ 26.38 million this season. It has a cap hit of $ 27 million in 2022, $ 25.6 million of which San Francisco would save by either trading or releasing the veteran quarterback.
Lance signed a four-year deal for $ 34.1 million last summer. The young signal caller expects to hit $ 6.2 million against the cap in 2021 with a hit of $ 7.75 million next season.
While unlikely the 49ers could find a trading partner for Garoppolo before the November deadline should he 100% return and Lance keep the starting job. The more likely scenario here is for Lance to perform at a high level, speeding up Garoppolo’s departure from Northern California after the 2021 season.
After all, in the era of wage caps, finances certainly play a role. For San Francisco, this is especially true for stars Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa, who are planning potential expansions after the 2021 campaign.
All things equal, it should be Trey Lance
Trey Lance should be the 49ers starter moving forward. (Photo by Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)
A simple question must be asked in the field. What does Garoppolo deliver to San Francisco’s offensive that Lance doesn’t? Sure, the 21 year old rookie will make his mistakes. There’s a learning curve that goes from playing college football in small schools to battling JJ Watt and Aaron Donald in NFC West.
Still, it’s not that Garoppolo wasn’t prone to revenue in the last few starts. The week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers (interception, lost fumble) is a prime example of this.
If Lance can continue to make the wow plays that didn’t define Garoppolo’s tenure in Northern California, the mistakes will be easier to handle. It is broadly unacceptable to manage games while flipping the ball, as we saw from Garoppolo.
Regardless of our opinion on these two quarterbacks, one thing is pretty clear. San Francisco didn’t postpone two future first-round picks for Lance just to hold a clipboard. Whether in week 5, later this season, or in 2022, he should be anointed to be a starter. It’s better if a 49ers team that isn’t competing for the championship see what Lance has in them now. Who knows? Lightning could strike a bottle. We’ll see soon enough, Sunday versus Arizona.