There are few places as quiet as a locker room following defeat. Such was the case in the wake of the 49ers 19-10 season opening loss to Chicago on Sunday.
As members of the media entered the locker room for the first time following a regular season game since 2019, the frustration was palpable. The players who just fought through rain, wind, and mud for three hours only to come up short gathered themselves. Some packing up their belongings for the long flight back to San Francisco while others spoke to various members of the media.
One player stood alone next to his locker gathering his thoughts as he prepared for his next task. It wasn’t bad enough that his team was not successful. In a few minutes he would have to stand up take to the podium and be asked about what went wrong.
“I made too many mistakes. The defense kept us in the game. Had a big miss to Tyler Kroft in the endzone. Tried to throw a perfect ball, should have just put it right on him he was wide open. Turned the ball over. Took a sack that knocked us out of field goal range. Missed Deebo (Samuel) on third down. Missed another third down to Jauan (Jennings). Just too many mistakes. A lot of stuff to figure out for sure for me. But man, I’m excited. I still have my head up and excited to get ready to go next week.”
Trey Lance would repeat this when he stood in front of the media again on Wednesday.
Only 22, making his third NFL start, Lance demonstrated one of the reasons Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch chose to use three first round picks to make him their quarterback.
Lance very easily could have dodged the question. He could have made his response about the team or that he needed to go back to the game film to know exactly what happened.
Instead, he stood at the podium and took the blame for everything that went wrong offensively on Sunday.
That’s what leaders do.
Things haven’t been smooth for Lance since joining the 49ers.
During his rookie season, Lance sat while the team stayed with Jimmy Garoppolo as its quarterback. It took Garoppolo being injured and unable to play for Lance to get two starts.
As the result of the draft capital the 49ers used to acquire him and being the only quarterback chosen in the first round of the 2021 draft to no start the majority of games for his new team a spotlight was put on Lance. That spotlight grew hotter when the team decided to sign Garoppolo to a reduced salary to remain as Lance’s backup.
Then there is the play on the field. For whatever reason, the offense with Lance at the helm seems to be out of sync. There are big plays followed by big mistakes, and not just from the quarterback.
Against Arizona in his first start, Kyle Shanahan passed up multiple opportunities to put points on the board with field goals only to come up short on fourth down. This trend continued during the first half of Lance’s next start against Houston.
On Sunday in Chicago, a storm blew in only hours before kickoff leaving the field a mess. Despite the poor conditions, the 49ers offense had opportunities to put points on the board. Unfortunately, Lance could not take advantage due to the miscues he mentioned above, as well as a fumble by Deebo Samuel on the first offensive possession.
This has led to San Francisco managing only a 1-2 record in Lance’s first three starts with and an offense which has scored only ten points in two of those contests.
Through it all, Lance has held his head high and said all the right things.
Patience is in short supply today, as we rush to judge athletes in every sport. For Trey Lance, he is currently stuck between those who think he is going to be great and those who think he’s not going to make it. That he is the quarterback of a team many believe has the ability to reach the Super Bowl only adds to the strain of the situation.
The truth is this, right now nobody knows how this is all going to play out and what will become of Trey Lance’s career. That story will be written each week during his NFL career.
What we do know is that above all else, Trey Lance is a leader.