The 49ers are Trey Lance’s team.
San Francisco’s decision to bring veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back on a restructured contract has no bearing on this.
Since the news of Garoppolo’s return broke, the question has been, how will this affect Trey Lance?
The answer to that question is simple; it won’t.
Kyle Shanahan has shown throughout his career that he understands how to handle quarterbacks. He showed it once again last year.
Shortly after selecting Lance third overall, Shanahan told anyone who chose to listen who his quarterback would be in 2021.
“It’s going to be very hard for a rookie to come in and beat Jimmy Garoppolo out. He’s a very good player,” Shanahan said. “That’s why I like the situation that we are in. Now, we’ll see where Trey’s at. We’ll see how he does at OTAs. I love that we’re getting those. I love that he’s going to be here tomorrow. But Jimmy’s our quarterback right now.”
As the team began losing games early in the season, Shanahan was questioned repeatedly about the quarterback situation. Through it all, the head coach stuck with Jimmy Garoppolo, with Lance’s only extended playing time coming when Garoppolo was unable to play due to injury.
During his press conference to open training camp, Shanahan was asked if having Garoppolo around while working his way back from shoulder surgery might impact Lance.
“This is Trey’s team and that’s nothing against Jimmy,” said Shanahan. “We made that decision a year ago and we’re going with that and we’re not going to mess around with that anymore.”
Let’s be clear. The only way things get weird around the 49ers this season is if Trey Lance isn’t the player San Francisco expected him to be, and the team is losing.
Using 2021 as an example again, even when the team was sitting on the brink of playoff elimination at 3-5, it was Jimmy Garoppolo under center. Shanahan told reporters that following the season, he was close to making a move to Lance and would have done so if they didn’t defeat the Rams at Levi’s Stadium on Monday Night Football.
Even if that happens again this season, it’s unlikely we see Jimmy Garoppolo unless Lance cannot play. Kyle Shanahan fully understands what making that move represents.
The quarterback is the leader of every football team. Playing musical chairs that the most critical position creates instability which seldom leads to success. Take an example of how the first half of the 1988 season went in San Francisco. That team struggled to a 6-5 start as Bill Walsh went back and forth between Steve Young and Joe Montana. Once Walsh committed to a quarterback, there was no turning back, and they went on to win Super Bowl XXIII.
Removing Lance in favor of Garoppolo would have repercussions beyond the current season. Kyle Shanahan is an intelligent coach who understands this.
The return of Garoppolo makes a loaded roster even better but make no mistake about it. The 49ers are Trey Lance’s team now.