Hearing negative comments about Trey Lance from a national media member has become almost a daily occurrence this offseason.
Last week we heard Fansided’s national NFL insider Matt Lombardo tell 95.7 The Game that 49ers coaches have been “continually underwhelmed” by Lance. Lombardo is from Philadelphia.
“This all stems from a conversation that I had with an executive who’s pretty tight with people within the 49ers organization. Then following up with a couple of members of the coaching staff. The feeling around San Francisco dating back to last summer during training camp was a little bit of disappointment over the Trey Lance that arrived in training camp versus what they saw on film at North Dakota State from an arm-strength standpoint and from a deep-ball-accuracy standpoint.”
“And then you look at when he got into games this season, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Now, I know he had the injury; I know that he was a rookie, and it certainly takes time for NFL quarterbacks to develop, but the 49ers gave up a lot to get Trey Lance. And the questions that I keep hearing about the deep-ball accuracy and the arm strength in practice, some whispers about how quickly he is understanding the playbook, and all of those things, the general vibe is this might not have been what the 49ers hoped they were getting when they gave up all that draft capital last year to go and get him.”
The report contradicts what we’ve heard from Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Players have also openly praised Lance.
Fred Warner, unprovoked, was effusive in his praise of Lance. The same can be said for Trent Williams, and the All-Pro left tackle sounded a similar tone when asked about Lance before the 49er’s week 17 matchup with Houston.
“We feel more than comfortable from what Trey has shown us these last few weeks, his development as a QB,” said Williams. “Obviously, everybody else around him has to play a little better, but I think he will give us a chance to complete all the goals we set out for.”
“If he’s the guy we have to go into battle with this weekend, I have 100% confidence that he can give us the opportunity to win the game. And we can win the game off his back, not just by him playing solid football.
“He can go and make the plays that will propel the football team to a W. That’s the type of talent he has, which is why he was picked where he was. I have a ton of faith in him.”
Now we have Mike Florio and Chris Simms from Pro Football Talk joining in, questioning the readiness of the 49er’s second-year quarterback. As was the case with Lombardo, Simms chose to go after Lance’s accuracy in training camp last season.
“Anybody you talk to who saw training camp last year,” Simms said, “either that was part of the 49ers staff, or when they went and worked with the Los Angeles Chargers, and you hear people who witnessed those practices, there had to be concerns coming out of San Francisco early in the year last year. I know there was. There were too many people who were like, ‘Man, the ball is everywhere; man, he’s not ready yet.’ That’s got to scare them to a degree.”
As someone who attended most of San Francisco’s training camp practices last year, these comments are far less accurate than Trey Lance.
Completions on deep throws were a regular occurrence for Lance, primarily through the early part of training camp. One of the most impressive was a deep throw down the right sideline right over the outstretched hand of a defender for a big gain.
There were moments, especially early in camp, when Lance looked like the best quarterback on the field. The problem for Lance, he couldn’t sustain the high level of play throughout training camp. Adding to the situation, when the rookie was given the opportunity to take first-team reps with the starters during joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers and in the preseason game which followed, he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
However, this all took place last August. Since those training camp practices, Lance has made two starts, week five on the road against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals and week 17 at home against the Houston Texans, with the 49ers needing a win to stay in playoff contention.
Lance played well enough for the 49ers to beat Arizona. That loss was more about the mistakes made by other players and questionable game management by Shanahan.
Against Houston, Lance overcame early struggles to lead the 49ers to victory. Two deep passes, one resulting in a defensive pass interference that set up San Francisco’s first touchdown of the game, and a 45-yard bomb to Deebo Samuel proved to be the difference. Lance had the best game of any rookie quarterback against the Houston defense in 2021.
So, where are all the questions and negativity about Lance originating?
Throughout the run up to the 2021 draft, most of the top national NFL reporters dug their heels in on Mac Jones being the 49er’s selection.
After choosing Trey Lance over Jones, Kyle Shanahan was asked about the Mac Jones reports and the decision to go in a different direction.
“I think I was in Mexico the day we made the trade and within hours, there’s at least two people who are out there speculating that their opinions are they think we’re taking Mac Jones and ever since then, I’ve kind of just watched every single person assume that that was accurate and that those weren’t opinions, those were facts,” replied Shanahan.
“We didn’t feel that way from the beginning. I wouldn’t have said there’s no chance we wouldn’t have. We were going to go through this process, and I would never have said it couldn’t have ended up being him, but I know how we felt about Trey the whole time. To watch that happen and to kind of watch everyone just assume, because a couple people say something, that’s exactly how you feel, we weren’t going to work to correct that.”
This seems to have led to some of the questioning of Lance and the 49ers decision to stick with Jimmy Garoppolo through 2021, instead of moving forward with the rookie.
With Garoppolo still on the roster, this situation permeates discussions regarding San Francisco’s prospects in 2022.
Throughout the offseason, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, as they did last year, have stopped short of outright naming their starting quarterback for 2022. However, if you take the time to listen to what is being said and look at all of the available evidence, it’s clear that Trey Lance will be under center when San Francisco’s offense takes the field for the first time in week one.
Instead of listening to what John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are saying, listening to what the players said about Lance at the end of last season, many continue to make assumptions about the 49ers plan at quarterback.
There’s an old saying about what happens when you assume. If we were to update that for 2022, the expression would go something like this, “When you assume, you get clicks and cash.”