The Rise of Trey Lance

In the 2021 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers traded up and received the third overall pick in which they selected quarterback Trey Lance out of North Dakota State. All signs pointed to Lance being the future, but before he can take over, one key piece must be moved. 49ers faithful have been calling for the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo ever since the 2019-2020 Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which many fans blame him for. More recently, fans have not held back their disappointment as Garoppolo’s final play in the NFC Championship game was a pick that sealed the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl birth.

Before Garoppolo, the 49ers were in a dark hole, unable to make anything happen. It is almost unarguable that Garoppolo turned this franchise around, but the last few seasons show that he is prone to injury, making him inconsistent. His inability to stay healthy plays a factor in what has kept him from making that final push that would get San Francisco their sixth ring. Some say that Garoppolo playing through thumb and shoulder injuries during last season’s playoffs was selfish considering their third-overall pick was sitting on the bench. Others, including many of Garoppolo’s teammates, applaud his sacrifice and strength. There is no doubt that they admire how far he was able to take the team despite not being at his best.

Throughout the 2021 season, we got glimpses of what Lance can do. Lance started in only two regular-season meetings and also finished a handful of games for Garoppolo when he got them up a few scores or when he was hurt. Compared to Garoppolo, Lance is a quarterback who can scramble in hopes of keeping the play alive. He is quick and can very well make the first-down play by using his wheels. The dual-threat of Lance is a reminder of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In more recent times, he may suit up to have a version of Lamar Jackson’s style.

In his two career starts, Lance has a record of 1-1. He lost to the Arizona Cardinals in week five and beat the Houston Texans in week 17. Even though the Texans were not as formidable of an opponent as the Cardinals, it was by far a more important game since a wild card spot in the playoffs was on the line. The context of that game shows that Lance can handle situations where pressure is involved. 

However, one of Lance’s most standout and memorable plays did not come in either of those games. It occurred in week three versus the Green Bay Packers, where Lance did not start and played one snap that resulted in one touchdown. This stat line might look grim, but this moment was special because the coaching staff trusted Lance enough to complete the task at hand. Near the end of the first half, Garoppolo was unable to get the ball into the endzone after missing his receivers multiple times. Instead of taking the points that a field goal would bring with just a few seconds left, Lance was put in for the last snap. The aim was that his speed could put more points on the board as the clock dwindled to zero and that is exactly what happened.

Currently, Lance’s biggest fault lies in his lack of experience, and with inexperience comes mistakes. Lance has the tendency to sometimes force passes inaccurately. Even though this is a blemish on his resume at the moment, Lance was not the only quarterback to launch risky throws this past season. One of the biggest criticisms of Garoppolo is that he attempts dangerous passes that often get lucky. The difference between the two? Lance was a rookie. Lance is early enough in his NFL career that this is something that can be worked on and fixed, especially considering he had a very small amount of interceptions at NDSU. He just needs to get used to this higher-level football. The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the game with Fred Warner and Nick Bosa. If anyone can challenge this second-year quarterback at practice to make sure he’s ready to go, it’s going to be them.

“Trey Lance has grown leaps and bounds the past few months as far as playbook and voice in the locker room,” said Peter Schrager.

“We have a special quarterback,” said 49ers wide receiver, Brandon Aiyuk. 

“You can really see him stacking days and getting better each practice,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. 

According to analysts, players and coaches, Lance has made significant improvements so far this offseason. In addition, he has been getting insight from former 49ers quarterback and Super Bowl champion Steve Young. A notable duo to look out for will be Lance and Brandon Aiyuk. The two have been working to refine and enhance their chemistry. Lance seems ready to take charge of this 49ers team if his performance on and off the field at June’s offseason program is anything to go by.  49ers fans can expect a more confident and comfortable Trey Lance stepping into the 2022 season.

Author

  • moniquereil

    Football, basketball and soccer fan. Currently a fourth-year student-athlete studying history, English and graphic design.

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