The 49ers selected quarterback Trey Lance third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. They decided to sit him in his first year to learn as a backup and then start him the next season. After one start in 2022, the Niners decided to use him as a runner in Week Two just as much as a passer. On a designed QB power run play, Lance suffered a broken ankle which will keep him sidelined for the rest of the season and further delay his development.
How The 49ers Have “Developed” Trey Lance
The 49ers seemed to be cautious when it came to playing Trey Lance in fear that he would make rookie mistakes last year and even this year. That caution is likely because the Niners have an elite roster and wanted a veteran under center to help them reach a Super Bowl. The problem with that is Jimmy Garoppolo made critical mistakes very often last year anyways. They tried to trade Garoppolo and that didn’t work either, so they kept him and risked dividing the locker room this year.
Last season, they lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC title game. Due to the year of Lance sitting, he didn’t get much time to play in regular season games to go through rookie growing pains and learn how to adjust to NFL game speed. The Niners should have just started Trey Lance last season and let him go through growing pains with an elite roster around him to still win games. That’s essentially what happened last season with Garoppolo anyways, a player they were looking to move in the off-season whereas Lance is supposed to be the future the team builds around.
Now entering this season, the 49ers decided to go with Trey Lance as their starter. But the issue is he still needed to go through his growing pains with experience in games. Lance still showed some inconsistencies in his play, largely due to a lack of playing time. Had the Niners played him last season, he could’ve been a year ahead of where he is now in his development. And now when playing him early this season, there seems to be a heavy emphasis to continue using him as a runner to move the chains.
You’d think that Kyle Shanahan, one of the best play-callers in football, would be able to find a way for his team to pick up a first-down without having to use his QB as a runner. With Jeff Wilson, Tyrion Davis-Price, Jordan Mason, and even Deebo Samuel available in the back-field, why force Lance to run the ball up the middle and take hits from opposing linemen and linebackers? Do the 49ers not trust him to throw the ball? And if so, if they knew his development was going to be slow and would be too worried about lack of experience costing them a title run, why not just draft Justin Fields with the third-overall pick in 2021?
Instead, the Niners traded multiple draft picks to select a QB third-overall who they didn’t trust to start in his rookie year, don’t trust to throw in his sophomore year at the expense of increasing his chances of getting injured, and will have to wait until his third season just to be at ground zero in figuring out what they have. At the end of the day, this is a bad look for the coaching staff and front office. Does Kyle Shanahan know how to develop a mobile quarterback? These are all fair questions.
Lance was put in the best position to succeed out of all the QBs selected in his draft class. Best overall team with an elite play-caller. And yet that same team looks as if they’re afraid to let him grow. The best thing they could have done was start him in his rookie season, but instead, fans will have to wait another year to see Lance hopefully put together his first season as a starter.
How do you feel about the 49ers and how they handled Trey Lance’s development thus far?