49ers schedule: When does Trey Lance make his first start?

Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the North Dakota State Bison (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) /

With the 2021 NFL schedule out and the 49ers knowing their upcoming calendar, speculation is budding about when Trey Lance makes his first start.

The San Francisco 49ers have known for a while which opponents they’ll play in 2021, and now they know exactly when they’ll play them in the wake of this year’s NFL schedule being released on May 12.

Understandably so, as soon as the schedule became public knowledge, questions began arising about when head coach Kyle Shanahan was eyeing as a good opportunity to give the team’s newest quarterback, Trey Lance, his first official start at the pro level.

Initially, and perhaps still being the case, the idea was for the Niners to let Lance sit behind veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for a full season, giving Jimmy G one last shot as a full-time San Francisco starter while the talented-but-raw Lance proverbially “learned the ropes.”

Yet it would be foolish to think Shanahan blindly sticks by Garoppolo even after the point where Lance is eventually competent enough to take over starting duties.

As soon as Lance is ready to go, he’ll start. It’s as simple as that.

Sure, 2022 could still be the earliest possible start date for Lance. We can’t rule that out. But if we’re solely looking at games on the 2021 calendar, which ones stand out as possible transitions of quarterbacking power from Jimmy G to the rookie?

Week 7: 49ers vs. Colts

There’s an argument the 49ers’ “soft” opening to the NFL schedule with road games against the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles would be ideal. But thrusting a rookie into the fray on the road in back-to-back contests right out of the gate still seems awfully premature.

Instead, a home bout after the Niners’ Week 6 bye seems much more logical, giving Lance that extra week of full preparation as a starter in advance of a still-good Indianapolis Colts team, yet going up opposite of an embattled quarterback, Carson Wentz.

With this being a prime-time Sunday Night Football bout with seemingly no other major reason to schedule it this way, perhaps the schedule-makers partially anticipated this being Lance’s debut anyway.

Week 11: 49ers @ Jaguars

Fans always love seeing high-profile rookie quarterbacks, and the Week 11 tilt between San Francisco and the Jacksonville Jaguars could potentially be just that.

The Jags are going to ride with the No. 1 overall pick from this year’s NFL Draft, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, while Lance could receive his first crack to match his skills up against the top pick.

Read More: Ranking 49ers’ 5 most challenging games in 2021

Plus, in all-out rebuild mode, Jacksonville doesn’t project to be a tough competitor even though the 49ers have to make the East Coast trip.

Week 14: 49ers @ Bengals

The Niners visit the Seattle Seahawks in a prime-time game the week before their Week 14 road bout versus the Cincinnati Bengals, and there’s always the chance Garoppolo’s efforts in Seattle turn up ugly. He wouldn’t be the first San Francisco quarterback to experience a nightmare at Lumen Field.

While quarterback Joe Burrow is the real deal, Cincy is another one of those teams in full rebuild mode, meaning Lance would have an easier go of things despite the road contest and in the wake of a would-be Garoppolo benching.

Plus, it would be fun to watch a Lance-versus-Burrow matchup anyway.

Weeks 17 or 18: 49ers vs Texans, @ Rams

Much of this is predicated on just how San Francisco’s season pans out. If the 49ers are squarely in the hunt for a playoff berth for the final two games of the season, one could reasonably assume Garoppolo’s experience wins out.

As long as Lance hasn’t overtaken Jimmy G on the depth chart, that is.

But if the Niners have secured all they possibly can, as far as playoff seeding goes, or if they’ve been eliminated by this point, making the transition to Lance against one projected-to-be bad team, the Houston Texans, and then against a still-potent Los Angeles Rams team makes some sense.

This way, even if San Francisco clinches a playoff berth, resting Garoppolo while allowing Lance some much-needed field time would probably go a long way in the rookie’s development.

So many factors still in play, though.

Next. 49ers schedule: Early win/loss predictions for 2021. dark