49ers roster 2021: Trey Lance can start his rookie season

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Trey Lance (5) and Jimmy Garoppolo (10) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Why Trey Lance is on the bench for 49ers in 2021

As fun as it is to theorize all the things the 49ers offense could do with Trey Lance under center, and it certainly is possible he winds up being the Week 1 starter while Jimmy Garoppolo is jettisoned somehow, the stronger reality still leans towards Jimmy G being QB1 when the regular season kicks off.

For starters, the Niners would ideally like to maximize Garoppolo’s value for a trade at some point down the line. Coming off yet another injury-plagued season last year, it’s safe to assume Garoppolo’s trade value is awfully low now, but a resurgent 2021 campaign would change that narrative a lot. It’s better to trade Jimmy G than simply release him, right?

The other argument is it can take a full year for a quarterback to fully master Kyle Shanahan’s complex offense. This was the statement made about Atlanta Falcons signal-caller Matt Ryan in 2015 under Shanahan before Ryan’s 2016 MVP year, and some have used it to describe Garoppolo’s success in 2019 after spending a year-plus learning the offense (even though most of 2018 was spent recovering from an ACL tear).

An important thing to acknowledge, too, is the fact Lance attempted a mere 318 passes during his collegiate career.

That’s extremely low.

Putting things into context, Josh Allen attempted 649 passes during his two years as a starter at Wyoming before going to the Bills, and many draft analysts thought he was awfully raw before going pro.

Cut that number roughly in half, and that’s the context with Lance. Despite all his upside, there’s still a very real chance he winds up serving as Garoppolo’s backup in 2021, perhaps only seeing the field in modest specific packages here and there.