Trey Lance is developing despite 49ers not playing him

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The 49ers haven’t fielded rookie quarterback Trey Lance much at all in the second half of 2021, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t developing at all.

It’s been a while since we’ve written anything about San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance.

For good reason, too.

Part of the cause is the fact the Niners’ veteran starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, has played well enough since the halfway point to ensure San Francisco’s push towards a playoff berth. Additionally, head coach Kyle Shanahan has moved away from the swapping in and out of Lance onto the field for meaningful situations, something that at least happened periodically over the first few weeks of the year.

The last meaningful snaps Lance took were back during his lone start of the year when Garoppolo was out with a calf injury, Week 5’s loss at the Arizona Cardinals.

Since then, only a meaningless five-snap showing at the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.

While there has been no shortage of calls for Lance to see more field time despite Garoppolo playing well, the bigger question is just how much an impact the No. 3 overall pick from the 2021 NFL Draft will have next year.

And by a multitude of accounts, it’s looking to be a sizable one.

Trey Lance is developing nicely, according to 49ers players and insiders

Perhaps Shanahan’s plan all along was to almost exclusively field Garoppolo before fully inserting Lance into the fray in 2022. Maybe that’s been the wrong way to handle things, and the 49ers could have done a few things better in terms of the quarterbacking controversy.

But it is what it is, proverbially speaking.

Nevertheless, behind-the-scenes reports are suggesting Lance is progressing admirably in his development, including one telling statement from linebacker Fred Warner after the Niners’ Week 15 home victory against the Atlanta Falcons, which also shed light on why Garoppolo remains the starter:

"Trey has got a bright future ahead, right? We see it every day in practice on our side because he’s out there dicing us up. But Jimmy is our leader. He’s our quarterback. We’ve rolled behind him the entire way. To see him playing at a high level like he is right now, we’re going to need it."

Lance flashed that promise way back during training camp and at occasional points during the preseason. While on-field reps during games will be the ultimate test, it’s at least reassuring one of San Francisco’s top leaders is endorsing how the rookie quarterback is coming along.

Yet that’s a statement you’d expect a teammate to make.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, speaking on his 49ers Talk Podcast with Laura Britt (h/t Niners Nation), cited an inside scoop on Lance’s development as of late, things fans won’t see going on behind the scenes during practices:

"We haven’t talked about Trey Lance a whole lot, but I hear he is doing really well. I was speaking to someone very high up on the 49ers food chain, who was telling me that his last three weeks have been very good.I don’t know if you remember but in the preseason, it was against the Raiders, remember when he hit his finger on the helmet of a Raiders player and kind of banged up his finger? Well, apparently that was kind of causing some issues with accuracy and everything earlier in the season. Even through that game where he played against the Cardinals, started that game.Apparently his finger, now, is like completely healthy and he is slinging it around. He’s accurate, he’s on point with his studying habits and everything else. The 49ers feel very good about Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter right now, and it sure sounds like they very good about Trey Lance as his backup and the future starter of the team."

Read More: Steve Young offers sound advice for Trey Lance

49ers are still likely propping Jimmy Garoppolo up to pave the way for Trey Lance

The Niners traded away two future first-round draft picks, plus a 2022 third-rounder, to move up and grab Lance. That’s about all one needs to fully understand why they’ll move away from Garoppolo next year.

But to recoup some of that draft capital, San Francisco would ideally have a trade market for the veteran quarterback, so it makes sense why Jimmy G has been featured and regularly propped up by the 49ers front office.

Next year’s quarterbacking carousel is expected to be a wild one. With relatively few attractive options, either in free agency or the 2022 draft, the trade market might be the only resourceful way quarterback-needy teams can find options.

In that sense, now is a good time for the Niners to be sellers of Garoppolo’s services.

Of course, that won’t matter if Lance goes bust. According to these latest reports, however, it doesn’t seem as if that’s going to be the case.

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