49ers must let ‘Trey Lance show’ begin in earnest vs. Texans

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

The 49ers may have no other choice but to start Trey Lance in Week 18 against the Texans with the playoffs on the line and Jimmy Garoppolo hurt.

Sometimes, the hardest decisions are made easy by external factors making those choices for you.

This could essentially be the case for San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has (stubbornly) stuck by his veteran quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, despite numerous and growing cries for the Niners to finally start their top investment from the 2021 NFL Draft, quarterback Trey Lance.

The reason why San Francisco selected Lance was revealed in a national spotlight during the 49ers’ prime-time Thursday Night Football loss to the Tennessee Titans, namely Garoppolo’s two interceptions and missed opportunities that ultimately damaged the Niners’ tenuous hopes for a playoff spot. Garoppolo is a game-managing quarterback who can help his team win, provided he doesn’t make too many mistakes and the team is strong enough around him to account for whatever errors take place.

In Week 16, and along with much of the year, the two haven’t worked in tandem.

But Shanahan, who disclosed to the media on Monday that Garoppolo suffered a thumb injury during the loss, further echoed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

Why the injury wasn’t disclosed during or immediately after the game isn’t clear. But it’s clear now.

Just like Shanahan’s likely decision moving forward.

Jimmy Garoppolo injury gives 49ers every opportunity to start Trey Lance

Based on Lance’s collegiate inexperience and so-so performance during his only start this season, a Week 5 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, it makes sense why Shanahan would want to stick with Garoppolo for the rest of the year and (potentially) into the postseason.

Garoppolo is the veteran, knows the offense and has the respect of most of the locker room.

But, being fully honest, the 2021 San Francisco squad isn’t built for a deep run into the playoffs, perhaps a one-and-done exit in the Wild Card round, meaning all focus should still be centered on gearing up for 2022 and beyond.


Currently sitting in the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture, the 49ers could feasibly get in with some help, but there are also potentially disastrous scenarios at hand, largely contingent upon what the Niners do in Week 17 against the four-win Houston Texans.

Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo was wholly atrocious in 49ers loss to Titans

The Texans, who somehow pulled off a 41-29 shellacking of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16, still boast a bottom-five offense and defense, now having to face an angry Niners squad that is coming off a “mini” bye week after having played the previous Thursday.

Sounds like a juicy opportunity to play Lance regardless if Garoppolo is 100 percent.

There might not be any other choice either, as Garoppolo playing injured could open up the door to the main reason why San Francisco loses Week 17: too many self-inflicted wounds, many of which have been at Garoppolo’s hand, literally speaking.

Lance may make those, too. Let’s not overshadow the fact he’s an inexperienced and raw rookie.

Yet Lance’s potential upside, combined with the need to further polish his development for the future, might be the necessary X-factor to ensure the 49ers don’t fall victim to what would be a disastrous home loss to a still-lowly Houston squad.

If anything, Shanahan’s choice might have already been made for him.

Next. 49ers' 10 worst quarterbacks in franchise history. dark