49ers news: Trey Lance was close to starting in middle of 2021 season

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Trey Lance is poised to take over as 49ers QB1 in 2022, but according to Kyle Shanahan, his reign atop the depth chart could have started much sooner.

The San Francisco 49ers’ 2021 season was filled with a myriad of storylines, none more prevalent than a potential controversy at quarterback.

In training camp, there was real momentum for rookie signal-caller Trey Lance to potentially snatch a starting spot, but it ended with Jimmy Garoppolo under center.

Then as the season started, Lance was used sporadically, but his packages lacked creativity.

Lance gained a spot start against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5, where the offense was unable to convert, and a bone bruise in his knee took away any momentum to continue with the offense. But the Niners nevertheless floundered to 3-5, their last loss their worst at the hands of a Cardinals team without any of its best players.

San Francisco was at a tipping point of the season, and Garoppolo’s play wasn’t inspiring much either. Calls for Lance to start were growing, but the 49ers rattled off four straight wins to stabilize their season.

Now, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan, those calls for Lance weren’t without merit.

Kyle Shanahan nearly inserting Trey Lance as 49ers starter

In his end-of-season press conference, head coach Kyle Shanahan said in response to a question asking if he considered using Lance during the NFC Championship game, a possibility we at Niner Noise said should have been explored:

"Towards the end of the year, I never thought about just trying to get him in because I knew that was about to come. I mean when we were 3-5, that was kinda the breaking point, where I knew it was getting close. I knew everyone else thought it was there, and I agree it was getting close to there.But once we won that game and went to 4-5 and ended up winning four in a row. I thought we had a chance, and when you’re doing that, you don’t want to mess with the team."

What it means for Trey Lance, 49ers moving forward

Given the tenor of major comments from the 49ers players and brass, it is almost certain Garoppolo will not be coming back to the Niners next year. This comment doesn’t really change much for this year or next, but it is interesting to consider Shanahan was considering giving Lance full reign of the offense.

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His comments are consistent with his overall messaging: Lance would start if San Francisco had nothing else to play for. But the fact Lance, in only half a season, had gained enough ground to almost force a decision should be taken as a positive sign for fans hoping he will be what the franchise is looking for.

Expectations for Lance in his first season as a starter should be tempered, and fans should expect growing pains. But his development behind the scenes has earned rave reviews from the 49ers, and with this comment taken into consideration, it seems his coaches thought he was a viable option.

Now all that’s left is for him to showcase his talent on the field.

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