Can Trey Lance win the 49ers a Super Bowl next season?

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 are pinning their long-term hopes in Trey Lance, not just to elevate the offense but to win a Super Bowl while the window is open.

Will the San Francisco 49ers end up winning a Super Bowl with quarterback Trey Lance at the helm?

It sounds like a simple enough question. And for Niners fans, even the most skeptical ones, the hope would be the answer being a solid “yes.”

That’s what San Francisco is banking upon, as it prepares to move on from a quarterback who nearly got the team there twice in three years, Jimmy Garoppolo, but wasn’t quite equipped enough to get the 49ers over the proverbial hump.

The transition better work, though, and soon. Otherwise, the Niners’ aggressive trade-up for Lance in the spring of 2021 will be viewed as one of the worst decisions in franchise history.

No pressure there, right?

49ers following the Chiefs-Patrick Mahomes model with regards to Trey Lance

You’ve probably heard this before: San Francisco is taking a nearly similar path with how it handled Lance his rookie season, effectively keeping him on the bench behind Garoppolo for his rookie season.

It’s not wholly unlike what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes, their quarterback for whom KC aggressively traded up to grab at No. 10 overall in the 2017 draft, and he sat behind another veteran signal-caller who was good enough to get the Chiefs to the playoffs, Alex Smith, but not quite at that Super Bowl-winning level.

49ers fans need no reminder on what Mahomes eventually did in 2018 and especially in 2019 following Smith’s trade, a trajectory Garoppolo will likely follow this offseason.

However, it’s unfair to truly compare Lance and Mahomes’ paths as identical. Lance remains an unknown, a mere shade above a collegiate prospect with only one full year as a collegiate starter and just 178 snaps played in 2021.

49ers do have an advantage with Trey Lance at the helm… for now

Kansas City won that now-infamous Super Bowl with Mahomes on his rookie contract. That’s important.

Lance, one year into his four-year rookie deal (not including a yet-to-be-decided fifth-year option that could be applied years from now), will afford the Niners a shot to surround him with as much talent as possible on both sides of the ball for the next three or four seasons. According to Over the Cap, San Francisco will have approximately $20 million in cap space after Garoppolo is moved this offseason against a projected $208.2 million.

In 2023, though, that number could jump to over $230 million, per OTC.

An even greater measuring amount to ensure Lance has plenty of help during this window.

With Garoppolo (mostly) at the helm in 2021, the 49ers finished the regular season with the league’s 13th-ranked scoring offense. Not terrible. But as evidenced by the slowdown in offense late in the regular season and throughout much of the playoffs, it was clear Garoppolo wasn’t elevating the scoring chances enough.

Read More: 5 Niners who must make massive leap in 2022

And yet the Niners still managed to get within 10 minutes of winning the NFC Championship game.

Lance doesn’t necessarily have to be infinitely better than Garoppolo right out of the gate. That’s premature. However, he’ll have to play at a slightly better level, provided everything else maintains its trajectory.

With him on his rookie contract, the bulk of the surrounding cast can stay intact for the foreseeable future.

So, can Trey Lance win 49ers a Super Bowl in 2023?

To state Lance is going to enter the fray in 2022 and have a Mahomes-like year one as a starter is awfully far-fetched. The bigger likelihood is a share of promising performances offset by multiple rookie-like mistakes, the natural growing pains of any quarterback expected to shoulder the offensive load for the first time.

In the interim, San Francisco boasting a star-studded cast with Lance on his rookie contract (making just $7.75 million next season) ups the chances of the 49ers being in the Super Bowl discussion.

Read More: 49ers won’t face as strong an NFC West in 2022

A potentially thinned-out NFC that could see quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers traded off to AFC teams this offseason would help matters, too, opening up the door for the Niners to have a better chance.

From the optimist’s vantage point, yes, it’s certainly possible Lance winds up taking San Francisco to the Super Bowl a year from now, potentially winning it.

The reality, however, will probably result in the 49ers falling slightly short. Still, that’s not entirely bad for a first-year starting quarterback like Lance.

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