Trey Lance will benefit from 49ers QB-friendly offense

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

Barring the unforeseen, Trey Lance will be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2022, but it’s the context that will afford him the chance to be great.

Forgive me, as I can’t remember where I read it. But there was a prediction about the 2021 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks and which one selected in Round 1 would end up having the best pro career.

That answer was whichever one ended up joining the San Francisco 49ers.

Of course, the quarterback ended up being Trey Lance at No. 3 overall, and the Niners did their best to shield the raw and inexperienced rookie with tremendous upside for the bulk of his rookie season, only letting him start two games while the veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, was dealing with injuries.

With Garoppolo all but guaranteed to be on the move this offseason, the door is now open for Lance to take over.

Enough has been said about Lance’s skill set and the potential upside he’ll offer over Garoppolo: a stronger arm, far more mobility in and out of the pocket, the ability to throw outside the numbers, etc.

But to think head coach Kyle Shanahan is merely going to cement Lance to what San Francisco fans saw with Garoppolo at the helm of the offense the last four seasons would be incorrect.

There are going to be differences, and those adjustments on the part of Shanahan will ultimately be the reasons why Lance takes that forward step in 2022.

Kyle Shanahan will likely start Trey Lance off slowly in 2022

When Lance saw the field in limited action last season, Shanahan only gave him a fraction of his otherwise complex and intricate offense. Granted, a full offseason and regular training-camp regimen of working with the first-team unit will open up the playbook much more, but one might still expect Lance to be spoon-fed the system early when the regular season debuts.

Former NFL wide receiver James Jones told NBC Sports Bay Area as much:

"I think [Lance] will be just fine but I think they will start out slow and see how much he can handle when came time comes. If he can, and I think he will, it’s going to be a dominant offense. And we all know there is much more he can do with Trey than he could do with Jimmy."

Few other offensive minds are as good or are as creative at scheming receiving targets open on the field. One of the reasons why the 49ers offense faltered frequently at times, including down the stretch of last year and into the playoffs, was Garoppolo’s inability to hit open targets with regularity 10-plus yards down the field.

That won’t be an issue with Lance. What could be, though, is the ability to recognize those reads and make the timely throws with better precision.

Still, even the simplest of plays Shanahan has called can generate results. Those are the ones Lance will likely see first.

All Kyle Shanahan needs is an effective quarterback, and Trey Lance can be it

One of the arguments against Shanahan is, “if his offense is so quarterback friendly, why can’t any quarterback thrive in it?”

It’s not that simple.

Shanahan needs a moderately good quarterback. You’re looking at the system that managed to get moderately below-average production from a lackluster quarterback, Nick Mullens, before he eventually flamed out with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns. Bad quarterbacking, such as Shanahan has largely had without Garoppolo, won’t cut it.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” or so the saying goes. Play-calling only goes so far.

Yet this is the system that turned former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III into the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan into the 2016 MVP.

Neither quarterback experienced anything close to the kind of success post-Shanahan, but both were moderately good enough.

That’s the level Lance needs to achieve, at least initially. Better than Mullens or former Niners quarterback C.J. Beathard. As good as Garoppolo, at least in terms of orchestrating an offense efficiently enough.

If that’s the early expectation level, Lance can let his skill set do the rest.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 best quarterbacks in franchise history. dark