Being cautiously optimistic about 49ers quarterback Trey Lance is certainly OK, but one needs to acknowledge he’s in a better position to succeed than others.
By now, you’ve probably come across some argument about why the San Francisco 49ers should be concerned with second-year quarterback Trey Lance‘s lack of experience.
Indeed, it’s impossible to get around this notion. After all, Lance had only one full year starting at the collegiate level, and that was back in 2019 before the pandemic limited his 2020 efforts to just one game played.
In total, Lance attempted only 318 passes at North Dakota State before the Niners used the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on him. And when he did see the field his rookie season, it was just for two starts and some change when starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was off the field.
Now, with San Francisco poised to make Lance the full-time starter, it’s only natural for skeptics to question whether or not he’ll thrive in 2022.
Peter King wants to pump the breaks on Trey Lance
From the casual fan all the way up to the top of the NFL reporting queue, there’s no shortage of highlight points about Lance’s inexperience.
Including NBC Sports’ Peter King, who said as much in his most recent “Football Morning in America” piece:
"Lance is 22 years old. Not to get all philosophical here, but sometimes, covering football, we cannibalize young players. We want quarterbacks drafted high to morph into Justin Herbert by mid-year-one. Well, Herbert threw 1,273 passes at the highest level of college football. Lance threw 318 in FBS competition, a step down from Herbert’s level. Lance has thrown 101 passes, total, in his age 20 and 21 years as a quarterback. And now a team that was in the NFL Final Four last year is likely to hand him the ball to start opening day. Likely, but not certain. A little perspective would be nice over the next three months, as Lance is put under the OTA/training-camp microscope.I would be a little more patient with Lance than the din I hear and read out there."
It’s a fair argument. Lance might not be a Herbert-like player right out of the gate. And it’d be unfair to expect him to be such.
However, it’s important to also acknowledge a few things here, particularly the context in which the soon-to-be starting 49ers quarterback will have.
Context and surroundings both matter for Trey Lance, 49ers
Hall of Famer Steve Young already questioned the meaning of whether or not Lance “was ready,” saying it’s a loaded question based on the quarterback’s lack of practical experience.
And Lance won’t “be ready” until he actually gains such experience.
As such, the only thing the Niners can do is to ensure Lance’s surroundings are as good as possible entering 2022, and this also partially explains why they were patient enough to let their top pick from the 2021 draft marinate as a backup in year one.
There’s an age-old argument for young quarterbacks: nature versus nurture. Can a top-drafted quarterback catapult what’s usually a bad team into playoff contention right away? Not usually, and it’s what Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey argued in response to King’s article:
"Most rookie or first-year starting quarterbacks are on teams that have no business competing for playoff spots.In 2021, Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars finished with three wins. Zach Wilson and the Jets finished with four, Davis Mills and the Texans finished with four, too, while Justin Fields and the Bears finished with six. The Patriots were fortunate to finish with ten wins with Mac Jones under center.It’s not as simple as saying, “if Mac Jones and the Patriots can, so can the 49ers.” However, New England’s 2021 season lays out a path that highlights Lance doesn’t have to do everything for the Niners to be victorious."
If Jones had gone to, let’s say, the Jets or the Bears, the context with either of those teams likely wouldn’t have resulted in the rookie’s trip into the postseason.
Similarly, if Fields somehow ended up on the Patriots, his own rookie season would have been vastly different.
This is why it’s important to shed light on the fact the 49ers aren’t a bottom-feeding, rebuilding team entering 2022, and Lance will be given a much better surrounding cast than many of his fellow Round 1 quarterbacks from a season ago.
He still has to make the most of that situation, however.