These 3 factors ultimately spelled the end for Trey Lance with 49ers

Trey Lance didn't turn into an afterthought in a complete vacuum. No, there were plenty of X-factors along the way.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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Trey Lance lost the battle for the 49ers' QB2 job to Sam Darnold. Niner Noise looks into the factors that led to Lance's fall from starter to an afterthought.

Rumors began flying last Wednesday that the San Francisco 49ers had made a decision that seemed unthinkable a year ago: Trey Lance, the quarterback they traded up from pick 12 to pick 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft, had lost out to Sam Darnold in the battle to be Brock Purdy's backup this season.

Lance didn't appear at practice on Wednesday either, leading to speculation about the future of the quarterback with the Niners. One thing is for sure, though: He's not the starter or the direct backup, and it feels like the ship has sailed on his time in San Francisco.

Sure, something could still come of this. Maybe the player does some soul-searching and decides that even as the third option, the 49ers are still the best place for him. Or maybe the Niners brass, led by general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, don't receive a trade offer they like -- something that historically has left them keeping players who are otherwise on the way out -- and Lance has to stay.

Cutting Lance would match up with Shanahan's comments on KNBR yesterday about wanting to "do right for Trey," although the potential hit to San Francisco's already razor-thin salary cap situation might preclude such a move. In that same interview, Shanahan also noted that he'd "feel extremely happy" if Lance is still around when roster cuts are made next week.

But all this leads to one very vital question: How did Lance and the 49ers get here? How did the quarterback go from a guy worth trading up nine slots for to the unquestioned starter in 2022, to possibly being on his way out on the eve of the 2023 campaign?

There were several factors in this, most of them right out in the open, but they're all worth exploring as the Niners try to figure out what to do next with the 23-year-old signal-caller.