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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Brock Purdy
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v San Francisco 49ers / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Factor No. 2: Brock Purdy's success to end 2023

And yet, for all of the trials that Trey Lance faced with injuries during his first two seasons, none of it might have mattered if the 49ers hadn't had such a good season without him under center.

First it was now-Raiders' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stepping back into his old job (after being on the trade block all summer in 2022, and the Niners standing pat when they didn't get offers they liked, which may be a good note to keep in mind over the next few weeks).

Garoppolo was up and down for the first few weeks back in the starting role (solid in relief of Lance in Week 2, a stinker in Denver against the Broncos in Week 3, and an awful game against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6), but then the 49ers got on a roll and were in the midst of a four-game win streak when he went down with a foot injury of his own in the first quarter of their Week 13 matchup at home versus the Miami Dolphins.

In stepped "Mr. Irrelevant," Brock Purdy, who never looked rattled either during his relief appearance after Garoppolo went down or in leading the 49ers to a 35-7 beatdown of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first NFL start the following week.

In fact, Purdy at times looked like a wilily veteran rather than the rookie that he was, and the Niners wouldn't lose with him at the helm until the ill-fated NFC Championship game versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Purdy went out there and was what you'd expect a rookie taken with the final pick in the NFL Draft to be, then it's almost certain that Lance would have been entrenched as the starter just like he was during the offseason last year. Maybe the team still brings in Sam Darnold, but it's probably because they saw enough of Purdy in this alternate universe to come to the exact opposite conclusion they have so far.

That certainly would have changed the trajectory for the team as a whole, who would likely be coming into 2023 with pared-down expectations compared to where they are now, but it also would have meant that Lance would have had another chance to prove he could be the guy the 49ers drafted him to be.