Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Window is open for Trey Lance to win 49ers QB job, but it won’t be easy, says Shanahan

Jun 11, 2021 at 6:52 PM--

Trey Lance won't be automatically relegated to a backup role at quarterback this season just because he's a rookie, but he'll have his work cut out for him if he wants to prove he should be the starter over Jimmy Garoppolo.

The widespread assumption is that the veteran Garoppolo will start for the 49ers this season while the first-round pick Lance learns from the sidelines. But 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan won't be approaching the situation from that perspective once training camp gets underway in late July, at least not initially.

Shanahan spoke about that and a number of other topics during a conversation with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic on the most recent episode of Kawakami's TK Show (click here to listen). When Shanahan was asked if a competition between Lance and Garoppolo could be in the cards later this summer, he didn't say no, but he also made it clear that it would be very difficult for Lance to beat out Garoppolo.

"I definitely see it as Jimmy's the starter," Shanahan told Kawakami. "But if Trey's ready to compete, I have no problem with it. I don't sit there and say, 'Hey, we're not playing a rookie quarterback. We have to rest him the first year.' I don't really make any decisions like that until I actually have an opinion on it. That'll take to how I see him in camp. If he comes in and he's playing at a high level and we think he gives us the best chance to win, we wouldn't hesitate to do that.

"But like I kind of said before this happened, it'd be really hard for any rookie quarterback. Jimmy is a very good player. He's not just coming in trying to beat out a guy who hasn't done it before. When Jimmy's played, he's played at a very high level."

Garoppolo obviously has a heavy edge over Lance in the experience department, but that's not the only thing working in his favor. He's also healthy, and it sounds like he looks as good as he ever has at this point of the year.

"I thought Jimmy's had as good of an OTAs as he's had since he's been here," Shanahan said. "He's very on point from a mental and physical standpoint. I know Trey's really going to have to be on it to come in and seriously push him."

There's also an extra element of competition pushing Garoppolo that he didn't have previously. Shanahan believes the addition of Lance has lit a spark under Garoppolo, and that it won't make things any easier for Lance in the preseason.

"You definitely would have to ask [Garoppolo] to [know] for sure, but just by his actions, I definitely think so," Shanahan said. "Jimmy came in in a great spot. You could tell the first day. He seemed fired up to be here. He seemed fresh, he seemed relaxed, and he seemed ready to go."

There will undoubtedly be plenty of eyes on the quarterback position when the 49ers reconvene in Santa Clara later this summer. Perhaps Garoppolo will separate himself from the pack right away, or perhaps Lance will put up a battle and make Shanahan's decision tougher than expected. Either way, the outlook at the quarterback position for the 49ers seems as promising as it's been in some time as the 2021 season approaches.

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