Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Garafolo says 49ers can win NFC West in 2021 with Trey Lance, who is more mentally ready than people think

Jun 28, 2021 at 11:54 AM--

Can the 49ers still win the NFC West in 2021 if they bench Jimmy Garoppolo at some point in favor of first-round draft pick Trey Lance?

NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo thinks they can, and he also feels Lance is more ready to play than those on the outside realize. He adds that it would only be a matter of time before the 49ers bench Garoppolo if Lance is performing well enough in practice.

Garafolo spoke about Lance and the 49ers during a roundtable discussion about which team will come out on top this season in the NFC West on Monday morning's episode of the NFL Network's Good Morning Football. Garafolo said the 49ers were his choice to win the division as long as they stay healthy, then started to discuss what he's hearing about Lance.

"I still like the 49ers, sans that injury karma. And here's the interesting part to me -- I think the 49ers could make the playoffs and win the division and still have a quarterback change in the middle of the season," Garafolo said. "I truly believe that. Now that's not a knock on Jimmy G. It's just that Trey Lance from what I gather has already shown up there and proven that he is mentally at this stage of the game a lot more than maybe people thought. And I feel bad for Jimmy, but there's nothing Jimmy can do to stave that off."

Given Garoppolo's experience edge to go with the fact Lance played at a lower level of competition in college at North Dakota State while only seeing action in one game in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, it seems from the outside looking in like it would be tough for Lance to unseat Garoppolo, at least in the early going. But Garafolo hinted earlier this month that Lance may be ready sooner rather than later, then clearly doubled down on that viewpoint Monday morning.

"If Trey Lance is lighting it up in the preseason and he's showing them day in and day out, maybe in practice and whatnot, they're going to make the change. And they're going to go to him when he's ready, no matter what Jimmy does."

Garafolo's comments can be seen in the video below at around the 2:10 mark.

Garafolo was the only GMFB participant to pick the 49ers in the NFC West this season. Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew picked the Rams, saying, "I think the Rams have done everything that they needed to do to put themselves in contention, not only to win the NFC West but to be Super Bowl contenders."

Meanwhile, GMFB co-host Kyle Brandt picked the Seahawks, seemingly almost by default.

"(Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford's) never done it," Brandt said. You look at the Niners, they're so confident in Garoppolo they just drafted his replacement from right out under him. And the Seahawks seem to be proverbially and eternally pretty good. So if I had to pick anybody, I would probably pick the Seahawks still because they have the best quarterback, but it's tight."

Lance leading the 49ers to an NFC West title would be a remarkable story, and if it happened in the middle of the season, it would be somewhat reminiscent of when Colin Kaepernick came off the bench in 2012 to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl in his second year in the NFL. Lance will have his work cut out for him in order to become the starter, but don't rule it out.

"I definitely see it as Jimmy's the starter," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said during an interview on The TK Show with Tim Kawakami earlier this month. "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."

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