Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

McDaniel: 49ers playbook doesn’t change between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance

Oct 7, 2021 at 5:14 PM--

There may be a misconception that a section of the San Francisco 49ers playbook is labeled "Trey Lance-only plays." That there are play designs only for the team's athletic rookie quarterback.

The reality is that the offense does not change when Lance comes in for starter Jimmy Garoppolo. It's the same plays, and both quarterbacks can execute them. However, there is no doubt that Lance brings a unique challenge for opposing defenses thanks to his different skill set.

If a play breaks down, Lance has more options than Garoppolo. No, Garoppolo isn't a statue. He has been known to pick up a first down or two with his legs. But Lance is a different kind of athlete. So, while there isn't a "Garoppolo plays" section that is thrown out the window when Lance jumps into the game, the rookie's abilities can certainly change things.

Today, offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel spoke with reporters after practice. With Garoppolo ailing and Lance potentially on track for his first NFL start, the coach was asked if more Lance-specific plays were installed into this week's game plan. There was some fan concern surrounding the preparation for this weekend's NFC West showdown with the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. How can you create a game plan when you don't know which of your two very different quarterbacks will play?

It was a perfect opportunity to dispel the misconception.

"That's what you try to do in the offseason, is build an offensive system that flourishes everyone," McDaniel explained. "Then you have specific things that are tailored to people's skillsets. But for instance, Trey Lance's touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel, that was a play that Jimmy repped all week. So, there's a lot of overlap and all that stuff.

"... And you guys have seen some plays, defenses, and the way the game flows dictates how many we've run. But we have a lot of stuff up every week that hasn't been run. So it hasn't been that different, which is why when Jimmy Garoppolo goes out, and Trey Lance goes in, the rest of our players, whether the plays work or not, the rest of our players are decisive, and you can tell it's cohesive. It's because it is one system, so it's not too crazy abnormal."

If all of that work took place in the offseason, how much of a challenge was it designing a playbook that two very different quarterbacks could use?

"The toughest part was in the offseason, trying to make sure that our system highlighted both players, but also allowed the rest of our players to know what to do," McDaniel said. "You can't put in too much offense or two different offenses. Otherwise, you wouldn't be good at anything, and your players would be spread thin. So that was the toughest part systematically.

"We've gotten used to it where now we go into a game, and we have certain plays for Trey every week, but Trey is trying to master the art of quarterback. So, he's working at every single play that you see Jimmy run on Sundays. Those are plays that he's running in his mind and working with [quarterbacks coach] Rich Scangarello every day between periods and after practice. So, it's really not as challenging. It was challenging, but not nearly as much as it was in the offseason."

It has been an up-and-down season for rookie quarterbacks across the NFL so far. Development-wise, how does Lance compare to some of the others from his draft class?

"I feel like he's in the boat with a lot of rookies in terms of you're looking at him, and you're like, 'This isn't the end result,'" McDaniel shared. "I think every day he shows us that he's wise beyond his years, much more mature than I was at his age. I can tell you that much. Very, very smart.

"As far as expectations, we expected him to be a rookie who threw 300 and some odd passes in college. But you know what, in an NFL football game this season, he's had more two-minute reps than he's had his entire college career. ... Just knowing that on the front end, you know there's going to be a lot of things to grow on. And he knows that as well, which is why when bad things happen, he doesn't blink.

"He had an incompletion on a four-yard throw and then throws a 76-yard touchdown pass. You know that there's going to be some hiccups along the road. You accept that. But you just try to do the best you can and continue to improve. That's the biggest thing. You just don't want to regress. You want to find a thing, improve on it, fix it, go to the next thing. And he's hungry enough to keep doing that, which is why we're pumped to have him."

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