Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan: Trey Lance is ‘the future’ for 49ers but don’t expect rookie’s role to change

Oct 26, 2021 at 9:11 AM--

We know, eventually, Trey Lance will be the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He has to be. The team gave up too much to trade up and grab him with the No. 3 overall pick. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's future is dependent on Lance developing into a playmaker.

That development, however, does not appear to include starting as a rookie.

"We know Trey is the future here, and we're trying to do what's best for him and for our team," Shanahan said on Monday. "And Trey's coming off a pretty big injury, and we're going to keep bringing him along and keep getting him prepared as good as he can be to always be ready to come in and help on the plays that we ask him to do. Always be ready to take over if Jimmy gets hurt and being ready to be the future for us too."

Veteran Jimmy Garoppolo will start on Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Lance is returning from a knee sprain that left him inactive this past weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers expect the rookie to practice this week but don't expect him to be full-go in those three sessions, the first of which is on Wednesday. If things go well, Lance could be suited up on the Chicago sideline this weekend. If his knee looks really good, he may even get thrown into the game for a few plays.

"Coming back from the injury, they tell me he's on pace to be able to come out to practice on Wednesday," Shanahan said. "He might be a little limited at it, though, but that's what we're hoping for. But in terms of deciding who's going at quarterback, that has to do with Jimmy's health. Jimmy, I wanted to see how his calf was. It was good today, and so he'll be starting.

"Hopefully, Trey will get back in practice and have a good enough week to where he can dress. If Trey ends up dressing, then there's always a good chance that he'll end up getting some plays in there."

Anyone who questions how the 49ers are developing their young and inexperienced quarterback probably doesn't like that Lance's practice reps have been limited to the scout team. The scout team is responsible for mimicking an opponent's offense, giving the starters a good look at what to expect for an upcoming game. That's right; Lance isn't getting many (if any) reps in the offense he will one day be asked to take over.

Shanahan, however, sees the scout-team reps as an opportunity for his young quarterback.

"I think the best thing for Trey, since the season started, has been scout team, though," Shanahan said in September. "Then he can go out there and not have to think as much. Just kind of use his fundamentals but look at a card, see his routes and really try to play in that pocket. And when that pocket breaks down, explode out of there and try to make an off-schedule play. And just kind of having the freedom to do that each day."

Added Shanahan: "He's always got a chance to play each week. Normally, a backup quarterback only has a chance with injury, but we know if there is an injury, he'll be in there for a while."

There is no competition between Garoppolo and Lance right now. Therefore, Shanahan doesn't see a reason to take away valuable reps from his starting quarterback when he feels Lance can develop in other ways.

"Trey hasn't practiced in two weeks since his knee injury," Shanahan said on Monday. "So, when he does come back, which is hopefully Wednesday, he's probably going to be limited as it is. So, I haven't decided [on the rep count] yet.

"I got to see where he is, but odds are when it comes to the game plan, and what we're doing, you're not going to just start rotating quarterbacks because it's not an open competition right now."

When might it be time for Lance's workload to increase? Shanahan said there is no reason — other than injuries — to alter the depth chart as long as the 49ers are still in playoff contention. At 2-4, San Francisco still has a chance to turn things around. However, the team has lost four consecutive games, and Sunday's 30-18 loss to the Colts may be a new low for the Shanahan era.

"I get all the questions, but it's way too early for me to start thinking about just getting guys experience and giving up on the year in that way," Shanahan explained. "I'm trying to do what's best for our team, and also what's best for those players, not just Trey, but other guys. Getting experience just to get it isn't always beneficial."

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