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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Could Trey Lance start the rest of the season for the 49ers?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Dec 27, 2021 at 4:00 PM--

After San Francisco's disappointing loss to the Tennessee Titans last week hindered their playoff hopes from a sure-lock to a now-hopeful lock, even more bad news came Monday, as the Athletic's Matt Barrows reported that starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw two interceptions and a numerous bad passes that cost the 49ers on Thursday, was NOT at practice Monday.

Kyle Shanahan later confirmed that the veteran was held out due to a thumb injury, and that the team would re-evaluate Garoppolo on Wednesday, putting his status for San Francisco's must-win against the Houston Texans in jeopardy. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance, who's worked behind the shadows as the team's scout quarterback, took all the first-team reps in place of Garoppolo Monday.

NFL Network's Ian Rapaport added to the report, giving out details that Garoppolo actually sustained a torn ligament in his thumb, putting his status for Sunday's game as doubtful, although he'll try to "gut it out".

Throughout the season, San Francisco has maintained their stance that Jimmy Garoppolo is their starter when healthy, and following the strong second half propelling the 49ers back into the playoff race and perhaps even more, there hasn't been much discussion of a quarterback change.

But, there's one caveat with that statement: "when healthy". After suffering a calf strain earlier this year against the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers, out of caution, started Trey Lance in Week 5 against the Arizona Cardinals, and may have done so again in Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts had the rookie not suffered a knee sprain, as Garoppolo himself noted he still wasn't 100% ahead of the Indianapolis game.

Lance was fairly impressive in his first NFL start, going up against a tough defense and the then-NFL best Arizona Cardinals, putting up a fighting effort, throwing for 192 yards, while adding another 89 on the ground.

While I do believe the 49ers turn to Garoppolo should he heal up in time for Sunday's must-win game, Trey Lance has a chance to take the starting reins and hold onto them, given where San Francisco is in the season.

Think that's absolutely out of the question? Look no further than last year. The Los Angeles Rams had an ailing Jared Goff, who suffered a thumb injury prior to the Rams Week 17 game last season, prompting Sean McVay to start John Wolford in his place.

After a strong start from Wolford, McVay rode the hot, prepared, and healthy hand in Wolford for the playoffs, starting him over Goff against the Seattle Seahawks in the wild-card round. And while Wolford suffered a neck injury, knocking him out of the playoffs, it indicated how important it is to have continuity at the end of a season.

Going back to the 49ers, with Garoppolo having suffered a torn ligament, it's increasingly unlikely he suits up Sunday at 100%, and after last week's performance, it's certain he needs to be at 100% in order to help, and not further hinder, this football team.

With Trey Lance potentially starting in the must-win Texans game, could the 49ers ride the continuity towards the end of the season if Lance has a strong performance? I think it's 100% a possibility.

Lance has been putting up strong performances recently as the team's scout quarterback, per Fred Warner, who, earlier this month said that Lance has been dicing up the talented 49er defense in practice.

"Trey has got a bright future ahead, right? We see it every day in practice on our side because he's out there dicing us up. But Jimmy is our leader. He's our quarterback. We've rolled behind him the entire way. To see him playing at a high level like he is right now, we're going to need it."

In addition, John Lynch has continuously said that, despite San Francisco's quarterback plans this season, he's had no doubts about trading up to draft Lance, showering him with tons of praise as the 49ers scout QB this season.

"And the great news there is that we're as excited about him as ever. He's been doing tremendous things. You talk about development; I've watched him, and yeah, the best kind of development is going and playing, but you can also get better out here on the practice field.

"He runs [the] scout team, and he's doing it extremely well. He's preparing each week as if he's going to play. I've really respected that part, but that's kind of who he is.

Lynch believes that Lance's time on the scout team will eventually pay off, and it certainly could show this weekend against the weak Texans defense.

"He's always been good on [the] scout team, but it's just a step above," Lynch said. "Kind of making throws that are 'Wow' throws but also making the routine [plays], executing that, hitting a guy on the right shoulder so that he can turn away from a defender coming, making quick decisions. And you're doing that off a card."

The Athletic's David Lombardi reported Kyle Shanahan's beliefs that Trey Lance has actually played his best football over the past month, via conference call following Monday's practice, which is a good look for San Francisco, as Lance hasn't played meaningful snaps since his start in Week 5.

If all the talk around Lance is true and he puts on a consistent performance on Sunday, the 49ers could ride with the hot hand into the Week 18, and further if applicable, using Garoppolo as a strong backup, especially since he likely won't be 100% with the torn ligament in his thumb.

It's been seen before. Why can't it happen again?
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • Alexander Reoutt
    I Hope if he plays which seem like is the scenario That he HAS Looked good in practice, and he can carry it into the Game.... he could have a HUGE Game against the Texans
    Dec 28, 2021 at 6:44 AM

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