Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports


Are the 49ers really underwhelmed by QB Trey Lance?

Rohan Chakravarthi
May 9, 2022 at 11:30 AM--


Earlier this week, reports surfaced from FanSided reporter Matt Lombardo that the San Francisco 49ers have been "continually underwhelmed" by young quarterback Trey Lance as he approaches his second season in the NFL.

Lombardo further clarified that his tweet was based upon a conversation with an executive who's "pretty tight" with the 49ers, as well as members of the coaching staff last season.

Unfortunately, based on the words of multiple players on the team, as well as the coaching staff and front office, that unsubstantiated claim couldn't be further from the truth.

Here's a month-by-month breakdown of the comments surrounding Lance following the season, beginning with San Francisco's post-season press conferences in early February.

February


At the 49ers' post-season press conference on February 1st, there were countless members of the organization publicly raving about their future quarterback, looking forward towards the 2022 season.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan understood the rawness of Lance when the organization drafted him, given the lack of experience he had at the collegiate level, which meant the 49ers had to base their evaluations on the limited film they had, as well as the person they met.

"We knew we were very limited on the amount he got to play, especially missing the last year of COVID, Shanahan said on February 1st. "So you have to go off what you see on tape and believing in the person and we did. Having him here for a whole year, I feel stronger about [his abilities to be a starting quarterback]. He's got the ability to do it. He's got the mind to do it. And I think he's the type of person who can handle all the stuff that goes with it."

Shanahan doubled down, adding that he believed Lance was actually capable of starting last season at certain points, contrary to some beliefs, but the 49ers' winning streak in the second half of the season put that plan to rest.

"When we were 3-5, that was kind of the breaking point where I knew it was getting close. I know everyone else thought it was there, which I agreed it was getting close to there. But once we won that game and went to 4-5 and ended up winning four in a row, I thought we had a chance [to make the playoffs]."

General manager John Lynch spoke about Lance at the same press conference, sharing his belief that Lance's competitiveness showcased who the 49ers wanted with their draft selection and how excited the franchise is with Lance's future.

"You have to have a lot of substance to play quarterback in this league both physically and from just a who you are standpoint. And I think Trey checks both those boxes and what you know is the things that Kyle and his staff have identified for Trey on things to work with. This guy's focus, his work ethic," Lynch said. "When he had an opportunity to go play, I saw that competitive greatness that you look for in people who are going to lead your organization. And so even though we saw it, however brief it was, I saw it. And so it gives me a lot of belief that it's there and that he's exactly who we thought he was when we picked him. And we're really excited about that."

The coaching staff and front office members weren't the only people sharing their effusive praise for Lance; fullback Kyle Juszczyk believes that Lance will be ready to lead the 49ers next season based on what he's seen from the young quarterback.

"I've seen what kind of work ethic he has, I've seen what kind of drive he has, what type of person he is," Juszczyk said on February 1st. I know he's one that's going to dedicate everything to preparing himself and getting ready and being ready to lead this team if that's what he's asked to do this next season. I think he's definitely going to be the type of guy that's going to step up to the plate and be ready to do that."

Star left tackle Trent Williams went even further, calling Lance a generational talent as he signed off for the season at the post-season press conference on February 1st.

"I have no doubt in my mind that he is a generational talent, and now it's just putting that talent with the work ethic and making it come together on Sundays."

Lance himself expressed confidence in himself, sharing in February that he's excited for the opportunity, as well as how the last year fared for his development.

"I'm going to be ready to go Week 1, without a doubt," Lance said. "I'm super excited for the opportunity. I feel like I learned a lot. I'll continue to learn. But yeah, excited to get it going again."

Prior to the Super Bowl, wide receiver Deebo Samuel shared his belief that Lance would be a superstar in the league, once again disproving the idea that the organization has been underwhelmed by Lance in the short sample size.

"With time, Trey is going to become the player that everybody thinks he can be. In my opinion, I think Trey will be a superstar in this league."

Exactly a week later, FOX Sports' Jay Glazer told NBC Sports' Matt Maiocco about what he heard regarding the 49ers and Trey Lance, which, once again, was only signs of positivity for the future.

"I've heard great stuff about him, honestly," Glazer told Maiocco as part of an interview for the 49ers Talk podcast. "I've heard they love him. They're enamored with him. He does some things in practice that make you go, 'Oh my goodness.'

Glazer further commented on Shanahan's stance about potentially starting Lance midseason, adding that the team was tempted to start Lance during their early-season slide.

"I think halfway through the season, they were almost tempted to go with him. Then Jimmy just started playing better and better and better and better and better. I think they lucked out by him getting hurt, so they couldn't force him in earlier."

March


During one of his regular Instagram Live sessions, safety Jimmie Ward was asked about quarterback Trey Lance and shared his confidence in the now-22-year-old's ability to throw.

"We still got to see him play," Ward said on March 14th. "We've seen him play two games. I'm watching him how you're watching him right now, but I feel like Trey Lance is a baller. He can throw."

Ward's been known to share his realistic truth, as evidenced by his description of 49ers Executive Vice President Paraag Marathe's negotiating tactics, so his praise of Lance, especially as a defensive player, is important to note.

At the NFL's annual league meeting in late March, Shanahan dove into why the 49ers looked to trade incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

"We looked into trading Jimmy, because we obviously believe Trey can be a starter, and we're ready to do that," Shanahan responded on March 29th. "But if we can't upgrade our team in another way, we're not going to just get rid of a good quarterback because we have other quarterbacks on the roster. Quarterbacks are really hard to come by. Some teams don't have any at all. And the fact that we have three that we're happy with, that is a good thing."(March 29)

Shanahan added that the 49ers "brought Trey to be [the starter] eventually, and I think that will be sooner than later."

April


Jimmie Ward continued his praise of Lance on another Instagram Live in mid-April, speaking as to why it's extremely frustrating to play against the second-year quarterback.

"Trey will piss you off at practice, man," Ward said via Instagram Live on April 13th. "The only reason Trey piss you off at practice, obviously, because he'll probably complete a pass, and then he'll look at you. And that pisses DBs off." (h/t TheSFNiners)

Ward continued on Instagram Live, stating Lance's ability to extend plays and move out of the pocket as an added factor in his arsenal.

"But he'll piss you off because he'll move out the pocket and throw the ball. And in our head, we be thinking it's time on the clock, so if he throws the ball and it's a scramble route—we've been covering probably for six or seven, eight seconds, and then somebody will catch the ball."

In his pre-draft press conference, general manager John Lynch refuted reports indicating that the 49ers aren't high on Lance, instead sharing that the organization believes he's ready to be the starter for the franchise.

"All these reports, I don't know where they come from," Lynch said on April 25th. "But we always believe in competition. I think, though, at the same time, we are great believers in what Trey Lance brings to the table. We believe he's ready. He's going to have to show that. And I think he's ready to show that to us, show that to his teammates, show that to the world. So we're excited for that opportunity that he has."

Tight end George Kittle added praise for his young quarterback, admitting that Lance has an insane ceiling, while adding how important it is for him to get real game experience on the I Am Athlete podcast.

"Trey has an insane ceiling," Kittle said on April 25th. "He just needs some reps here and there; throw the ball a little bit more. You can't really get better without playing games. ... Just playing, going against competition, getting hit and getting back up, dealing with adversity, how you deal with it. Because [some] guys that come in the league that win their entire life, and they get hit in the face a couple of times, it's different. It's just a learning process."

Kittle went as far to compare Lance to Buffalo Bills superstar Josh Allen, given the similarities surrounding their ability to make plays on the ground and with his arm.

"Josh Allen is an established quarterback," Kittle shared. "Trey has to prove that. He has to do it on the football field. But I think he can move the chains with his feet. He's a big body. He can take hits. He wants to make plays. He's got a cannon of an arm. It's crazy. He can roll out to the right on the sideline and throw it diagonally, like 50 yards on a line. There's not a lot of people that can do that stuff."

While Kittle has been a fan of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and doesn't have a perceived favorite between the two San Francisco quarterbacks, the star tight end cannot wait to catch passes from a player of Lance's caliber.

"I think Trey's got one of the highest ceilings I've ever seen before. Some of the things you see him do on the football field, you're like, 'Holy cow. I can't wait until he throws me passes.'

May


Following the draft, general manager John Lynch re-affirmed Kyle Shanahan's comments on Jimmy Garoppolo's trade market, admitting that the shoulder surgery derailed the conversations they were having with other teams, which is why the 30-year-old signal-caller is still currently on the roster.

"I felt like we were close in some [trade] discussions, and then the decision was made to have surgery. That just brought things to a screeching halt," Lynch said on May 2nd. "People just don't do that, even with a likelihood that everything is going to be good. We continue to get calls about Jimmy, and we, as a group, got together and said he's too good of a player. He's got a lot of great tape out there. You don't just let guys like that walk out the door... But I think we all know that Trey's going to get the opportunity to go out there and play. He's got to earn that, but we believe he's in the process of doing that."

However, Lynch understands the magnitude of the trade-up for Lance last offseason and said that the team will give him the opportunity to do what Kyle Shanahan requires at the position during the upcoming offseason program.

"I can tell you this: We're so excited about Trey and his development. We gave up a lot. We certainly did," Lynch said. "Trey was out there today, and it was the first day coaches could be out on the field. It's just really exciting to see the young man continue to grow. Now he's got to go do it on the field. He's got to go through those reps. There will be some learning lessons along the way, but he's immensely talented, he has a tremendous amount of mental horsepower, he can handle a lot of information. You have to be able to do that to play for Kyle, and we'll ask a lot of him. But he's up to that task."

Over the past three months, there's been nothing but enthusiastic praise surrounding Trey Lance's mental makeup, ability to make plays and overall potential as he heads into an offseason where he will take a majority, if not all, of the first-team reps during the early part of the offseason program. While he may underwhelm, there currently doesn't appear to be a notion that Lance has been "continually underwhelming" to date.

The 49ers are hosting their rookie minicamp from May 13th-15th before starting organized team activities (OTAs) on May 19th, where Lance and the team can begin non-contact football drills.
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.
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