Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Five Reasons to Trust Trey Lance as 49ers’ Quarterback

Jun 25, 2022 at 11:05 AM--

With the debate raging in the media and fandom about whether Trey Lance will start this year, an important fact has been lost by some. The team says Lance will start.

That begs several questions.

What kind of quarterback is Trey Lance? What can fans expect from this fledgling play-caller? Can Lance buck the "Shanahan Curse" and win without changing his first name to "Jimmy?"

These are fair questions (Well, maybe the last one is a bit facetious.). With all this in mind, here are five reasons to trust Trey Lance as the 49ers' starting quarterback this season:

He has displayed incredible athletic potential.

Trey Lance's college tape litters the internet. It isn't unusual to discover hours of footage covering all the plays Lance made while under center for North Dakota State. What really pops off that tape, however, is how athletic he is.

Having a bigger frame means Lance won't scramble as a first option. He won't rack up yards as a number one rusher. He's a pass-first quarterback which really shows up when looking at his execution on dedicated passing plays. However, Lance's ability to scramble and make people miss while piloting North Dakota State to a championship can't be denied. The man can motor.

The pros are a different situation altogether.

Some haven't seen Lance's athletic potential translating well to the NFL. Making a move and running away from college-level linebackers and leveling smaller defensive backs is one thing. Escaping from more-than-capable players in the pros presents a whole new level of difficulty.

It didn't take long for Lance to decry those claims with his feet. He racked up 168 yards on 38 carries during the season. That stat may not pop off the page, but it's fair to point out that, on some of those carries, Lance functioned more as a running back than he did as a quarterback. When taking that into account, Lance's running stats don't look too shabby.

The point is Trey Lance has demonstrated athleticism at every level, and he will only improve with more reps.

He has excelled in limited action.

2021 Season

With all the hullabaloo about Lance's small sample size, what can't be denied is how well he did in the few games he did play in. Although his statistics may not elicit a love-at-first-sight reaction from some, game tape tells a different story.

It is true. He struggled at the beginning. He frequently failed to survey the entire field, sometimes neglecting to even bother looking to his right. However, as he received more reps, he improved, seeing plays all over the field.

He peaked exactly when the 49ers needed him to, during a must-win game against the Texans, near the end of a season that looked all but lost. The 49ers squeezed into the playoffs in 2021 partly because Trey Lance displayed the intestinal fortitude of a winner in that game.

His victory over the Texans not only showed he could compete but also provided a peek into the potential he brings to the 49ers. He looked rusty at first. That's to be expected since he hadn't played since his first start in week five against the Arizona Cardinals. However, in the second half, he hit his stride, throwing for two touchdowns with one (unfortunate) pick and 249 yards passing, adding 31 yards rushing on the day. In that second half, Trey gave everyone a taste of a delicious future for the 49ers.

2022 Practices

The question remained which Trey Lance would show up to 2022 practices. Although his start against the Texans looked promising, his first start against the Cardinals in week five led some to believe that he may struggle in the NFL.

Which Lance showed up to 2022 practices? According to many who attended open sessions, neither showed up. Lance appeared new and improved. He sported the swagger of a team leader, not the timidity he displayed during the 2021 season. His passes zipped past defenders. His decisions displayed confidence. Trey Lance showed up as a whole new quarterback.

The point is that Lance has proven in limited action that he has the acumen to compete at the pro level.

He has shown maturity beyond his years.

Maturity is an intangible asset. Either a player has it or not. Many a promising, young passer has fizzled, not because he lacked athletic ability, but because he just wasn't ready to shoulder the burden of an NFL franchise quarterback.

Trey Lance has demonstrated he has that intangible asset at his disposal.

During the offseason, he gathered several 49ers receivers and held practices with them. The effects of that can't be understated. Lance not only increased game-time chemistry, but he also created a rapport with them, building trust that won't show up numerically on the stats sheet. It could, however, show up statistically in the win/loss column.

Not only this, but Lance has shown wisdom beyond his years in dealing with the media. His quiet but firm demeanor shows up every time he stands in front of the press. He doesn't offend, but he also speaks his mind.

What's important is that Trey Lance has shown he has the maturity to be an NFL quarterback.

He has modeled the right work ethic.

Looking back at Trey Lance's work with his wide receivers during the offseason reveals an important fact. No one told him he had to do that. Not every quarterback in the NFL takes that kind of initiative. What drove Lance to put in extra time with his receivers?

The answer is simple. Lance works hard. He knows what to do and he does it without asking. That kind of humble attitude shows up on the practice field and on game day.

What demonstrates his work ethic in an even more dramatic fashion is the extra work he put in after OTAs had closed. He stuck around to sweat out a few optional practices. Once again, this wasn't something he had to do. He displayed a great deal of professionalism and grit with that decision. That isn't something easily lost on the rest of his team. That kind of infectious commitment spreads quickly.

Once more, Lance has proven he harbors an NFL work ethic in his 6'4" NFL frame.

He has proven he can improve.

This may sound like a weak argument with so few games started, but it does show Lance's potential to some degree. Many claim he looked strong in only one of two starts. True. Some have also claimed he has too few starts to really gauge how good he is. Fair enough.

There really is more to the story than this.

To understand what happened with Lance last year, even with such a small sample size, one need go no further than to examine Kyle Shanahan's record with and without Jimmy Garoppolo. That's right. That Jimmy Garoppolo.

Shanahan wins with Garoppolo. That can't be denied. His regular-season record with Jimmy G starting is 31-14. That same record starting all other quarterbacks not named Jimmy? He's 8-28.

This may not seem like much, but out of that mess of a record with all other quarterbacks, Lance stands at 1-1 as a starter. Considering how much Shanahan has struggled squeezing out wins with other quarterbacks, emphasis on Lance winning one out of two starts can't be understated.

Not convinced? Consider this. Lance looked good following Garoppolo's early exit from a week four contest against the Seahawks. After a shaky first start against a stout Cardinals defense, he improved drastically against the Texans, something other "non-Jimmy-G" quarterbacks have struggled to do under Shanahan. That's an accomplishment under Shanahan. Improvement.

The fact is Lance has shown he isn't simply another quarterback in the Shanahan system. He's proven he can win and improve in Shanahan's system.


None of this implies that Trey Lance projects as the next Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes. It simply means that he has shown the potential of a winning quarterback.

Winning is what makes coaches and fans trust their quarterback.
  • Written by:
    Bill has written for a wide variety of online publications, ranging in topics from academics and education to life management and public speaking. He has also written for regional publications. However, one burning passion drives him more than most others: his obsessive loyalty to the 49ers franchise. Practically born into it, he bleeds red and gold. He also enjoys public speaking and talking about himself in the third person.
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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