Trey Lance ended his lackluster preseason with a 17-0 loss to the Houston Texans. Lance went 7-for-11 for 49 yards but didn’t look entirely comfortable in the pocket — missed a couple of open passes and failed to lead a score.
Lance’s performance this season over the past three weeks hasn’t been terrible, but it’s also been extremely unconvincing. Especially considering the 49ers also have Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster, who led the team to the NFC championship a year ago. We’re stuck in a strange dilemma as to what San Francisco’s priority this season should be: winning football games and competing, or preparing for the future.
What did Trey Lance do this preseason?
Lance is a very accurate quarterback, making no mistakes in his two games. He went 11-of-16 for 141 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. That represents a passer rating of 116.9, which should be exciting — but that’s why we judge performance by play, not points.
The truth is, Lance didn’t have an impactful 76-yard touchdown on Danny Gray in the first preseason game Contest. It’s a little concerning when 54% of your passing yards are done in one game and the rest of your reps are unremarkable.
At its core, the question is why the 49ers decided they needed to trade and draft Lance with the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Teams are looking for more organization and energy in this position, which we haven’t seen so far. The most primitive metric for a quarterback organization is YPA (Yards Per Attempt). It’s simply a measure of the amount of offense a passer generates per return pass and is usually a good indicator of how good a quarterback is. Anything over 7.0 is fine, with an 8.0 or higher indicating an elite season.
In the preseason, Lance had an 8.8 total YPA, which was top-notch — but without that 76-yard pass, the YPA plummeted to 4.33 poor level. By comparison, Zach Wilson has a 4.35 YPA in his worst game in 2021, one of the worst rookie seasons for a passer in recent memory.
It would be unfair to remove touchdowns entirely from the equation, but it underscores the very inconsistent nature of Lance’s game. He didn’t move the chain, he didn’t put the 49ers in scoring position, and for now, it’s impossible to see him as an upgrade from Jimmy G.
What is the status of Jimmy Garoppolo?
It’s been a very strange few months for Jimmy Garoppolo. While the 49ers quarterback was highly criticized after finishing the playoffs with a 72.7 passing score, he remained largely silent, letting the conversation swirled around him.
Despite rumors surrounding the draft that teams would try to trade Jimmy G, those trades never materialized. While other quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield and Matt Ryan have found new homes, it seems that the 49ers QB was always destined to serve as a backup for Lance. For now, Garoppolo remains on the 49ers’ roster and has a lock on the 53-man roster.
The question is: is it time to pull the strings and rename Jimmy G as the starter?
Should the 49ers change their quarterback?
It really depends on the goals of the team and why the whole situation becomes so difficult. Ideally, Garoppolo could lead the team to success in 2021, and in his year, Lance could take over in 2022 — maintaining the team’s winning streak.
It looks like the team won’t reach those heights. Instead, management is now faced with a situation where they need to choose between winning now and competing for the Super Bowl, or finishing the year and making sure Lance has time to develop. There’s no doubt that the young quarterback has shown enough flashes to suggest a starter-level play, but to match Garoppolo’s production, those flashes need to come on a regular basis.
It’s fair to say that the 49ers offensive line has been a mess so far. The retirement of center Alex Mack, combined with the loss of Laken Tomlinson in free agency, has resulted in the team rotating several OL young players. But regardless of their personnel switches, the unit is still playing revolving-door football, letting intruders pass like a subway at rush hour. It’s unclear if Garoppolo can succeed behind the same lines as the build, though it’s safe to say he’s more experienced than Lance in dealing with NFL pressure.
Despite the frustration, another quarterback now would be a huge mistake. San Francisco kicks off 2022 with games against the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks, with their first real test coming in Week 3 against the Broncos. A gradual transition to the season would give the 49ers two weeks to see Lance, then they can make changes if things look bad. Still, in the long run, the goal should be continued success — the best thing to do is to build Lance’s confidence as a passer and force him to play without the looming threat of unemployment. The tool is there; he just needs to put it together.
The reality is that the 49ers may not be able to live up to the lofty expectations fans have for their return to the main force in the NFC Make the playoffs, but that’s the best thing to do in the long run. This is a can
team to win the Super Bowl, but not until Trey Lance is ready — he’s not ready.