The 49ers originally held the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Just over a month before the draft, they packed several picks together and rose to No. 3 overall. That indicated to everyone that they would take a quarterback.
The question what, which? Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were expected to be off the board, so it would be a pick between Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones for San Francisco.
The 49ers never shook hands. On draft day, they selected Lance and chose the North Dakota state product as their quarterback of the future. With that said, there were questions about whether Lance, who started just a full season at the FCS level, would be ready to be the center of attention right away.
That has created one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the NFL between Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. While Lance has more advantages, Garoppolo helped lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl the last time he was fully healthy in 2019.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has yet to name a starter, but told reporters on Wednesday that his decision was close to being made.
“I have a pretty good idea,” Shanahan said, via ESPN. “But as you can see with everything, I don’t know our schedule in a couple of days. So I’ve always had a pretty good idea. But there are many days between now and then, in every position.”
Who is winning the 49ers quarterback battle? Here’s what Shanahan has said about Garoppolo and Lance during the ongoing San Francisco quarterback battle.
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What Kyle Shanahan Said About Jimmy Garoppolo
Shanahan’s first comments about Garoppolo after selecting Lance must have worried the quarterback. Shanahan would not guarantee that Garoppolo would be a 49er at his post-draft press conference. In fact, it would not guarantee that the world would survive through the weekend.
“I can’t guarantee that no one in the world will be alive on Sunday, so I can’t guarantee who will be on our list on Sunday,” Shanahan said, according to Professional football talk.
Shanahan explained that actually apologized to Garoppolo immediately after that comment; I was just playing with a member of the media who asked about the potential for a trade.
Since then, Shanahan has insisted that Garoppolo will start the team. At the beginning of training camp, he made it clear.
“There is no open competition at the moment in terms of getting equal reps with the same group,” Shanahan said at the end of July. “Jimmy walks in like him [No.] 1 and Trey comes in as 2. “
Shanahan elaborated on that point, saying that when Garoppolo is healthy, it would be difficult for any rookie to beat him for work.
“Jimmy is a very good player,” Shanahan said. “And when Jimmy is at the top of his game, I said this to him when we made the trade: ‘There’s no rookie who will come here right away and take your job if you’re on top of your game. ‘”
That said, the competition has opened up a bit in the preseason as Lance has shone. That’s part of the reason Shanahan hasn’t officially announced a headline yet. He wants his quarterbacks to earn the job.
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What Kyle Shanahan Said About Trey Lance
The 49ers’ decision to take Lance was not necessarily a surprise. However, the 49ers had been linked to Mac Jones frequently during the draft process, so there weren’t many mock drafts that Lance had written as the No. 3 pick.
Shanahan confirmed that the 49ers knew they wanted Lance throughout the process, and explained why during an interview with NBC Sports’ Peter King.
His natural ability to play the quarterback position, just in terms of how he plays in the pocket, how he can go through progressions, how, when no one is open, that he gives him a chance, that he recognizes it. And how quickly he reacts to turning it into an after-hours play. He plays the tape like he’s a smart, well-balanced person who’s been playing position for a while.
Then you look at the other attributes and think “Oh, I haven’t even reached the skill set for running.” I haven’t gotten to the bright side of how much better you can improve the more you play. That’s what made me like him so much right away.
At the beginning of the offseason, Shanahan did not commit to Lance’s future, as he was to Garoppolo. However, Lance’s future revolved around when, or if, he would start in 2021; it was obviously not a potential trade token.
But still, Shanahan wanted to wait until he saw Lance play before determining whether he would consider starting it in 2021.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that I will never play a rookie quarterback, and I’m not going to sit here and say that I will face him.” Shanahan said on “The Rich Iron Show” beginnings of May. “That’s up to him. When he’s ready to compete, which doesn’t mean he tells me, it doesn’t mean I tell him. We’ll all see it, and I think it will start with me, but it will go to the coaches, it will go to the players. Guys know when a man is ready to compete with the incumbent. “
After seeing Lance for the first time on the OTAs, Shanahan thought it would take a long time before fighting for the starting job. Then Lance showed up on training ground and played really well.
“I can say [Lance] he put himself in position to play this year with what he did in the 40 days away, ”Shanahan said in early August. Albert Breer of the MMQB. “You get a guy for the OTAs, they come after rookie camp, and the OTAs weren’t like the old OTAs, we didn’t do 10 practices, we didn’t do the minicamp, the reps we had were cut in half because of everything that was happening, and he was just trying to take it all in. He looked like a rookie quarterback. You could see the talent. Then they run away for 40 days and you wonder how he would use that.
“Was it overwhelming him? Did you go over the right things? We didn’t see him at all, but I know he was working hard. And you walk in and you want to see how efficient it was and how it was working. And the sharpness in him when picking things up compared to OTAs, he was like, Okay, this guy can take it all in, he can learn. And now, every day, we keep adding more things, and we are doing it for the whole team, but he handles it much better than the OTAs. “
While Shanahan has been happy with Lance’s growth, he still acknowledged that Garoppolo was the likely starter, unless Lance blew him away in the preseason.
“I think it will be difficult for [Lance] to win the job, just in terms of two different styles of quarterbacks, and maybe a slightly different style of offense for both of them, ”says Shanahan. “I would be very surprised if he did it with the way Jimmy is playing. It would be hard for a child to do that. He is doing all he can. I am very impressed with him so far, but I would be very surprised if that happens. “
Still, Lance has tried to do his best and gain ground from Garoppolo during the preseason.
MORE: Where to find the 49ers QB battle after two preseason games
Who started the 49ers preseason opener?
Garoppolo, unsurprisingly, started the 49ers’ first preseason game. He played just one series for the 49ers and was solid, completing all three of his passing attempts for 26 yards. That said, 11 of his yards were on a screen pass and the 49ers didn’t score on his drive.
Meanwhile, Lance had some trouble, but had the most explosive play of the night. On the first play of his second drive, he threw a ball downfield that Trent Sherfield caught for an 80-yard touchdown.
The pass was perfectly placed and launched with an excellent combination of power and touch. Lance couldn’t consistently replicate it throughout the game, completing just 5 of 14 passes for 128 yards and the score, but that was all Lance needed to do to show his immense potential.
After the game, Shanahan commented on Lance’s performance. He said it wasn’t perfect, but he was happy that there were opportunities to learn from him.
“It was a good first day,” Shanahan told reporters. “I didn’t want it to be perfect for him. I would like some things he could learn from. And there will be a lot of things we can go over tomorrow.”
Other than that, Shanahan didn’t say much about the quarterback battle.
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Who started the 49ers’ second preseason game?
Garoppolo started for the 49ers in the second preseason game. Once again, he played just one unit for the 49ers, and it wasn’t very good.
While Garoppolo had a good 10-yard fight on the drive, his passing was fair. He finished the game 3 of 6 for 15 yards and threw an interception. Brandon Aiyuk probably should have caught it, but the shot was a little high from Garoppolo. So you deserve a little blame.
Lance started the game slowly as Garoppolo. His first three units ended in a punt, an interception, and another punt. Like Garoppolo, his interception came on a catchable ball, but he threw it slightly off target.
However, Lance performed better as the game progressed. He picked up pace by executing the two-minute drill to close the half, and finished it off with a bullet pass to Mohamed Sanu in the end zone. That showed the strength of Lance’s arm.
Later, he threw a touchdown similar to Travis Benjamin. On this play, he was right to look outside of safety and fire a precise shot with speed to get Benjamin into the end zone.
Lance finished the night with 8 of 14 passes for 102 yards, two TDs and an interception. It was a good performance for him after the first three possessions, but he highlighted his biggest problem: a lack of consistency.
After the game, Shanahan said not much has changed since the offseason, when he hinted that Garoppolo would be the 49ers starter.
“I think the situation is quite similar at the moment,” Shanahan told reporters.
So does that mean you’re ready to announce Garoppolo as a starter?
“No, I am not making that announcement,” Shanahan said. “Not tonight.”
Still, it looks like Garoppolo is on track to start Week 1 against the Lions. But maybe if he has another mediocre outing, Lance can make things interesting.