Playing Trey Lance Situationally Can Hurt the 49ers

Quarterback is the most critical position in football. Any team that tries to play multiple players at the position has a burning issue on the horizon.
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After watching training camp progress, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan shared big news during a recent press conference: He revealed that Trey Lance will get playing time during the season. This is development might look surprising given the stance Shanahan took at the beginning of the training camp.

"Trey is going to play for us this year," Shanahan said. "Situationally, he's going to get plays. That doesn't mean that he's going to be the starter or anything, but he's going to get plays, and you've got to prepare him for that every way possible."

At a glance, it seems like terrific news for 49ers fans. But upon closer inspection, it might be an awful idea. 

We need to understand what this idea means.

We can argue this is the perfect way for Lance to get the feeling of professional football. Most likely the plays he will run will be in the red zone, which will give the 49ers more scoring opportunities. That is good news for an offense which struggled to score last season.

The real danger is the interpretation of this situation. The perception would be that the 49ers have a starting quarterback worth $27 million dollars, who is unable to extend the playbook of Shanahan. A public statement that Jimmy Garoppolo is a quarterback with limited talent, so Lance must step in. How would the media cover that? 

It will not be kind to Garoppolo.

Imagine a game in which both quarterbacks play. Garoppolo throws for 200 yards without zero touchdown passes. Lance steps in for few plays and ends up with 40 passing yards, including three touchdown passes and one on the ground. The result would be embarrassing for Garoppolo.

It would not do any good to Garoppolo's confidence. During the NFC championship game, Garoppolo threw only 8 times. Leading up to the Super Bowl, that was the most discussed thing. 

Quarterback is the most critical position in football. Any team that tries to play multiple players at the position has a burning issue on the horizon.

The 49ers already used three first-round picks to draft their future signal-caller. They can not keep testing the waters using Garoppolo as a safety net. The only way it would work is if the 49ers start Garoppolo until they feel Lance is ready to take over full time. As we have discussed numerous times, the gravity of the draft pick nullifies any chance to doubt the success of Lance.

Shanahan does not have to reveal right away when Lance starts full time, given that such an announcement is only going to bring down the trade value of Garoppolo. Divide and conquer is not a strategy that is going to succeed in the quarterback position. If Lance starts in 2021, he must be the full-time starter.