QB1: See You, Raise you

We’re going to leave any emotions outside the Silverado for this ride, as this is an emotion-free zone.
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I’ll see you Jimmy Garoppolo, and raise you Trey Lance

Ah yes, we’re back for another ride in the Silverado and I can’t thank you enough. Believe it or not, I may be more excited than you are. I mean, but how can we not be, right? The 2021 NFL football season is upon us. Yes, so football is back! Whether this is your first ride or you're a return passenger, welcome to and, or back to the Silverado.

I’m a firm believer in safety first so go ahead and buckle up and we can make our way down to SoFi Stadium to watch the San Francisco 49ers take on the Los Angeles Chargers in preseason game No. 2. I also have a special request this ride and a short disclaimer. For this ride, I ask that you also buckle your emotional seatbelt for this conversation, as we’ll be discussing the San Francisco 49ers quarterback position, and you know how that can be, I’m sure.

We’re going to leave any emotions outside the Silverado for this ride, as this is an emotion-free zone. The look on your face screams, “But why?” Here’s the answer. I’m aware this subject may evoke some thoughts or emotions (good, bad or indifferent), as it may go against your personal beliefs and may not be in line with your opinion about Jimmy Garoppolo.

And based upon how you feel about, believe in, and pull for Jimmy Garoppolo, this ride may tug at your emotions a bit. So, do us both a favor for this ride, please....

DISCLAIMER: I ask for the sake of this conversation (ride), that you remove any emotion and focus on facts, reality, and logic. I, too, am a fan of and supporter of Garoppolo, it just so happens that I operate and think using what I like to call, objective optimism.

Be it Garoppolo or any player on the team, I can remove my personal feelings (fanhood and emotion) to clearly identify, address, and analyze how and where the said player can improve, while simultaneously discussing the positives.

Now that we’ve gotten that out the way and our emotions were left on the curb, let’s ride and talk, shall we? As we did on our last ride, I’d again like to play a game of imaginary poker using the, “See you, raise you” concept in reference to the QB1 situation.

I’ll see you Jimmy Garoppolo, and raise you Trey Lance

I know, I know, most are tired of talking about this particular topic and based upon the look on your face, you are too. So please bear with me as I attempt to make it all make sense. In my last article, Intriguing San Francisco 49ers camp battles: See you, raise you I discussed some of the more intriguing position battles, well this may very well be the most intriguing battle.

Jimmy Garoppolo

With a record of 22-8 as the 49ers quarterback, it can be said the team wins with Garoppolo under center. That doesn’t necessarily mean the team wins “because” of him though as he has his limitations, that limit the offense. I like to call it, “The good Jimmy vs. Bad Jimmy dichotomy."

Yes, when he’s healthy he makes most of the plays he’s asked to. Then again, also when healthy, he leaves plays (and points) on the field due to his limitations both mentally and physically. In translation, it’s more about the plays he doesn’t make, than the plays he does make. I’m aware all quarterbacks have their moments when they aren’t at their best. It happens. No fault of his own, Garoppolo doesn’t have the ability to extend plays with his legs and unfortunately, his play making ability with his legs have the “In case of emergency, break glass” sign on them. I mean, that’s just not who he is. I’m just saying.

I digress. Garoppolo just seems to do so at a higher rate than most, in addition his health keeps him off the field quite often. I expect him to have every opportunity to succeed this season and show he can both stay healthy and play at a consistently high level. For my movie buffs, the best way I can describe Garoppolo is comparing him to Nick Cannon’s character (Devin Miles) in the movie Drumline.

Think back if you will to the 2017 season when Garoppolo came in and ripped off five straight wins to end the season, giving everyone hope that the team had finally found the answer at quarterback. Awesome, right? I mean, it was something the faithful hadn’t seen in a very, very long time.

Garoppolo had complete command of the offense, making most of the throws, found open targets, that had seemed to be nonexistent prior to him starting. I’d be remiss if I said it wasn’t a joy to watch. But here’s where the comparison comes in. At that point he was playing freely and on instinct. But the following seasons, when he had to sit down, learn and absorb a playbook, he seemed to struggle.

That said, much like the aforementioned character, Devin Miles in the movie Drumline, he was great at playing unscripted football (playing by ear) but can't read music (processing a playbook) and clearly had issues processing information and displayed questionable decision making. Garoppolo has won a ton of games for the team and has made some very memorable plays to help the team win.

Thing is, he’s just too inconsistent. He’ll put together a string of plays where he’s on point, but then, as always, it happens. The dreaded Bad Jimmy plays occur, where he either turns the ball over misses a read and fails to sustain a drive, resulting in either a field goal, or even worse, a punt. To be fair, as of now, Garoppolo is QB1, but for how long? Especially with him being often injured.

Trey Lance

While the rookie has played in only one NFL game thus far and prior to that hadn’t played a game in more than a year, it’s clear the talent and intelligence is there. He just needs reps and also more polishing as well. 

I had the pleasure of watching Lance play live at Levi’s stadium in the 49ers' first preseason game vs the Kansas City Chiefs. Let me tell you, the atmosphere was just about equivalent to a regular season game. Everything from the tailgate beforehand, to the game itself was electric. And while his stat line wasn’t the best, as he did indeed have a few would-be interceptions and he took four sacks behind a patchwork offensive line, he definitely showed why he was the No. 3 pick with his first touchdown pass to wide receiver Trent Sherfield. 

Lance will need to continue to improve and adapt to the speed and complexities of the NFL game, but let me tell you this kid is the truth. As much that has been said about how he’s struggled thus far, one must also keep in mind he’s yet to play with the first team offensive line or the first team weapons at his disposal. I’m not making excuses at all; these are just facts.

Not to mention, it seemed the plan in preseason Week 1 was to keep Lance in the pocket to play the role of a more traditional quarterback versus using his ability to scramble and make plays with his legs. I get it to a degree, as head coach Kyle Shanahan wants Lance to become more proficient at passing from the pocket.

I compare it to a basketball coach attempting to force a player to get better using their offhand in a game. Though the player is right-handed, he instructs the player to use his left hand to dribble in an exhibition game situation to get acclimated to doing so. Fact of the matter is, Lance is going to get hit and take sacks once the season starts and lights come on during the regular season, so being exposed to the hits now and passing from the pocket will better prepare him for the real thing.

There’s no question Lance has the ability to take over as the 49ers' starting quarterback, he just needs the NFL reps and experience with the first team offense as a complete unit, to fully unlock his full potential and play like the future (and possibly current) choice at quarterback of the franchise. Time will tell.

Closing thoughts

As usual, I truly hope you enjoyed this ride with me as I have. For the record, I’d love to see Garoppolo play at a consistently high level and continue to help the team win, I just don’t feel he’ll play well enough to do so convincingly enough to keep Lance on the bench, especially with Lance continuing to improve as he gets more run and time to gel with the first team. In addition, due to the frequency and impact of Garoppolo’s mistakes, I don’t feel he allots the team the best chance to win as his limitations limit the offense as his known limitations handicap the offense and makes it one dimensional.

As the saying goes, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t." Point being, the team can and has won a lot of games with Garoppolo as the starter, that’s fact not fiction. It comes down to who do you have the most faith in: a rookie who makes rookie mistakes, but gives the team a better chance to win due to skillset, or a seasoned vet who makes rookie mistakes and is less of a threat due to clear and documented limitations.

Garoppolo is making the same mistakes as a vet and at a higher rate than a rookie. Lance definitely has those added elements Garoppolo doesn’t, even as a rookie. He can already do everything Garoppolo can and more as a rookie. Garoppolo also has showed us this is who he is. Meaning, even if he gets better in certain areas, he’ll always throw untimely interceptions (most times to linebackers he doesn’t see) at least twice a game.

I get Garoppolo typically bounces back with a touchdown drive or at least a drive resulting in a field goal. But I for one don’t like that trade off at all mathematically, especially if it’s a shootout. Either accept who he is and be happy with just getting to the Super Bowl, or unlock this offense with Lance and get your team to the Super Bowl and have a great chance at winning it.

We have arrived

Before you jump out the Silverado and head to your seat, I leave you with this. If Shanahan the mad scientist can protect (scheme him to success) Garoppolo, what makes one think he can’t do the same with a better outcome with the more talented and higher upside of Lance? At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing -- a quarterback who prevents the team from being one dimensional (playing 11 on 11 football vs 10 on 11 football), can make (big) plays with his legs when the pocket or protection breaks down, and gives the team its best chance to win not just games, but a Super Bowl, and now.

If that quarterback is Garoppolo, so be it. But in the event it’s not and it’s Lance, as long as the team is winning and gets to and wins the Super Bowl, who the quarterback is is a moot point. 

Thanks again for riding, see you next time.