Skip to main content

State of the 49ers Quarterback Position

The 49ers are struggling on offense through their first 5 games and even though many have pointed at head coach Kyle Shanahan as being the root of the problem, the quarterback position does bear its share of responsibility.

The San Francisco 49ers enter the bye week with three consecutive losses and a ton of questions about where they are going this season. The 49ers are struggling on offense through their first 5 games and even though many have pointed at head coach Kyle Shanahan as being the root of the problem, the quarterback position does bear its share of responsibility. Although Trey Lance needs to see the field the rest of the season so he can improve, throwing him out there as the full time starter is a mistake.

The play calling has been a topic of discussion this week following a disastrous game plan in Week 5 against the Cardinals but it's not a simple fix. Kyle Shanahan’s conclusion of Lance’s abilities and deficiencies (that many fans tend to overlook) are limiting his play calling when Lance is in the game. Regardless of what fans and “analysts” think, Shanahan has made his decision and he’s the coach of the team. Lance is not refined enough as a passer at this point in time to sustain an effective offensive attack for an entire game. He refuses to utilize the middle of the football field, he doesn’t recognize coverages quickly enough to progress to his check downs and makes inaccurate throws at times. The offense with Lance at the helm is chaotic, has no rhythm and as much as I’ve seen people rave about Lance’s first start, it's rarely mentioned that the team scored only 10 points.

Now, with all that being said Lance is a quarterback with tons of potential and a bright future. The biggest strength that I saw from his first start was his ability to avoid pressure in the pocket and keep plays alive. His scrambling ability is another strength and although impressive should not be the focus of a Trey Lance offense. He can stretch the field outside the numbers and given a solid run game should be able to hit a few big plays off of play action. He is much more physically talented than any other quarterback on the 49ers roster but needs to be put in a position to maximize his strengths by the coaching staff.

Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid this season but his physical limitations are limiting the offensive play calls as well. Ever since his ACL injury in 2018, Garoppolo has failed to regain the lower body push needed for his throwing motion. He ranks dead last in throws down the field attempted and has poor mobility at this point in his career. Garoppolo commands no respect from opposing defenses because of this and doesn’t offer big play ability. Shanahan has limited his downfield route concepts so drastically that defenses are teeing off on receivers running short to intermediate routes.

Read More

However, Garoppolo does bring strengths to the football field and they should not be underestimated. Garoppolo is a very accurate passer over the middle of the field and very good at delivering passes to playmakers in a position to gain yards after the catch. Garoppolo is also very good in situational scenarios like the Packers drive when he led the team down the field in the closing two minutes to take the lead. Garoppolo will not wow you, he just isn’t that kind of quarterback but his teammates trust him, follow him and respond to his leadership in the huddle.

Shanahan is staking his livelihood as the 49ers head coach on his evaluation of both quarterbacks and fans should respect that instead of being armchair coaches. Now, Lance showed enough in his first start that has changed Shanahan evaluation on him, I guarantee it. But this does not mean nor should it that Lance will be the starting quarterback following the bye but he definitely needs to play more. Both Garoppolo and Lance limit the offense in different ways and unless the 49ers and Shanahan are ready to mail in this season they must get both on the field going forward until “one” elevates their play. Obviously by one I mean Lance because Garoppolo is who he is at this point in his career. Even the great Joe Montana was only on the field situationally early on in his career and Steve Young sat entirely upon joining the 49ers. If the two Hall of Fame quarterbacks who are the best in the history of the franchise can take this path so too can Lance.

The 49ers remain one of the most interesting teams in the NFL and their game plan against the Colts will definitely be intriguing. If we do finally see the two quarterback system that was unleashed in preseason, it will definitely make for an interesting season going forward.

Make sure you follow me on Twitter: @chuy_alejandra and subscribe to our YouTube channel: Chuy and Alejandra. Until next time 49er Faithful.