Trey Lance continues to be doubted.
His name keeps being thrown around with doubt, skepticism of readiness, and being “underwhelming.” All of this is tiresome. At this point, the regular season cannot come fast enough for Lance to finally showcase his ability.
However, all of the barking around Lance’s name could be sobered up if the 49ers actually named him the starter. Yet, they refuse to do so because Jimmy Garoppolo remains on the roster. This has opened the door to wondering if Lance will truly be the starter and has allowed critics to feel emboldened by it.
While I don’t agree with how they’re handling this, there is a reason why the 49ers won’t officially name Lance the starter.
The Niners do not believe in gifting starting positions to their young players (unless you’re Nick Bosa). It doesn’t matter if that player was a top draft pick that they spent a ton of capital on, they will still want that player to compete. Garoppolo being on the roster still, after failing to trade him, now has a new purpose.
San Francisco will use him as a means to push Lance. It is like what the Patriots did with Cam Newton last year in training camp. Use the veteran and incumbent starter to ensure that the young quarterback doesn’t slack. With that, the 49ers can get Lance more motivated to reach a high level with the hope that he’ll sustain it going into the season.
Another benefit is if Lance does well and looks better than Garoppolo that he will instill confidence in his teammates. It will give the team a comfort knowing that the guy who has been their usual starter is not going to be replaced by someone who couldn’t beat him. However, the opposite of it exists too. If Lance struggles and doesn’t prove to convincingly be better than Garoppolo, then the team will be skeptical.
On top of that, Kyle Shanahan will have a pressing choice on whether or not to rock with Lance or run it back with Garoppolo. Even rolling Garoppolo into the season as a backup wouldn’t be impossible for Shanahan to enact. This is why I have advocated for the 49ers to cut Garoppolo months ago. It’ll just create unnecessary attention, maybe drama, and distractions. It’s not worth the risk.
It’s only mid-May right now and already there’s substantial annoying noise surrounding Lance’s name and his role in 2022. Imagine how worse it’s going to get if Jimmy Garoppolo is there in training camp and takes practice reps. The 49ers are playing with fire here. They don’t like to officially name the starters in offseason, which is fine.
All they have to do is cut Garoppolo and that’ll be the message that says it all.