49ers prove they’re postponing the inevitable at quarterback

Kyle Shanahan is one of the best offensive coaches in football, but even he can’t make Jimmy Garoppolo play like an All-Pro. 

Jimmy Garoppolo is set to begin the season as the 49ers starting quarterback. That’s a blow to Trey Lance as well as any San Francisco fans that want to see head coach Kyle Shanahan get this team back to a Super Bowl in 2021.

The offensive genius glibly told reporters that he doesn’t “need” to announce a starting signal-caller but that they can “probably figure it out.” That was a clear nod to his veteran quarterback given the fact that Garoppolo has been the team’s starter during the preseason and has taken most of the snaps with the first team.

Combine that with Lance’s minor finger injury and it’s obvious that San Francisco is going to play things conservatively with their rookie quarterback. The simple truth is that they’re only postponing an inevitable changing of the guard at the game’s most important position.

So when will Trey Lance play?

The simple answer is that Lance will see the field the very moment Garoppolo starts to struggle. Shanahan will not be able to resist the temptation to put the more talented player on the field once his team faces real regular season stress on the field.

Lance’s rare combination of elite arm strength and above-average mobility will really open up Shanahan’s playbook. Even at his best, Garoppolo is a pocket passer who doesn’t trouble opposing defenses with his legs. Lance will need time to understand NFL defenses at a high level, but his natural athleticism will permit him to make plays that Garoppolo cannot.

That reality makes it important for Lance to get back on the practice field as soon as possible. All he needs to do to overtake Garropolo on the team’s depth chart is to prove that he can handle the mental side of the game. It’s impossible to do that without receiving a meaningful number of reps on the practice field.

The 49ers might use Lance’s injury absence as an excuse to play things safe and stick with Garoppolo until they really get in a bind. That’s a disservice to their organization and their fans. Lance is the future and the quicker they get him on the field the brighter the 49ers’ long-term outlook can become.