49ers’ fortunes rest on QB battle as Trey Lance fights for job

San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback situation should captivate the league throughout the year, while their running game looks set to be dominant.

Best-case scenario

There’s an old axiom that when you have two quarterbacks, you actually have zero. The 49ers are in such a position with Jimmy Garoppolo offering little to convince he’ll be back to 2019 levels in preseason and rookie third overall pick Trey Lance’s readiness to start Week 1 open for debate.

Regardless of which quarterback ends up under center, the Niners need one to perform at a high standard to push one of the league’s more talented rosters back into Super Bowl contention. San Francisco has the talent to threaten to go all the way if one of their signal-callers rises to that challenge.

Worst-case scenario

San Francisco will be under intense scrutiny if Garoppolo either struggles or again fails to stay healthy and Lance proves ill-equipped to fill the void in his rookie season and the Niners miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years under Kyle Shanahan.

He and general manager John Lynch have the security of long-term deals with the Niners and it’s unlikely either would be removed from their post even in the wake of such a nightmare scenario, but questions over their futures would surely start to be asked should the trade up for Lance initially look like being a mistake.


It has to be Nick Bosa.Several players have a strong claim for this title. Brandon Aiyuk’s second-year progress will have a large bearing on the offensive production but there is arguably no greater Jenga piece on the Niners’ roster than Bosa.

The 49ers’ pass rush was a shell of its 2019 self after he tore his ACL in Week 2 last year and, though San Francisco’s defensive line appears remarkably deep, it will need Bosa back at his Defensive Rookie of the Year best to be the kind of unit that can take over games. If he and Dee Ford both stay healthy, watch out.

Biggest game – Week 13 at Seattle

In Week 17 of 2019, the 49ers held off the Seahawks with a dramatic goal-line stand in Seattle to win the NFC West and claim the No. 1 seed in the conference, allowing them to reap the benefits of home-field and easily win two playoff games before losing the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs.

With the best division in football likely to be decided by tight margins again in 2021, San Francisco will need to win road games against their NFC West rivals to make sure of at least a wild card berth. This year’s trip to Seattle looms especially large for the Niners.

Bold prediction

The 49ers were second in the league in rushing behind Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens during the 2019 season, but they have the ingredients to go one better this time around.

San Francisco provided a glimpse of what their running game could be with the additional threat of Lance against the Las Vegas Raiders in preseason, and it was spectacular.

Raheem Mostert, Trey Sermon and JaMycal Hasty ran roughshod over Vegas’ backups and, with that trio and Lance behind an improved offensive line led by Trent Williams and Alex Mack, they could do the same to run defenses across the NFL.