When the 49ers traded up to the No. 3 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft, the prevailing thought was that coach Kyle Shanahan had targeted Mac Jones as his preferred quarterback of the future.
Of course, the 49ers went a different direction when the time came, choosing instead to select North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
Lance has played sparingly so far this season. The rookie saw action in four of the 49ers' first five games, including a Week 5 start when Jimmy Garoppolo was out with a calf injury. Meanwhile, Jones has been tremendous for the New England Patriots and has been by far the best rookie quarterback of a highly-touted class.
So, why did Shanahan choose to go with Lance over Jones? Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison believes Shanahan caved to the perception that Jones wasn't a quarterback worthy of a No. 3 pick due to his lack of athleticism.
"Probably public pressure," Harrison told Dan Patrick on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday. "Everybody wants to get into this I need an athletic quarterback, I need an athletic quarterback. Yeah, he can run around and do all these incredible plays at times, but you need somebody that can sit in the pocket, read the defenses, communicate to the offense, get everybody in the right position and sometimes it's not sexy enough. A lot of these coaches, they fall to the pressure of the public, man. When you get a guy like Mac Jones, who is smart, who puts the team first, who does things right, I don't see how you can bypass a guy like that.
"Ultimately, when you make a decision like that, it can ultimately cost you your job."
Jones is coming off an impressive performance in which he picked apart the Cleveland Browns, going 19-for-23 for 198 yards and three touchdowns against the No. 3 defense in the NFL.
Against the Browns, Jones went 6-of-7 for 103 yards and a TD on passes of 10-plus air yards, 9-of-9 for 90 yards and a TD on passes outside the numbers and 6-for-7 for 80 yards and a TD on third down. His 142.1 rating Sunday was the fifth-highest by a rookie QB in the Super Bowl era.
Jones and the Patriots now have won four consecutive games and look like a legitimate threat in the AFC.
While Jones has been authoring a campaign for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Lance has been sitting on the sidelines, becoming adept at using the Microsoft Surface.
Shanahan has said he won't start Lance just to give the rookie experience, and with Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers momentarily steadying the ship with Monday night's beatdown of the Los Angeles Rams, it's unlikely the rookie will see any significant time soon.
It will take years to declare a winner in the Jones vs. Lance debate. Perhaps, the answer will be both. Or neither.
Shanahan has tied his fate with the 49ers to Lance. When the book about the Shanahan era in Santa Clara is written, the first chapter will be about the decision to draft Lance. For better or worse.