Despite a 2-1 record three weeks into the 2021 NFL season, the 49ers’ fan base already is filled with angst.
The focus of the fans' discontent? Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
While Garoppolo’s performances might be inconsistent, they have been enough for two wins as well as bringing the team back from a 17-point deficit against the Green Bay Packers and 37 seconds away from victory.
But still, many already are calling for Trey Lance to replace Garoppolo.
Replies to the question of why there is such dissatisfaction with Garoppolo ranged from the veteran not being a deep threat to opposing defenses, to the inconsistency in his level of play, to complete and utter support.
While the Eastern Illinois product would like to have the play back where the fumbled against the Packers in Week 3, he has only thrown one interception and has four touchdown passes through three contests.
Through 104 dropbacks, the veteran play caller has completed 64 of his 95 attempts for 760 yards. Garoppolo’s 67.4 percent completion rate ranks 18th of passers with at least 75 attempts. His 8.0 yards gained per attempt is ranked 11th within the same group, but his 6.0 average depth of target ranks him near the bottom of all quarterbacks.
While the 49ers QB certainly has seen his struggles, there have been mistakes across the board. According to Pro Football Focus, the seven on-target wide receiver drops are tied for the sixth most in the league.
Garoppolo’s support at team headquarters might be unwavering, but fans believe a better situation lies in waiting with Lance, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Maybe it is a grass is always greener mentality -- or not knowing what you have until it is gone -- but many of the 49ers Faithful are ready to see what Lance has to offer under center.
But the question is, would the rookie really give the 49ers a better chance to win?
Of the four rookie QBs that have played as a starter this season, only New England Patriots' Mac Jones is ranked higher than Garoppolo on PFF’s overall quarterback ranking through Week 3.
Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, Chicago Bears' Justin Fields and New York Jets' Zach Wilson all fall well below the 49ers quarterback in their overall rating.
The fact is that most rookie quarterbacks struggle in their first NFL season, especially as a starter. They are learning an entirely new language, working in new offensive systems with new players while adapting to the speed of the NFL all at the same time.
Lawrence, who was the No. 1 overall pick, has completed 64 of his 118 attempts for 669 yards, and has thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Jaguars are 0-3.
Justin Fields has played less time, completing 14 of his 35 attempts for 138 yards and one interception. The Bears are 1-2.
Wilson has also struggled, racking up seven interceptions in three weeks while only managing two passing touchdowns. The BYU product’s 55.2 completion percentage ranks the highest of the three young quarterbacks.
Would Lance struggle at least as much as the other rookie quarterbacks? Perhaps, but that doesn’t help the hearts of 49ers fans rest any easier. Still, like a shiny new present on Christmas morning, they want to see how Lance operates under pressure, even though history shows, doing that could stunt his development as a starter.
49ers fans need to only look a few years back to be reminded that Alex Smith, who played in nine contests his rookie year, took time to develop. It wasn’t until Smith’s sixth season in the league that he had a winning record. Yes, of course the situations and rosters are very different, but transitioning to a new system is the same.
While there are cases to be made with players like Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert, who was thrown into the fire and still succeeded, most rookie quarterbacks struggle as they acclimate to the NFL. Even Herbert had a 6-9 record with the Chargers in 2020.
The 49ers do have a talented group around Lance -- he certainly has the best roster among the first-round QBs -- so there certainly is a chance Lance could see immediate success.
But the 49ers currently have the best-case scenario, where they have a talented young quarterback on deck while Garoppolo is still at the helm. If the veteran quarterback can lead the team to a winning record in 2021, it only increases his trade value.
If Lance can be sprinkled in for a handful of plays each game throughout the season, he can adjust without the pressure of carrying the team on his shoulders and develop at a healthy pace.
But really, while the expectation that starting Lance could take the 49ers deep into the postseason isn't impossible, it might not be as realistic as many believe.