Jimmy Garoppolo's status for the 49ers' Sunday game against the Houston Texans remains up in the air, as the veteran quarterback deals with a Grade 3 right thumb sprain that he suffered during last week's loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Garoppolo hasn't practiced this week, and all signs point to rookie quarterback Trey Lance making his second career NFL start Sunday. But while Garoppolo has yet to practice this week, he has thrown on the side, and 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel hasn't noticed a discernable difference in the 30-year-old signal-caller's ball, even with a bum thumb.
“Jimmy is one of the best throwers on the planet," McDaniel told reporters Thursday when asked how Garoppolo has looked in side sessions. "He's very gifted in the accuracy and ball placement, and he throws really catchable, tight footballs. That hasn't changed.
"It's more about how it responds and how it feels, so that you can have strength in that thumb through the course of an entire game. So, it's looked great, [and] it's more about how he responds to it and how it feels the next day. That's why it's kind of a day-by-day basis with him. That's been encouraging watching it, and you're kind of playing the waiting game, saying, ‘OK, well, Friday, how's he going to wake up and feel.' "
Garoppolo has said he's confident he can play through the pain. But if he can't get on the field Friday during the 49ers' light practice, that would point to Lance starting Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
Lance hasn't taken a meaningful snap since he started the 49ers' Week 5 loss to the Arizona Cardinals when Garoppolo was out with a calf injury. While Lance hasn't seen action on Sundays, the 49ers have been pleased with the progress the 21-year-old has shown as the scout-team quarterback.
After starting 3-5, the 49ers have won five of their last seven games, and can clinch a playoff spot with a win Sunday, coupled with a New Orleans Saints loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Prior to last week's loss, Garoppolo was playing arguably the best football of his career, posting eight consecutive games with a QBR over 90.
Garoppolo has been known to try and gut through injuries, but if the 49ers must turn to Lance on Sunday, they have all the confidence in the world that he can deliver a win.
“If he’s the guy we have to go in to battle with this weekend, I have 100 percent confidence he’ll give us an opportunity to win the game,” veteran left tackle Trent Williams said on the 49ers Talk podcast earlier this week. “And we can win the game off his back, not just by him playing solid football.
“I think he can go in and make the plays that propel the football team to a W. That’s the talent he has, and that’s why he was picked where he was. Obviously, I have a ton of faith in him.”