Backup quarterback Trey Lance’s rookie season with the 49ers has consisted of taking 116 regular-season snaps on offense.
But it does not mean Lance is not getting better and putting himself in a position to be successful whenever he takes over for Jimmy Garoppolo at some point down the road.
Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young was asked on the 49ers Talk podcast this week whether a young quarterback can improve without playing.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Young answered.
But, he said, it takes a lot of discipline to do all the preparations when there is no guarantee of seeing action in games.
“If you go through the rigor of every week preparing like you’re going to play,” Young said. “I did that, and I think I got a lot out of it. Memorize like you’re going to play, prepare emotionally like you’re going to play. There’s some discipline to it.”
Young started a total of 10 games with the 49ers from 1987 to 1990 before moving into the starting lineup for 10 games in 1991.
He says he saw some backup quarterbacks during his time in the NFL that did not put in the work on the scout team during practices or prepare with film study.
“If you’re not careful, without discipline, you can waste your time because nobody’s going to make you do that,” Young said of the extra work it takes for a young quarterback to improve without playing.”
Young said he believes such rookie quarterbacks as Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will benefit from the playing time this season. He said young players who go through the ups-and-downs early in their careers can get back to work in the offseason with a checklist of what it takes to be successful.
“If you can survive, not get hurt and play, you’re going to get better from the experience,” Young said.
Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, saw most of his action in 1 1/2 games with Garoppolo out with a calf injury.
Lance completed 25 of 48 pass attempts for 354 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also has 137 yards and one touchdown on 30 rushing attempts.
Perhaps, Lance is doing exactly what Young outlined he should be doing. Lance on Friday was wearing one of three special jerseys given out on a weekly basis to the scout team players on offensive, defensive and special teams player who excelled during the week of practice.