The old adage says that if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have zero. Except, of course, if you have two.
The 49ers entered training camp facing what many thought would be a quarterback battle between Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance. Instead, coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear on Day 1 that Garoppolo was the starter and Lance the backup.
While their time together so far has been brief, there has been no awkwardness between Garoppolo and his eventual successor. There has been no split or fracture in the 49ers' locker room. The culture created by Shanahan and general manager John Lynch has held firm. The 49ers are fully behind Garoppolo as they look to mount a Super Bowl run in 2021 while understanding Lance will eventually be the trigger man for Shanahan's Lamborghini-like offense.
"Jimmy has been great. Jimmy has been great," left tackle Trent Williams told NFL Network. "Trey's been great. Literally, you couldn't tell that there's anything there -- no animosity. Jimmy's been a very good professional. Honestly, this is Jimmy's team. I don't think there's ever been a question in that.
"But like I said before, we had an opportunity to grab one of the best players in the draft. I think that was too good of an opportunity to pass up. But from what I can tell, Jimmy's been a great leader like he's always been and Trey's been a great learner."
Star tight end George Kittle, who has been Garoppolo's most vocal supporter throughout their time together, punctuated Williams' sentiment.
"I think you get an opportunity to grab a really good, really talented player, and we brought him in," Kittle said of Lance. "And Jimmy G is Jimmy G. He's a hell of a football player. He's got a quick release and he's the leader of this football team and he has been ever since he's been here, since 2017.
"They've been fantastic. They bounce ideas off each other -- obviously very different styles of quarterback. But they're good leaders and they're both great in the huddle and they're both just fun to watch play."
Both Garoppolo and Lance shined on the first day of training camp, making high-level throws and off-schedule plays. Lance showed off his athleticism Saturday during camp while also showcasing the arm talent that had Shanahan salivating to make him the QB of the future.
Drafting Lance while simultaneously keeping Garoppolo could have led to a situation that distracts from the ultimate goal. Garoppolo's professionalism has squashed any potential drama, and Lance's willingness to be a sponge and wait for his turn has the 49ers in an enviable position among the list of title contenders.
Early in training camp, we have already seen Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz go down with a foot injury, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott leave with a shoulder issue. Their respective backups, Jacob Eason and Ben DiNucci, have a combined three games of NFL experience, all of which were played by DiNucci last season.
Needless to say, if the injuries to Wentz and/or Prescott turn out to be severe, both team's title chances will have been washed away before the season has kicked off.
Look around the NFL and the list of teams who can afford to lose their starting quarterback for any amount of time and stay afloat is thin.
Tom Brady is backed up by Blaine Gabbert, Russell Wilson by Geno Smith, Kyler Murray by Chris Streveler and Matthew Stafford by John Wolford. Not exactly a who's who of battle-tested signal-callers.
Aaron Rodgers has Jordan Love and Chad Henne sits behind Patrick Mahomes, which means the Green Bay Packers and Kansas Chiefs could tread water should their stars miss a small amount of time. But obviously Rodgers or Mahomes going down would severely cripple promising Super Bowl chances.
For all of Garoppolo's faults, he was a good starting quarterback during the 2019 season, and his comfort in Shanahan's system only has grown since then. Yes, Garoppolo has his limitations, but when healthy, he has been a quality starter capable of leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
He also has had issues staying healthy. A torn ACL in 2018 and ankle injuries in 2020 sent two seasons down the drain as the 49ers had to turn to C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens with Garoppolo in sweats.
That won't be the case should he go down this season.
Lance might still need time to develop, but he's got all the tools to succeed in the NFL right away should the 49ers need him. His rare ability, coupled with Shanahan's quarterback-friendly offense should make the 49ers feel comfortable their season won't be lost should Garoppolo suffer another ill-fated injury.
Some might see the 49ers in a position of power, with contenders potentially scrambling to find another starting quarterback before the season starts.
But the 49ers don't want to trade Garoppolo and nor should they. Drafting Lance was a two-pronged strategy. It allowed Shanahan to handpick the quarterback he wants to run his offense in the future while also giving the 49ers a capable backup behind Garoppolo this season, in which they believe they are among the Super Bowl favorites.
Expect talk of Lance taking first-team reps to happen at some point in camp. He is too talented and his gifts too unique not to see what he can do with the starting unit.
But Garoppolo should enter the season as the starter with Lance, the heir apparent, serving as an insurance policy should injury or poor play plague the 29-year-old veteran this season.
Several contenders will walk the highwire in 2021, hoping they don't have to turn to option No. 2 in their quarterback room to keep their season alive.
The 49ers have lived that existence, but that won't be their reality in 2021. With Garoppolo and Lance equally capable, San Francisco is in a position many contenders already are envious of.