CANTON, Ohio -- General manager John Lynch could not get away from talking about the 49ers’ quarterbacks even when he traveled 2,500 miles to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But that is just fine, because it has been one of his favorite topics to discuss this summer.
The only difference is, this weekend there is a distinguished list of people asking the questions.
Lynch will be enshrined Sunday night into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2021. Everywhere he turns this weekend he is running into a football legend.
He said it is no longer just friends, family, fans and reporters who are asking questions about the 49ers' newcomer at quarterback.
“It’s the other Hall of Famers,” said Lynch on the 49ers Talk podcast.
“Jimmy Johnson last night, wanting to know. Peyton Manning, wanting to know. Calvin Johnson, ‘Tell me about this kid.’”
The kid, of course, is 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance, whom the 49ers traded up to select with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 49ers’ quarterback situation has been the most interesting topic since the end of last season.
Garoppolo missed 23 starts over the past three regular seasons due to injuries, and the 49ers felt a need to strengthen their backup positions.
“People also want to know about Jimmy: ‘I hear Jimmy is playing well,’” Lynch said. “It’s something about that position. Everybody wants to know, and I think there’s been a lot of buzz about how Trey is playing, and that travels. A lot of people have asked, ‘Tell me about him; what’s he like?’ And it’s been fun to share that with people.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that he will find at least a situational role for Lance. If Garoppolo holds onto the starting job to open the season, the 49ers will still use Lance’s unique skills as a passer and runner on a week-to-week basis.
Lynch did not downplay how well Lance looked during his first 10 days of training camp. He described Lance’s camp, up to this point, as “fantastic.”
The improvement Lance showed when he reported back to Santa Clara from a 40-day break after the end of the offseason program is a testament to his commitment, Lynch said.
“He’s a pro. He’s a pro already,” Lynch said. “And we thought that. Everyone told us that. You meet his family and that kind of confirms that. And then when you have a guy who it’s important to and works, and you mix that with the talent, the skill set he has, you have a chance for something.
“Now we say he’s doing really well. We’ve had four padded practices, you know. So we got a ways to go. But we sure like where he’s at.”
Lynch said Shanahan’s past should be beneficial for how he deploys Lance’s dual-threat skills. While Shanahan was offensive coordinator under his father, Mike Shanahan, with Washington, he designed an offense around a quarterback with running ability.
Robert Griffin threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, while rushing for 815 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie for Washington in 2012. Mike McDaniel, now the 49ers' offensive coordinator, and running backs coach Bobby Turner were also on that Washington staff.
“It’s fun to watch, and everybody is getting to see it, some of the schematic advantages that we’re going to gain with having him there,” Lynch said of Lance. “It always starts as a passer, but he can do some things with his legs that Kyle and Mike McDaniel and that group, Bobby Turner, they’re very innovative. And all those guys were in Washington together with RG3, and so I think it’s going to be fun to kind of explore that side of things at some point."
As well as Lance has looked, Lynch sounded equally impressed with how Garoppolo has responded to the situation. Garoppolo has been the team’s unquestioned starter since arriving in a mid-season trade from New England in 2017. Now, it is clear the 49ers' long-term future does not include Garoppolo. But he is determined to be a difference-maker this upcoming season.
“He’s really responded to the challenge,” Lynch said of Garoppolo. “He’s been great to the kid, but also he’s a competitor. And it’s important to him for him to be the one lining up there this year for us.
“And his teammates love him. That hasn’t changed. And he’s playing at a really good level right now.”