Trey Lance is one-fifth of a vaunted rookie quarterback class entering the NFL with sky-high expectations.
Lance's status for the 49ers' Week 1 game vs. the Detroit Lions is in question after the rookie suffered a small finger fracture on his throwing hand in San Francisco's preseason finale. The No. 3 overall pick, however, is expected to get snaps throughout the season, and many think he will eventually supplant Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter.
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and CBS analyst Tony Romo hasn't watched a lot of Lance but he has no doubt the rookie can succeed early in his NFL career if the 49ers have to turn to him.
Why? Simple: Kyle Shanahan.
"I’ll tell you this — he’s in a good situation," Romo told USA Today's Doug Farrar. "And so, what happens is that it’s simpler for the quarterback. I’ve always said that if the backup quarterback can come in and complete this pass like, 95 percent of the time, that’s coaching. Now, if your [starting] quarterback is the only guy who can do that, that’s not coaching. That quarterback is special. Kyle Shanahan does a great job of making sure that multiple guys are in a position to succeed at the quarterback position. If [Lance] were to go in there and play, [Shanahan will] have an opportunity to utilize that and help him succeed.
"To me, I think he’ll be fine if he goes in there, because the system is built," Romo continued. "I haven’t seen enough of him at this point in time to tell you what his future is, but obviously, he has a big upside. They wouldn’t have drafted him that high otherwise."
Shanahan uses a lot of pre-snap motion in his offense, which is a massive help to a quarterback.
"If you’re in a system that uses it, it’s a dramatic ... it's hard to describe the difference," Romo said. "That was one thing I was always striving to utilize, because the league was evolving into that, and it’s relatively new over the last decade, right? ... Your job as a quarterback is to say, here are the possibilities. You’re looking at coverage, but if you know that it’s only this or this before the snap, you can eliminate that your eyes even have to look over here. So, that’s another tenth of a second, another half-second, and every time you can check off another quarter of a second, all of a sudden, you’re playing faster, you’re more efficient, and you’re getting to the right spot quicker. Now, you’re a better quarterback.
"Kyle Shanahan does that, and yes, that’s going to help, and that’s why he’s really good."
The 49ers gave up a lot of draft capital to move up and make Lance the future of their franchise. The rookie had some impressive moments during training camp and the preseason, and the 49ers showed glimpses of what the offense can look like with Lance as the trigger-man during their final preseason game vs. the Raiders.
And it was clear that he and Shanahan should be a very scary combination.