When the 49ers opened training camp, Kyle Shanahan made it clear that there was no quarterback competition. Jimmy Garoppolo was the starting quarterback and Trey Lance was the backup.
But Lance has wowed during camp, showing immense growth in the 40 days since OTAs ended. Shanahan admitted to the media that Lance will play this season, and the 49ers are working on installing a package for Lance during camp. But as good as Lance has been, Shanahan still believes it will be difficult for Lance to take the job from Garoppolo.
“I think it’s gonna be tough for [Lance] to win the job, just in terms of it being two different styles of quarterbacks, and maybe a little different style of offense for both of them,” Shanahan told The MMQB's Albert Breer. “I’d be very surprised if he did with the way Jimmy’s playing. It’d put a lot on a kid to do that. He’s doing everything he can. I’m very impressed with him so far, but I’d be very surprised if that happened.”
Still, Lance continues to put on a show in camp. After looking mortal during Friday's practice, the rookie quarterback showed almost 20,000 fans in attendance at Levi's Stadium what the future could look like by hooking up with second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk for a couple electric grabs.
During OTAs, Lance admits he wasn't ready to truly battle Garoppolo for the starting job. But after working relentlessly both to learn the playbook and fine-tune his mechanics prior to camp, the North Dakota State product believes he has the tools and knowledge to make a push for the job.
“I don’t remember the last time I had 40 days off from anything,” Lance told Breer. “But it’s really just how you take it. And I wasn’t taking it as days off, it was days to get better. … I was just learning as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I could compete during OTAs, because I didn’t know enough. It’s real tough to compete if you don’t know what you’re doing fully. So my biggest thing is just getting as comfortable with the playbook and the footwork, the mental and physical sides of things, as I can, so I’d have that opportunity to compete.”
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Despite Lance's jaw-dropping throws and eye-opening runs during camp, Garoppolo has held his own. He dazzled during a padless practice Sunday and has played the best ball of his 49ers career, according to Shanahan and Lynch.
Lance's growth puts the 49ers in an enviable position among Super Bowl contenders. They have two quarterbacks. Both of whom Shanahan feels he could start and would give the 49ers a chance to win. It also gives them depth at quarterback, something they didn't have in 2018 or 2020 when Garoppolo went down.
The 49ers have a loaded roster that is primed to compete for a Super Bowl. They don't want to watch another season go down the drain because they lack depth at the most important position in the sport.
Lance has all the tools to succeed as the 49ers' franchise quarterback long-term, and he'll help them this season. But Garoppolo is going to cling to the starting job with everything he's got, elevating his play to stave off his successor.
All of that works in Shanahan and the 49ers' favor as they plan to re-enter the Super Bowl conversation after a lost 2020 season.