Barring an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance will spend the rest of the 49ers season on the sidelines.
But because Lance spends his Sundays holding a Microsoft Surface doesn't mean the 21-year-old isn't making strides in his development.
49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel has seen growth from Lance while the rookie leads the scout team, which mimics the 49ers' weekly opponent.
“Each and every day, he’s presented with different challenges and is forced to operate within the pocket in different ways,” McDaniel said Thursday. “He sees our coverages and has to execute various plays that overlap with our offense. So there is growth each and every week because you’re getting to experience things. You get to have trials, errors. It’s all about reps, and each week is very important for him on the scout team preparing our defense as well as preparing himself.”
Lance's development is paramount for the 49ers' future, and McDaniel believes that asking the rookie to play the role of quarterbacks with different styles is a significant benefit to his overall evolution as a quarterback.
“It is cool for him to find himself as a player when you’re back-to-back weeks are Kirk Cousins, where you’re primarily emphasizing pocket passing, and then our defense has to be ready for off-schedules,” McDaniel said. “I’m not sure there’s a quarterback that’s done it better in this league than Russell Wilson. It is beneficial to have that variance because whatever you’re emphasizing, you get reps at that component of your game. So having them back-to-back weeks has been great for him.”
Garoppolo, who ran the scout team for the New England Patriots early in his career, knows how vital those reps can be.
“Absolutely. Yeah. At that time, I mean, you just think you're a scout-team quarterback -- myself I'd never done it before -- so you don't know how to fully embrace that role, I guess," Garoppolo said Wednesday when asked about how Lance can get the most out the role. "But a lot of good could come from it. It's one of those things that the defense might have you circle on a receiver, and you have to throw this ball, and you have to find a way to stick it in there and beat the coverage.
"And those are the tough spots that you get in, but it makes you a better quarterback, I think.”
Lance hasn't taken a meaningful snap since getting the start in the 49ers' Week 5 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. With the 49ers back in the playoff picture and Garoppolo executing the offense at a high level, Lance's reps will be limited down the stretch.
But the rookie is making strides behind the scenes, and the hope is that he will be ready to take the reins in 2022.