While Jimmy Garoppolo likely gives the 49ers their best chance of winning right now, former 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley would like to see an increased role for rookie quarterback Trey Lance.
Lance, a dual-threat talent the 49ers selected with the No. 3 overall pick, is the future of the team. Staley says coach Kyle Shanahan must do all he can to maximize the 49ers’ win total this season while also setting up the franchise for years to come.
“We see the limitations of Jimmy and we all know where his ceiling is,” said Staley, an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area. “Is Trey’s ceiling going to be so much further? And there’s a balance act right now between playing Trey — is he the best player for this football team and hindering his long-term development.
"I really think the smart thing is for Jimmy to play because he’s not playing as poorly as everybody thinks.” Garoppolo’s stats through three games compare favorably to the numbers he posted in his previous seasons. He completed 67.4 percent of his attempts while averaging more than 250 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception in the first three games.
Garoppolo likely is under more scrutiny this season because everyone is anticipating Lance, at some point, will take over as the 49ers’ No. 1 quarterback.
“I think the situation is really unique because of the addition of Trey Lance to the equation,” Staley said. “You look at his stats and the way he’s playing, it’s been consistent or even a little bit better than he has in the past.
“He’s not going down the field all of the time, but he is protecting the football. He’s making key third downs late in the game. I think he’s playing efficient football. But there’s that unknown that Trey has right now that’s causing a lot of fans and a lot of dialogue about what can be.”
Lance was inserted into the 49ers’ offense for seven snaps over the first three games. He has one touchdown pass and one touchdown run.
Staley said he would like to see Shanahan utilize Lance’s talents to help kick-start the run game during the regular flow of a game and not just in the deep red zone.
“I think Trey can add pieces to this offense that defenses are going to have to account for and I don’t think we’ve even seen what that can be because the plays you run at the goal line and inside the 5-yard line, where you’ve seen him come in, are different from what you can see in the open field,” Staley said. “And I think he can do a lot of things, obviously, with his arm talent but also the play actions. It’s a different look for the defense to prepare for.”