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Three Reasons Why Benching Trey Lance Would Be Foolish

The San Francisco 49ers invested too much in hopes of finding a franchise quarterback in Trey Lance just to settle for mediocrity at the QB position again with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Trey Lance era is upon us and like it or not, the 49ers can’t turn their back on it now. Here’s why.

The 49ers Locker Room

After failing to find a trade partner, the 49ers decided to restructure Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract and grant him a role as Lance’s backup. In return, the Niners gain financial flexibility as they hold out for a trade offer that may never come. In doing so, the Niners’ desire to receive compensation for a QB that no teams have shown to see much value in will likely make things awkward in the locker room. Along with being awkward, willingly playing Garoppolo over Lance for any reason but an injury could be problematic.

For Lance, he’s 22 years old and a first-year starter in the NFL. Regardless of how high someone is drafted or what their potential is, there will be growing pains until adequate playing time has been given. When Lance makes mistakes this year that’ll allow him to go back and review with coaches what he did wrong as well as how to correct himself. If a veteran in Jimmy Garoppolo was able to have as long of a leash as he did in 2021 where he totaled 23 total touchdowns with 15 turnovers, why can’t Lance as a first-year starter have at least the same leash?

Trey Lance has mentioned before how he doesn’t care about the outside noise regarding him or Garoppolo. Whether that’s true or not, the noise that could be problematic may not be coming from the outside. Many people who have spoken about this situation, including 49ers all-time great Joe Staley, have voiced their concerns about how the locker room will respond if Lance struggles. Will they start looking to Jimmy G? If so, how would that affect Trey if his team isn’t patient enough to allow him to grow?

Garoppolo made many head-scratching throws and committed turnovers in what felt like every single game. If the 49ers were able to advance to the NFC title game with a QB who made those mistakes and threw no touchdowns in both playoff wins, they can afford to give Lance the benefit of the doubt.

It Would Be Counter Productive For Lance And The 49ers

As mentioned earlier, Lance needs to be thrown into the action and adapt to NFL game speed. Some may think that with a contending roster this may not be the time to let Lance play for experience, but it’s the best time. What better way to throw a first-year starter on the field than with arguably the best play-caller in the NFL, all-pro players and an elite defense to back him up? Most would be with losing rosters and staying out of the playoff picture, but the 49ers can spur Lance’s growth and still contend for a Super Bowl altogether.

Not only should Lance be the unquestioned starter, but the thought of benching him should never surface. The best way to manage young QBs is by letting them play through their mistakes. When you have a veteran QB who consistently makes rookie mistakes, that’s when you trade three first-round picks to find his replacement.

Even if Lance has the worst of struggles, all the 49ers would do by playing Garoppolo is stunt the growth of their young QB. A constant worry with Lance is his lack of experience dating back to his college days at North Dakota State University. Well, he has to get the experience at some point so if the worry is that he’ll take a few years, why delay it?

An example of a big and athletic QB who took time to develop is Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills. Since he was drafted, there weren’t any QBs who would’ve been worth playing over him, so Allen got to experience NFL action rather quickly. In Allen’s first two seasons, he started 27 of his 28 appearances in which he totaled 30 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions while completing less than 60% of his passes. In his next two seasons, Allen accumulated 73 touchdown passes and 25 interceptions while completing 66.3% of his passes. In other words, it took Allen two seasons as a starter to work out the kinks and become one of the best players in the NFL.

Now imagine if after the first or first two seasons the Buffalo Bills decided to move on from Allen due to his lack of production as a young quarterback. Would that have been the right decision? Obviously not. So why are many people so antsy to call it on Trey Lance when he’s started only two games? If he needs a couple of years, so be it. But playing Garoppolo, or anybody else other than Lance for that matter, delays the time Trey needs. And instead, the Niners would be playing the same guy who hasn’t been able to deliver in the playoffs. So there’s no need to panic if Lance struggles.

The 49ers Need To Increase Their Ceiling To Make Room For Another Lombardi Trophy

In the Kyle Shanahan era, the 49ers have had a couple of good seasons. With two NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl appearance, they’ve come up just short of greatness twice. While last year the Niners squeezed into the playoffs, it was in 2019 that they were dominant and when Garoppolo hit his ceiling. Lance’s ceiling is extremely high. Will he reach it? We’re not sure. But we have seen the best of Garoppolo already, which has already proven to not be good enough to win a Super Bowl.

In sports, every team is always looking to improve to compete for a championship. So if you’re not improving, you’re getting worse. While Garoppolo is a serviceable starter that the 49ers can be good with, Lance gives them the opportunity to be great. With his ability to stretch the ball downfield, the mobility to extend plays and his youth the Niners could be great with Lance for a long time. If Jimmy G was able connect with Emmanuel Sanders in the Super Bowl against Kansas City, maybe they win it and this is a different story. But they didn’t and at some point, you have to move on.

The 49ers have, but now they have to commit to that decision. All Lance needs to do is be better than Jimmy G, which is between average and above average. The elite defense, the playmakers on offense and Kyle Shanahan can make up for his mistakes as he goes through his growing pains. They did for Garoppolo, so why play someone with a lower ceiling when you’re in a position to win now? With what the Niners invested to get Lance, getting nervous and benching him for making rookie mistakes for a veteran who isn’t mobile and consistently makes rookie mistakes would be foolish.

Keeping Jimmy G on the roster is not an indictment on Trey Lance. It’s simply the result of a miscalculation of Garoppolo’s trade value and surgery that impacted negotiations as well. If the Niners were truly concerned with Lance, they would’ve likely had Garoppolo participating in training camp and preseason. They didn’t even give him a playbook for camp and preseason. Not something you’d typically see from a team concerned about their 22-year-old QB. So the notion that the 49ers might or should bench Trey Lance for any reason in 2022, is starting to get out of hand.

The 49ers will open their season in Chicago against the Bears this Sunday with Trey Lance starting under center. Don’t expect that to change in 2022.



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