• John Bulmer

Analyzing Which QB the 49ers Should Use with Playoffs on the Line

Image Credit: Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

This is the $64,000 question, the main talking point amongst 49ers fans for the past couple of weeks, so where do we start?

I’ve broken the competition down into a number of key areas which we can tackle individually.


It is somewhat ironic that the one issue which has plagued Garoppolo’s tenure with the 49ers could be the thing that finally ends it. Without his numerous injury issues over the past few years, it is arguable that Trey Lance wouldn’t even be here now at all! But here he is and he wins this battle hands down; don’t just take my word for it though, let’s see what 49ers Twitter’s favourite doctor has to say on the subject.

All accounts suggest that even if Garoppolo’s injury isn’t as bad as Drew Brees’, it is highly unlikely that he would be able to grip a football properly. Is it really worth risking self-inflicted wounds by playing an injured quarterback when you have a first-round draft pick waiting in the wings? Lance played well in the second half against the Texans, is fit and healthy and is completely uncompromised.


Short Passing Game

This is where Garoppolo excels.

If, and it’s a big if, Jimmy is somewhere near healthy (i.e.: he can throw a football accurately and with any velocity) then he is clearly the more polished passer. Garoppolo can lead long drives, executing a short passing game over the middle and getting the ball in the hands of the Niners’ talented receivers consistently. For all his potential, Trey Lance is still raw, still a work in progress, still learning the playbook. It would be unreasonable for anyone to expect him to perform at the same level as a veteran QB. Garoppolo’s much-vaunted quick release may also help to stave off the Rams’ impressive DL, including Von Miller and Aaron Donald.

VERDICT: Garoppolo

Big Play Ability

The above numbers make for very interesting reading and make an excellent case for Trey Lance in this category. Although still a rookie with a very limited recent playing history, Trey Lance has exactly the same risk of turnovers as the veteran starter. In contrast, his big-time throw rate is almost double that of Garoppolo, and his pressure-to-sack rate is almost half. Put simply, Trey is almost twice as likely to pull off a big play and half as likely to take a sack even though, as we already saw above, he is holding on to the ball much longer. This shows his ability to elude pressure and to make big throws off-platform. He also has a significantly higher average depth of target meaning he makes the field bigger; dragging defenders out of the box and allowing more room for running backs to operate.

Big plays break defences and shouldn’t be underestimated. Lance was a clear leader in this category before Jimmy was injured (that’s why they sold the farm to go get him!) and that gap can only have widened with Garoppolo’s injured hand.



I won’t spend too long on this as the answer is fairly self-explanatory. Trey Lance is a rookie with three competitive starts (2 in the NFL) in the past two years. Jimmy Garoppolo is an eight-year veteran with 62 NFL starts and over 11,500 passing yards; he’s been there, done it and got the t-shirt. He has also, in spite of his limitations, played well in recent weeks and has nothing to fear against the Rams, who he has an excellent record against. He has proved many times in the past that he has the Rams number and can get the job done.

VERDICT: Garoppolo

Final Verdict

The final score here is 2-2, so how do we break the tie?

It comes down to this: what do you value more? Health or experience, short passing game or big play potential? I know where I stand; even if Garoppolo was 100 percent I would roll with Lance, because whatever happens on Sunday, there is upside with the decision. You are showing faith in the rookie, you’re making a statement: “We believe in Trey, he is the future of the franchise.”

The worst-case scenario is the Niners lose but the kid gets valuable reps and experience in what is essentially a playoff game. I can live with that; I’m in it for the long haul, there will be other seasons and other trips to the playoffs.

The best-case scenario is that he wins and takes a giant leap, not just in experience but also in confidence, and cements his place as the 49ers’ quarterback of the future.

Don’t live in fear of the future. Embrace it and run towards it, because that is where possibilities live.

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