Third to First: Should the 49ers Start Trey Lance Against the Jaguars?
Image Credit: Terrell Lloyd/San Francisco 49ers
Two weeks ago, the 49ers stood at 3-5 following an embarrassing 31-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. San Francisco sat near the bottom of the NFC West after a string of five losses in six games. Fans and media alike waved the white flag and proclaimed the season a waste. With the 49ers moving further and further from contention, the demands to bench Jimmy Garoppolo and begin the Trey Lance era reached new heights. Kyle Shanahan declined to make a change at quarterback. With their season on the line, the 49ers responded in dramatic fashion. A beatdown of the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football put the NFL on notice. The 49ers are capable of beating the best. Sitting just under .500, is it time for the 49ers to relinquish control of the offense to Trey Lance?
Short Week in Jacksonville
Image Credit: Terrell Lloyd/49ers
The 49ers have their longest flight of the season following Week 10’s Monday night win. The East Coast trip signals an early start for the West Coast team and a day less to recover. Factor in the travel time and limited practice reps and this could be a tough week to prepare a rookie quarterback. Trey Lance has not taken a snap since Week 5. Kyle Shanahan reassured the media this week that his rookie knows the playbook and there is always a package of plays installed for him. However, rust could be a significant factor for the rookie who is also coming back from a knee injury. Add in the uncertainty regarding the availability of running back Elijah Mitchell and guard Jaylon Moore and the situation becomes much more complicated.
Finally in Rhythm
Video Credit: Kyle Posey/YouTube
After looking completely inept and without identity, the 49ers relied on the running game to reintroduce themselves to the NFL. An 18-play, 11-minute, 91-yard opening drive immediately set the tone. The 49ers compiled a whopping 44 rushing attempts against the Rams and nearly doubled their opponent in time of possession. While the passing numbers weren’t flashy, the 49ers offense did not turn the ball over. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle each hauled in five catches and a receiving touchdown. Brandon Aiyuk continued to gain momentum with three catches of his own. With the offense showing its first signs of life, could a quarterback change bring things to a screeching halt?
A Damn Good Game Manager
Image Credit: Austin Ginn/San Francisco 49ers
The title “game manager” is one of the most backhanded compliments in the sporting vocabulary. Popularized during the Alex Smith administration, the term is often used for a quarterback that operates an offense successfully without unanimously being the most talented player on the field. Another term seems more fitting: efficient. That’s exactly what Jimmy Garoppolo has been in his last three games. During San Francisco’s Week 8 win against the Chicago Bears, Garoppolo threw for 322 yards on his way to a 100.6 passer rating. In Week 9, Garoppolo completed 70% of his passes, with two touchdowns, in a losing effort to the Cardinals. In Week 10, he was an efficient 15-for-19 (78.95%) for 182 passing yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Are these the gaudy numbers that Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes produce? Absolutely not. But Kyle Shanahan has shown he can win with Jimmy Garoppolo, not in spite of him. Garoppolo has shown his ability to win no matter the circumstances. He led the 49ers to a 9-0 Mud Bowl victory against the Washington Football team and a 48-46 shootout over the New Orleans Saints. Garoppolo has the internal fortitude to lead this team even when outside influences are doubtful.
A Blunt Answer
No, absolutely not. 100% no. Not right now. That’s the conclusion. The 49ers are seemingly finding traction for the first time all year. At this point, the 49ers equipment manager shouldn’t even change his lucky socks (shoutout Robert Lloyd). So, a change at quarterback for a team that took ten weeks to find its leadership and identity? Hard pass. This is not to say that Trey Lance does not have a place in the offense immediately. 49ers fans caught a glimpse of how effective he can be when sprinkled into the offense, especially in red zone scenarios. Trey Lance’s time is near, but it is not now.
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