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Kyle Shanahan says Trey Lance can win 49ers’ QB job

Could Trey Lance beat out Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers' starting quarterback job? Head coach Kyle Shanahan is keeping an open mind about the possibility.

The San Francisco 49ers’ plan is to roll with Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback, but head coach Kyle Shanahan is keeping an open mind regarding talented rookie Trey Lance.

Shanahan spoke about the 49ers’ QB situation on The Michael Irvin Podcast, and when pressed about San Francisco possibly starting Lance as a rookie, the coach didn’t hold anything back:

There definitely is the way that you’re saying about Trey [for him to start]. I’m not trying to give (Mike) Florio some big headline that he makes an annoying statement out of… but hell yeah there is. I think that would be really hard, Jimmy is a really good QB.

Kyle Shanahan on Trey Lance potentially beating out Jimmy Garoppolo for 49ers’ QB job

There’s little reason for Shanahan to press Lance into action in his maiden pro campaign, provided Garoppolo can stay on the field. Shanahan expressed plenty of confidence in Garoppolo in the interview, asserting he isn’t merely a “bridge” starter.

However, Jimmy G’s health a big “if.” He tore his ACL in 2018 and made only three starts. Last season, he started just six games due to an ankle injury.

Garoppolo’s injury history was the main catalyst for the Niners trading up from 12th overall to No. 3 in order to draft Lance in the first place. While the North Dakota State product is raw, there’s no denying his phenomenal arm talent and dual-threat playmaking ability.

How Trey Lance can beat out Jimmy Garoppolo

How Trey Lance can beat out Jimmy Garoppolo
Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, OH, USA; North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance appears on the Red Carpet at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before the first round of the 2021 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: David Dermer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

After starting only one full season at the FCS level and appearing in just one contest last year, Lance really lacks game experience entering the NFL. That said, he has perhaps the highest ceiling of anyone in the loaded 2021 QB class.

In order to expedite Lance’s development into a potential superstar, San Francisco needs to get him reps and live game action. That’s probably going to be a tall order, though, because Garoppolo will take the vast share of first-team reps throughout training camp, as the 49ers face championship expectations.

Granted, Garoppolo has earned that right to this point. The last time he stayed healthy for a full season, he led San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance. He was one missed long throw away from being Super Bowl MVP, in fact.

How quickly things can change in the NFL.

What works in Lance’s favor is his aforementioned skill set as a ball-carrier. He ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns during the 2019 campaign. He also showed excellent decision-making, with 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions while operating a pro-style system.

If Lance can fine-tune his accuracy, continue to keep the ball out of harm’s way and show off enough of the added dimension his legs bring to Shanahan’s offense, he could definitely get the starting nod.

But it’s going to take a special performance out of Lance leading up to the season to beat out a veteran like Garoppolo, who the whole locker room respects and is behind.

The best part? Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have been completely transparent to the public, to Garoppolo and to Lance about the whole situation. What could’ve been a mess and a controversy is at least, for now, an open line of communication between all parties. If Lance pops right away, it’ll be hard to sit him on the sidelines.

Related: NFL Power Rankings – 2021 outlook before training camp