With Baker Mayfield finally moving on from Cleveland, the final remaining domino to fall before the season kicks off in two months is Jimmy Garoppolo.
Many people believe it is actually in the 49ers best interest to keep Jimmy and let him play out the final year of his deal before moving on to Trey Lance next season and likely picking up a 2024 compensatory draft pick. However, I believe it is in the team’s best interest to move on from Garoppolo prior to this season and allow Trey Lance to officially get the keys to Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
While there are certainly financial considerations to take into account here (such as the $25.55 million in cap relief the team will receive if they release or trade Garoppolo) the main reason I take this stand is simple – Lance gives the 49ers a better chance to contend for a Super Bowl right now. While Garoppolo has proven experience, Lance is a better fit in Kyle Shanahan’s run-first offensive system, has a better arm, and is healthier than Garoppolo. Not only does Lance have a higher ceiling, he is simply a better player at this point in their respective careers.
Outside of Kyle Shanahan’s two seasons with Robert Griffin III in Washington, Kyle never worked with a mobile quarterback. However, Lance is unlike RGIII in the sense that Lance is a much more physical runner )as well as a better passer) than Griffin ever was.
Lance’s tape from college is very impressive. You can find him delivering big hits on designed QB runs on 3rd and 4th and short, much like Cam Newton did in the early stages of his career.
Trey Lance was unfair at NDSU ????
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 5, 2021
He may want to tone his physicality down a bit if he wants to last in this league, but the point is he can be a punishing runner when he chooses.
With that said, his college tape proves that he was a better passer than Newton as well and will be able to rely more on his arm than his legs if need be.
— Rich (@richjmadrid) May 7, 2022
Watching his NDSU tape as well as his 178 snaps from 2021, he proves to be highly intelligent and far more athletic and mobile than some of the best young QBs in the NFL such as Mahomes, Burrow, and Herbert.
As we know, the NFL is cyclical. In the early 2000s, GMs around the league sought out pocket style QBs like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. More recently, mobile QBs such as Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, and Kyler Murray have been coveted due to the additional element that a defense must account for with a run threat taking snaps.
Nowadays, teams look for players like Josh Allen and Trey Lance who are prototypical height and weight, have elite arm strength, and can be a dynamic rusher on top of all of that. Having a player like this really puts pressure on an opposing defense and creates mismatches no matter the down and distance.
Speaking of Allen, He and Lance share a few common characteristics. They both attended small, non-Power 5 programs, stood at 6-foot-3 or taller and weighed at least 224 pounds coming out of school. Coming out of the University of Wyoming, Allen’s arm strength was highly touted. However, scouts around the league believed he lacked the accuracy and “touch” required of an NFL QB. The only real knock on Lance coming out of school was that he only played in 19 games (all against FCS-level competition) and essentially had a year off before the 2021 draft thanks to the canceled fall athletic season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To be clear, I am not claiming that Lance will be on the same level as Allen this upcoming season. That would be far too much to expect from the first-time starter. I do however believe that coming out of school, Lance was a more refined passer than Allen was at the same age. Thanks to their similar body type and skill set in both the run and pass games, it is not a stretch to say that Lance could reach Allen’s level after a few years of learning from one of the best offensive minds in the league in Kyle Shanahan.
Lastly, pairing a QB with tremendous upside with one of the best coaches of their generation is a proven formula for success in the NFL. Look back to the 80s 49ers with Bill Walsh and Montana/Young, the 90s Cowboys with Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman, the 2000s Patriots with Belichick and Brady, and more recently with Andy Reid and Mahomes. Each of these teams had one of the greatest coaches of all time (mostly offensive minded) as well as an elite quarterback who was drafted by the team and developed within the head coach’s system.
Shanahan’s offense is already extremely complex and difficult to defend. Now add in the potential for designed QB runs with a player who has the potential to be both an elite runner and passer and opposing defenses should be frightened to go against San Francisco this season.
Even if there were no ancillary factors at play in this decision, I would go with Lance over Garoppolo simply due to the fact that I believe he is more talented and gives the 49ers a better chance to win the Super Bowl right now than the veteran Garoppolo.