Trey Lance out, Jimmy Garoppolo in: State of the 49ers’ quarterbacks
12: 00 PM ET
Nick WagonerESPN Staff Writer
- Covered Rams for nine years for stlouisrams.com
- Previously covered University of Missouri football
- Member of Pro Football Writers of America
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As the San Francisco 49ers watched quarterback Trey Lance leave on a cart with his right leg in an air cast, the unmistakable feeling of “here we go again” washed over the sideline. It didn’t take long for Lance to realize that his injury was serious. Soon after Sunday’s 27-7 win against the Seattle Seahawks, coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Lance has a fractured right ankle that will require season-ending surgery. The Niners have lost their starting quarterback for the third time under Shanahan in six seasons. It happened to Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3 of 2018 (torn left ACL), Garoppolo in Week 8 of 2020 (high ankle sprain) and now Lance. The injury to Garoppolo the previous two times was a death blow for the Niners’ season. He missed a combined 23 games in those two seasons and the Niners spiraled to a combined finish of 10-22. The Niners believe that things will change this time as Garoppolo will replace the injured quarterback.
” We are very grateful to Jimmy for being our No. Shanahan stated that Jimmy is our No. 2 quarterback and it’s important to have the experience and know how good he is, especially when your starter gets hurt. “We’ve been in this situation before and I feel we’re a bit more prepared with our backup right at the moment. “
On Sunday the locker room was sombre after a win against a division rival. The Niners were concerned about their young quarterback. While there is no potential for quarterback controversy this season, Lance’s injury raises new questions.
What is the plan at quarterback?
For 2022, the plan is simple: Garoppolo will start in Lance’s place. It’s the job he knows best after making 45 regular-season starts for San Francisco since he was acquired in 2017. The 49ers have had plenty of success with Garoppolo under center, going 31-14 in the regular-season games, 4-2 in postseason and making a trip to the Super Bowl.
Rookie Brock Purdy will be the No. Garoppolo is Garoppolo’s second-ranked quarterback. Purdy was “Mr. Irrelevant” in the 2022 NFL draft, as the 49ers used the last pick (No. 262 overall) on him. He is now just one step away from gaining a lot of relevance.
” My mindset hasn’t changed,” Purdy stated. “I’ve been prepared. “I’ve prepared. “
While the Niners don’t expect to add another quarterback, they will likely need to find another player for their practice squad.
What does this mean for Lance?
Lance’s injury carries significant implications in the short and long term. The Niners used Lance as their starter during the offseason, training camp, and beyond. San Francisco had to adjust their approach to incorporate deep passes and more planned quarterback runs. They will have to do the same with Garoppolo. This could take some time as Garoppolo will be working with the starting offense for his first time since January.
Of greater importance is what this means to Lance’s future. As a rookie, he played very sparingly and was only five quarters into the season. This means that the Niners don’t know what to do with Lance. This doesn’t take into account how Lance will recover and what he will look when he returns.
The Niners knew Lance would have some struggles this season, as he was learning on the fly. But they hoped he would make progress and that the defense and run game would keep them competitive. He doesn’t have the chance. Assuming Lance returns in time to start the 2023 season, he will have had five starts since 2019, his redshirt freshman season at North Dakota State. There’s also a financial aspect. The Niners offered Lance a reasonable rookie contract, which would allow them to allocate their resources elsewhere. This was part of the appeal. Lance will be able to count $7. 75 million against the cap this year but will be another year closer to free agency when he returns from injury. Shanahan stated that it was unfortunate for him. “We are really hurting for him, but we were really hoping to see lots of him this year. “
What does this mean for Garoppolo’s future?
When the Niners brought Garoppolo back, they believed he was the ultimate insurance policy. It was easy to bring back a quarterback who had been in the center for two trips at Super Bowl LIV and NFC Championship Game for $6.5 million guaranteed.
Sunday was a sobering reminder about why Lance, who had suffered a few minor injuries to his knees and fingers last year, sustained an ankle injury. Although the Niners hoped this would never happen, they were glad Garoppolo was available to help.
The irony is that the Niners have to rely on Garoppolo’s health to remain in contention. The No. The number one reason the Niners moved Garoppolo from Garoppolo and Lance was Garoppolo’s inability stay healthy. That Lance’s injury happened so early means Garoppolo has to try to stay on the field for at least the next 15 games.
Ross Dwelley won’t be denied as he muscles across the goal line to score a touchdown for the 49ers in the second quarter.
It could also mean big things for Garoppolo’s bank account. Garoppolo’s reworked contract includes more than $8 million in incentives that are based on performance and playing time. For example, he gets $250,000 for every game in which he takes at least 25% of the offensive snaps, $100,000 for every win in those games. Garoppolo’s contract has a no trade clause. However, it is unlikely that he will be traded. Garoppolo’s contract also includes a no-tag clause. This means that he can become an unrestricted, free agent after the season. The Niners can’t stop him from testing the market.
This could prove to be more significant than anyone thought when the deal was announced.
What happens if Garoppolo has an excellent year and the Niners reach the postseason? Are the Niners comfortable giving it to Lance? Is it possible that the Niners would pay a premium in order to get Garoppolo back.
These are questions that will be answered over time, but the fact they can be asked already tells you everything you need to know about this unique circumstance.
“It’s never about you,” Garoppolo said. It’s about winning football matches. That’s what I believe. You can talk about stats and all that, but winning football games is what we are here for. That’s all I want to do. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.