Kyle Shanahan makes clear that Trey Lance is Jimmy Garoppolo's backup

·2-min read

Kyle Shanahan is adept at keeping secrets from the media when he wants to. 

But there were no smoke screens on Wednesday when discussing San Francisco's quarterback situation. The 49ers head coach made things crystal clear. Jimmy Garoppolo is and will continue to be the team's starter. Trey Lance — the No. 3 pick in April's draft — is a firm No. 2 on the depth chart. 

“There’s not a quarterback battle right now,” Shanahan said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “We’re going with our starting quarterback, who I think is playing very well. I’m happy that he is, so Trey isn’t thrown into these situations too early.”

Shanahan made the proclamation in the aftermath of Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers. Garoppolo started and played most of the game's offensive snaps. But Lance entered to score San Francisco's first touchdown on a goal-line run after a Garoppolo-led offense failed to reach the end zone in multiple red-zone attempts. 

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 29: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers talk to each other on the sidelines before their preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Levi's Stadium on August 29, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo is San Francisco's starter. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The situation mirrored San Francisco's season-opener against the Detroit Lions, which saw Lance take Garoppolo's place to throw a five-yard touchdown for the team's first score of the season. But like in Sunday's Packers game, Lance's contribution was brief. Garoppolo led the offense for the vast majority of snaps.

It's a dynamic that 49ers fans can expect more of — Garoppolo leading the team while Lance takes over in key situations where his superior athleticism is an asset. 

“Trey’s our backup quarterback," Shanahan said. "This isn’t the preseason. We’re not just going back and forth all the time. Trey goes in for specific plays or things we want to do.”

Is Shanahan making the right call?

While 49ers and NFL fans are eager to see what Lance brings as a full-time player, that's obviously no reason for Shanahan to cave to their desires. For now, he's satisfied with Garoppolo, who's thrown four touchdowns and one interception while averaging 253.3 yards per game and completing 67.4% of his passes. Meanwhile, the 49ers are 2-1. 

It's a situation that plenty of teams across the league would gladly trade for, including each of the four that have started their rookie quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Mac Jones have all struggled to varying degrees as the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots are off to a collective 2-10 start.

Justin Herbert was fantastic as a rookie starter for the Los Angeles Chargers last season. But he's the exception. Sometimes it makes sense for rookie quarterbacks to develop from the bench. For now, that's clearly the path Shanahan intends for Lance.

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