Who is the front runner for the 49ers QB position?

Will Trey Lance or Jimmy G start for Kyle Shanahan?

By: Steph Sanchez

It feels like not too long ago, we were speculating about Jimmy Garoppolo’s future in San Francisco after a turbulent 2020 season derailed by an ankle injury. The questions would not stop after John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan traded up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, 49ers brass went out of their way to assure the media that Garoppolo wasn’t going anywhere. When the 49ers selected Trey Lance, it made sense to many why the team would feel comfortable keeping a proven veteran presence such as Garoppolo. Lynch and Shanahan cited the Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes model several times, adamant that Jimmy Garoppolo is their starter. At the start of training camp, Shanahan even said there was “no open competition [at quarterback] right now.” 

By now, we shouldn’t take everything this team says at face value. Let’s not forget the way Shanahan had the NFL media convinced that they were interested in drafting Mac Jones at 3. Trey Lance’s camp performances had local media raving early. So much so that it felt that not considering Lance as the Week 1 starter seemed nearly impossible. 

So far, it seems that there is at least some truth to Shanahan’s words. It’s clear that the starting job will not, in fact, be handed over to the 21-year-old rookie. He will have to earn it. And not only that – Garoppolo will have to lose it. The 49ers are doing a great job of playing both sides and tempering national media and fan’s eagerness to see more of Trey Lance. John Lynch joined ESPN Adam Schefter’s podcast and when asked about Lance said he’s been “tremendous”. He then immediately shifted the discussion toward Garoppolo: “Lance being here has brought the best out of Jimmy Garoppolo…in practice in the offseason and practice in training camp thus far, he’s playing the best football since he’s been here.” Quite the ringing endorsement.

Through training camp, the “non” competition has been fierce. The first few days seemed to belong to Trey with reports like the ball “jumps out of his hand”. He takes risks downfield, he can run. Do these things sound familiar? No, because Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t do these things. It’s not Jimmy’s fault that Trey Lance’s strengths are Garoppolo’s weaknesses. But it’s likely no coincidence either. Being that as it may, Garoppolo is still doing what he does best. He strung together a number of solid practices, usually on days where the rookie struggled. 

Trey Lance’s struggles are the kind you would expect from a rookie still learning and adjusting to life in the NFL. A couple of botched handoffs, sometimes throwing too high and above his receivers are just a couple of the mistakes we’ve heard of Lance making. Garoppolo’s struggles are the same we’ve seen from the veteran before – throwing behind his receivers, no velocity on his throws, interceptions, no deep ball accuracy or power. Garoppolo is who he is. He can do the things he does well but we know (because we’ve seen) that he will mix in a few mistakes largely due to his limitations. 

Jimmy Garoppolo finished training camp with the following stats 128 completions out of 204 attempts, earning him a 62.7% completion rate. Of those 128 attempts, he threw seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Trey Lance on the other hand finished with 115 completions out of 167 attempts. This gives Lance a 68.9% completion rate with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Two of Lance’s touchdowns were rushing touchdowns. 

It is important to note that Garoppolo has spent camp with the first-team offensive line and most of the first-team skill position players. Lance had a total of two snaps with the first-team offensive line in all of camp. The rest of his time was spent behind the reportedly abysmal second-team line. It’s also important to put into perspective that the second-team defensive line has players that could be starters on other teams. 

It’s hard to gauge Lance’s performance if he and Garoppolo are not given equal opportunities. It seems like Shanahan wants to put Lance through the NFL gauntlet before deeming him “ready”. The tough question is what constitutes as “ready” in Kyle Shanahan’s mind. We may never know the answer to this question until Shanahan names Lance the starter. Recent quotes from John Lynch and Shanahan may be an indication as to how they’re currently leaning on their decision. Just within the week before the team’s first preseason same, Kyle Shanahan said “Trey Lance is going to play for us this year”. When asked about the quarterback starting job, John Lynch said “It’s Jimmy’s right now and Trey’s pushing.” 

In the team’s first preseason game against the Chiefs, Jimmy Garoppolo played just one series to start the game. It was a serviceable, classic Garoppolo performance.  He hit his guys for short yardage throws and let his receivers do the rest with their YAC abilities. Trey Lance played 29 snaps which felt like a good chunk of the game. He only played a couple of snaps with the same offensive line that Garoppolo played behind. Lance made the most of his time in the pocket, escaping out to his left and delivering a 49-yard throw that would result in an 80-yard tuddy to WR Trent Sherfield. Lance was in command and showed why he has more upside than Garoppolo. At one point, his only incompletions were on drops.

Unfortunately for the rookie, however, the second-team offensive line could not hold up their end of the deal. After a couple of impressive series, Lance had a difficult time escaping pressure or making accurate throws under duress. 

I imagine this is exactly what Kyle Shanahan wanted him to go through to see how he would respond. It could have gone better but you could certainly make a case for Lance on his upside alone. If he can improve his under-pressure performance in following preseason games, it might be time to call the fight.

Why the QB situation may prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West

The 49ers QB spot is a question mark

By: Andy Davies

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (both 6) have more Super Bowl wins than the 49ers (5). The 49ers’ five Super Bowls all came between the years of 1981 and 1994. They have lost two since, in the 2012 and 2019 seasons. The quarterbacks that led the 49ers to the Lombardi Trophy were Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young. Three of those five wins saw Montana as the starter and Young as the backup.

Young is seen by many as the best backup quarterback in history, considering the gold jacket that he earned despite many years as the backup to Montana. He would win a Super Bowl as the starter after the franchise moved on from Montana. Ever since Young decided to hang up his cleats, the 49ers have struggled to find his replacement. Have they found the guy in Trey Lance?

Perhaps, but here is why the quarterback situation involving Lance and current starter Jimmy Garoppolo could prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West during the 2021 season.

Struggles Since Young

Jeff Garcia was the man to come in for Young. During his five seasons in the Bay, he threw for 113 touchdowns and 56 interceptions as well as 16,408 passing yards. He had a 35-36 record as a starter for the 49ers in the regular season and a 1-2 record in the postseason, meaning he never hit the heights of his predecessor.

Alex Smith was the number one overall pick in 2005, shattering Aaron Rodgers’ dreams. However, he was a good quarterback, not a great quarterback. Colin Kaepernick replaced Smith and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. They ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in a game often called the ‘Blackout Bowl’. Kaepernick failed to live up to the standards he set that season.

He would be kicked out of the league for taking the knee in a protest against police brutality in 2016. He has not played a snap in the NFL since. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He gave hope to the organization after winning all five of the games he started in 2017. The fanbase had hope going into the 2018 season.

Many non-49ers fans had San Francisco down as their dark horse for the season. A season-ending injury to Garoppolo in Week 3 saw the starting role shared between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. However, the 49ers finished 4-12 as they went into 2019 with the second overall pick. Nick Bosa was selected and transformed the defense of San Francisco and Jimmy G had the best season of his career. He threw for 3,978 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite these stats, Garoppolo saw his production limited in the NFC Championship game as the coaching staff decided to use more of their running game. This led to many questions leading to the Super Bowl. The 49ers threw away a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter as they would end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.

Garoppolo was criticized heavily for an overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders that would have given San Francisco back the lead. His 2020 season saw a mixture of poor form and injury. During the 2021 offseason, the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to gain the number three overall pick. They took Lance with the pick, showcasing their intentions to eventually move off from Garoppolo. There is now talk of whether San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan will start Lance in week one. The other scenarios discussed are either Lance coming in mid-season or sitting out the whole campaign as the backup to Garoppolo. The uncertainty will have a significant impact on the 49ers’ season.

The Strength of the NFC West

This is a problem that will affect all four teams in the best division in the NFL. There is a chance that all four teams can make the playoffs. Los Angeles has an exciting new quarterback in 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray that they would never dream of trading away. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ starting quarterback is largely unpopular by fans, due to a mixture of the overthrown pass in the Super Bowl, his poor 2020 campaign and his injury record.

San Francisco has the least trusted quarterback in the division. With the position being one of the most crucial in all sports, it does not bode well for a team when there is uncertainty in the position. Garoppolo may be benched at some point during the season for Lance. However, the 49ers would be putting a rookie that will still be learning the system into the toughest division in the NFL.

Learning From Mahomes, Jackson, Tua and Burrow

If San Francisco are to help Lance succeed, they will need to take some lessons from recent draft classes. Patrick Mahomes, widely seen as the best quarterback in the league, spent all but one game of his 2017 rookie season as a backup to Alex Smith. The Chiefs then traded Smith the following offseason and Mahomes has never looked back. In his first three full seasons as a starter in the NFL, he has reached two Super Bowls, winning one. He has also been crowned MVP and Super Bowl MVP and reached three successive AFC Championship games. All three have been at home. On the flip side, 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow started in week one of his rookie year. He wouldn’t last the season, only playing ten games before injury curtailed his first NFL campaign. He was impressive before his injury but there are no guarantees he will be the same player when he returns.

Lamar Jackson was a backup to Joe Flacco during his 2018 rookie year but won the starting role midseason. He has since gone on to win an MVP award and is the future of the franchise. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins brought Tua Tagovailoa in mid-season but he struggled in his rookie season. He is seen to already be on the hot seat, with many feeling the Dolphins rushed him in. These examples all show there are reasons for the 49ers to be hasty when it comes to choosing when to bring Lance into the starting role.

Lance Or Garoppolo In 2021?

The 49ers will have to decide soon who their starter will be in 2021. Considering Lance has only played one full season (2019), he is likely to start the season as the backup. He only threw for a combined total of 31 passing attempts, two touchdowns and 1 interception across the 2018 and 2020 seasons, albeit the latter campaign being disrupted by the pandemic. He is likely to be a work in progress but his 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in 2019 mean that he is one for the future.

Garoppolo will likely start in week one but it was clear from the NFC Championship game that Shanahan doesn’t completely trust him.

Jimmy G is a capable quarterback but his health is a concern. Expect Garoppolo to remain as the starter provided the 49ers are winning games but for Lance to come in should Garoppolo either be injured or start the season poorly.

Should this happen, this will be the end of Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco. Depending on timing, he will then be traded either before the deadline or in the 2022 offseason.

Can The 49ers Returning Players Avoid A Repeat Of 2020?

This is key if the 49ers are to challenge for both the NFC West and the NFC. After earning the number one seed and reaching Super Bowl 54 during the 2019 campaign, San Francisco finished 6-10 in 2020 and bottom of the division. A ‘Super Bowl Hangover’ played its part but the main cause of such a decline was down to a colossal amount of injuries the team suffered. Along with the aforementioned Garoppolo, the 49ers also saw Bosa, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and Solomon Thomas miss large chunks of the 2020 season due to injury.

San Francisco had 33 players reported questionable and there were 186 occasions when the 49ers reported a player on injured reserve. They had the second-most injuries of any team in the NFL over the past twenty years. Should all these players come back, then this 49ers roster will be one of the best in the league. This will make life much easier for whoever the San Francisco starting quarterback is.

However, from the strength of the division to the uncertainty at quarterback, San Francisco will find it tough to win the NFC West.

Why 49ers Javon Kinlaw will be a star next season

49ers traded Deforest Buckner to go younger and cheaper

By: Steph Sanchez

Due to the circumstances, Javon Kinlaw’s career may always be connected to DeForest Buckner. When the 49ers traded DeForest Bucker in March of 2020, it sent shockwaves throughout the league. Buckner had just completed his best season to date on the wave of the team’s Super Bowl birth. 

When the decision on who to extend came down to Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, no one really expected the team to part ways with Buckner. However, making the money work was an issue. Buckner, being as impressive as he was, would demand top DE money. 

The 49ers are not averse to dishing out top dollar for top talent. But they spend their money meticulously and with eyes on the long term. So while they could have technically made a Buckner extension work, they would be strapped for cash for years to come with extensions for George Kittle, Fred Warner, and Nick Bosa coming up.

That’s when the 49ers decided to trade DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in March of 2020, at the height of his career. The 49ers received a first-round pick in exchange for Buckner. 

Many 49ers fans were livid. The immediate reaction was that the 49ers made the wrong move. First round picks are great if you make the right pick with them. The pressure was immediately on for the 49ers to pick an absolute game changer. Even if it wasn’t reasonable, fans wanted a Buckner replacement to be at his level. Anything less would be a mistake.

The 49ers selected DT Javon Kinlaw with the 14th overall pick in the 2020 draft. It was clear that this kid was a baller but immediately people reviewed the pick through a certain lens: Is Javon Kinlaw a better prospect than DeForest Buckner? Hard to say so early but it seemed Kinlaw would have to go above and beyond to escape Buckner’s shadow.

The 6-foot-5, 324 pound Kinlaw had an impressive resume coming out of college. He finished a First-Team All American who tallied 82 total tackles, 17 for loss, 10 total sacks, 3 force fumbles, and 8 passes defended. It was clear right off the bat that Kinlaw had proven to be an impactful player before. It wasn’t crazy to think that he could step up into a similar role in the NFL and yield similar results.

The elephant in the room would remain, however. We can imagine the immense pressure that Kinlaw felt before even stepping into the 49ers facility. He knew he would not only be entering a new environment but one where he is expected to eventually fill the void of Buckner. He was expected to prove that he was the right move. The reports out of Kinlaw’s first camp were all positive and it did not seem as if the pressure would hinder his performance. 

As the long awaited and anticipated season began to get underway, injuries to the defense mounted. The biggest hit to the defense and Kinlaw’s growth may have been Nick Bosa who went down in Week 2. Bosa’s presence makes everything a bit easier for the rest of the defensive line as he garners a lot of attention from the offensive line. Buckner was a force in his own right, however, it can’t be overstated the impact that Bosa and even Dee Ford had on freeing things up for him. Kinlaw could have benefited from the same but it would not happen in his rookie season.

The defense still found a way to flash, including Kinlaw. He finished his rookie season with 19 total pressures, and 2 sacks on 341 pass rush snaps. He also made an impact in the run game with 20 stops. He showed he can do things on his own and help his teammates make plays with 24 total tackles and 8 assists.  Stats alone won’t tell the full story but having watched every game, you can see Kinlaw become more and more comfortable with himself, with the scheme, and with the level of competition with each week. So when you consider Kinlaw as a rookie, he did a great job and 49ers fans have plenty to look forward to as he continues to develop. He was no Buckner right off the bat but it’s important to remember that neither was Bucker. In fact, in Kinlaw’s first NFL game vs Cardinals, he was graded 81.4 by PFF. Buckner’s best rookie grade also just so happened to be 81.4. If PFF scores are any indication of what’s to come, Kinlaw is heading in the right direction.

With another year under his belt (and an offseason of hunting and eating squirrels), you have to feel good about Kinlaw having a potential breakout year. The 49ers defensive line bolstered their depth this offseason with the additions of Maurice Hurst, Arden Key and Zach Kerr. This will allow for a solid rotation that will help keep the line fresh. This will ultimately benefit every defensive lineman. It also gives first year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans a full arsenal of players to execute his more “aggressive” scheme. 

The return of Nick Bosa should also do wonders for the line. Even if Bosa isn’t 100% back to his rookie form, he will garner enough attention to provide opportunities for Kinlaw and others. 

While we’ve been conditioned to no longer expect Dee Ford to be available, we have heard good things about his rehab this offseason. It sounds like he can contribute even if only a few pass rushing snaps a game. While it may not seem like much, it’s more support than Kinlaw had last season and I fully expect the 6’5” 319 pound pro to take advantage. 

With more experience, confidence and better supporting cast, the stars are aligning for Kinlaw to have a breakout year. Kris Kocurek and DeMeco Ryans will put him in winning situations. Opposing offensive lines will have their hands full with a stacked 49ers defensive front

Why Trey Sermon can be great under Kyle Shanahan

Trey Sermon will be a star in Kyle Shanahan’s offense

By: Reese Nasser

The San Francisco 49ers drafted running back Trey Sermon with the 88th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Sermon was one of the most prolific running backs in college the last four years. He spent his first three collegiate seasons at Oklahoma, and then found his way to Ohio State. 

In his four seasons, Sermon was a workhorse back. Outside of the 2019 season where his year ended early due to injury, Sermon never had less than 116 rushing attempts. 

He finished his college career with one of the more impressive resumes seen in recent years. He ended with 29 touchdowns and 3432 yards from scrimmage. 

Sermon’s biggest fault was his ineffectiveness in the passing game. In his 45 games, he caught just 48 passes for 486 yards. Even with catching less than 50 passes, he still proved to be a playmaker once he got the ball in his hands, averaging just over 10 yards per receptions. 

Now with the San Francisco 49ers, Sermon may have fallen to the perfect team. In San Francisco Sermon won’t be looked at to be the number one back. That responsibility will fall to veterain running back Raheem Mostert. Mostert has solidified himself as an above-average back who is at his best when there is another capable player in the backfield. That is where Sermon will step in. 

It is rare where a player may have been drafted to the perfect organization. In Sermom’s case, he may be one of those lucky players that gets to experience that. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has proven to be someone who can fully utilize his players. He also seems to prefer to run a two-running back backfield. This could also land in Sermon’s favor. Sermon could become one of the next great NFL running backs while Shanahan is his head coach. Here’s why. 

Built for the Offense 

With how often this team utilizes the ground game, it would be difficult for a running back like Trey Sermon to not fit in with this unit. They run often and prefer running backs that can handle carrying the ball at a high rate. 

Sermon has proven to be capable of carrying the running back load for teams. He could shine in an offense such as San Fransiscos. They have brought the best out of most of the players in their backfield, and Sermon could be the next man up. 

49ers Run History 

The San Francisco 49ers have found their success by relying heavily on their run game. When eventual future QB1 Trey Lance takes the helm, the offense could look different, but that is not the case yet. 

With Jimmy Garappolo still leading the charge, the 49ers have played better when throwing less and forcing teams to stop the run. The best example of this is the 2019 NFC Championship game. Garappolo threw just eight passes but the 49ers scored 37 points. In this outing, the 49ers relied entirely on their run game. Raheem Mostert finished the game with 21 attempts, 220 rush yards, and four touchdowns. 

Could Become the RB1

The running back depth chart could be shuffled heading into week one. Mostert has appeared in 16 games just once in his career. He is coming off of a season where he was only able to play in eight games. 

This is where Sermon could step up. With his successful track record in college and ability to stay healthy, for the most part, the 49ers may turn the ball over to Sermon on a regular basis. A one-two punch consisting of Sermon and Mostert could break out into one of the top duos in the NFL. 

While Sermon wasn’t very effective in the pass game in college, that could change in the NFL. Shanahan could utilize him in a manner where they are able to play away from Sermon’s weaknesses and let him flourish at what he is good at. He plays physical and he plays big. He could become a long term solution for the 49ers at running back.

3 biggest question marks for the 49ers offense

Will Trent Williams stay healthy?

The San Francisco 49ers offense was a shell of it’s ritual Top 5 self in 2020. The 49ers offense was ranked fourth in the league in 2019 and then fell back to 15th in 2020. Headed into the 2021 season, expectations loom for Kyle Shanahan to reignite the offense into a lethal machine. 

What exactly will be the hurdles for Kyle Shanahn to lift off the 49ers offense? Let’s dive into the three biggest questions for Shanny’s west coast offense. 

  1. How ready will Trey Lance be?

The biggest question on the offense is unequivocally the QB spot. The 49ers drafted Trey Lance third overall with expectations that he will be a future All Pro. Lance carries sky high potential, but can he hit the ground running in 2020? 

If Lance is in sync with the offense and even slightly more efficient than Jimmy G, I believe it’s a no-brainer that Lance starts in the fierce NFC West. We witnessed Justin Herbert get thrown under the fire early and walk out with the offensive rookie of the year award. Lance has similar ability to Herbert, but he will unveil more victories due to the fact that he has a better team. 

  1. How much will Trey Sermon be involved

I believe it’s vital that rookie RB Trey Sermon becomes a weapon early in the season. All too often fans view a year one RB blossom later in the season. Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift didn’t become a true impact player until several weeks into the 2020 campaign. It will be especially beneficial if Lance and Sermon develop a strong trust in each other before the most important matchups later in the season arrive.

Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman are no longer in the building. Sermon will need to a productive piece in the RB group, but he truly will need to be special if they want to return to winning the NFC West. 

  1. The health of Trent Williams

The health of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle is very important. Although, all star weapons are returning healthy and coming off unusual injuries. The “star player with repeated injuries” is none other than the All Pro LT Trent Williams.

The last time that Williams logged more than 14 games was all the way in 2014. If Williams missed three to four games, it could spell disaster for the potential starting rookie QB. Williams’ health is even more valuable with the divisional opponents beefing up their pass rushing units.

It’s clear Aaron Donald rests in Los Angeles, but now the 49ers have to prepare for J.J. Watt and a healthy Chandler Jones in Arizona. If the 49ers also want to win games against the likes of the Buccaneers and Saints pass rush in the postseason, they will need their prominent LT on the field. 

Trey Lance vs Jimmy Garoppolo: Who will win the 49ers QB job?

Will Lance win the 49ers QB competition?

By: Brady Akins

April 29, 2021. The first round of the most recent iteration of the NFL Draft, and the night that the San Francisco 49ers made the franchise-altering decision to select Trey Lance, the 21-year-old quarterback out of North Dakota State, third overall.

This, when just four seasons prior, the 49ers made what was seen at the time as another high-stakes quarterback acquisition, when San Francisco managed to lure the perceived heir apparent to the impossible throne of Tom Brady in Jimmy Garoppolo to the Bay Area. 

And in the four seasons that followed, the 49ers have received a mixed bag from the quarterback they gave up a second-round pick to add to the roster. From being a wealth of untapped potential with an unbeaten record in 2017 to an injury-prone player with a limited skillset under center in 2020 and everywhere in between.

Even with an NFC Championship victory and a near Super Bowl victory under the belt of Jimmy G, one franchise-altering decision has led to another. And with OTA’s now well underway league-wide, Garoppolo has come face-to-face with the man set to become the future of the San Francisco offense in Lance. 

It’s a football tale as old as football time. One young, unproven but talented hotshot quarterback steps into the fray to take over for an established starter. When that switch happens, however, always varies. It took three years for the reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers to get the starting nod in Green Bay over Brett Favre, one year for another MVP Patrick Mahomes to take over for Alex Smith in Kansas City, and just a handful of games for yet another MVP in Lamar Jackson to take over in Baltimore for Joe Flacco. But it always happens. The new guy will always get a shot, one way or another.

So the question of Garoppolo’s future in San Francisco is settled. Sooner or later, he will be out and Lance will be in. And that, folks, is the ecosystem of the NFL. 

But just because Garoppolo’s long-term fate was sealed with that April 29 decision to draft Lance, nothing has been determined for the immediate present of the 49er’s quarterback job. Rather, Garoppolo has entered a battle to be San Francisco’s Week One starter for the 49ers. A battle of two contenders, where each party has a compelling case.

But between Lance and Garoppolo, who deserves it more?

Who is Jimmy Garoppolo?

No longer is Garoppolo the exciting unknown quantity he once was. He’s not the undefeated starter on pace to be the next Tom Brady anymore. His weaknesses have been documented and used against him, as have his strengths.

The 49ers, along with the rest of the football world, know exactly what they’re getting when Jimmy Garoppolo takes the field, for better and for worse. They’re getting a guy who is accurate, can deliver the ball well and quickly in short to intermediate areas on the field. They’re also getting a guy who has struggled in the past with injuries, has shown a penchant for turning the ball over, and is limited as an athlete.

If you need to win a game, you can count on Garoppolo, just don’t expect it to be pretty. Through seven years in the league, Garoppolo has started in 32 games– all but two of which have come in a 49ers uniform. In that time, he’s gone 24-8.

It’s difficult to argue with a win rate that high. In fact, among active quarterbacks with 10 or more starts, Garoppolo ranks fourth overall in winning percentage– behind three former MVPs in Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson. 

But the knock against Garoppolo as a player that has seen great success in his time under center, is that, more often than you would hope from a franchise quarterback,  his teams have succeeded in spite of his play rather than because of it. 

Take the 2019 season for example, far and away Garoppolo’s most successful year– by more than a few metrics as well. Not only did he experience career highs in touchdowns, passing yards and completion percentage, but he did so while being able to stay on the field, starting all 16 games for the first time in his career. 2019 still remains as the only time Garoppolo has started more than six games in a season.

With that ability to stay healthy came team success. The 49ers won the NFC for the first time since 2012, won 13 games for the first time since 1997, and all was well in the world. Sure, maybe their quarterback finished with one of the 10 highest interception percentages despite finishing 19th in pass attempts, but it didn’t really matter. San Francisco had the coaching to elevate the weaknesses on the depth chart, and the defensive talent to compensate for whatever deficiencies Garoppolo was bringing to the table.

But team success at that level could have been an anomaly. San Francisco, despite not having a big-name talent at running back, finished with the second-most volume heavy rushing attack in 2019, and the eighth-most efficient, all while having a defense that was top ten in points allowed, yards allowed, takeaways and sacks.

With a smothering defense and role players performing above expectation, everything in San Francisco was perfect. What came of it, however, was a step short of the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl victory. Arguably, the one element missing from their potential storybook season was elite quarterback play.

Not that Garoppolo played poorly in 2019– he didn’t. As he’s been his whole career, Garoppolo proved to be an accurate passer, but a poor decision-maker. A winner, but more of a game manager in the passing game– which was on full display in the team’s NFC Championship victory, one where Garoppolo threw just eight passes in a 37-20 win. 

But he’s still a player that, with the right circumstances, can get a team right on the doorstep of the promised land. The 49ers have lost some talent on defense since that 2019 run, including defensive coordinator Robert Salah in this past offseason. But recent additions on the opposite side of the ball, ones like wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, give San Francisco’s offensive coaching staff more weapons to play with.

Last season was a down year, but one plagued by injuries to key players. With those contributors returning, San Francisco could have the talent to be one of the league’s better teams. If that is the case, they might not need a high-risk, high-reward quarterback more than one who can quietly get the job done.

Who is Trey Lance

If Jimmy Garoppolo is the living, breathing definition of a known quantity– Trey Lance is the exact opposite. If Jimmy Garoppolo is high floor/low ceiling, Trey Lance is a rollercoaster. If Jimmy Garoppolo is the breakfast food equivalent to plain yogurt, Trey Lance is somewhere in the range of the special at a greasy spoon diner that you’ve never heard of but your friend swears by.

Point being– we know Jimmy G. He’s solid. Decent. Able to win and look solid when he does it, but that’s about it. Lance is, well, we don’t really know. He could very well be the best parts of Lamar Jackson with his immense scrambling ability and Tom Brady with his high football IQ and ability to keep the ball safe. Or, he could be a bust. A lot of raw talent but without the ability to put it all together.

And let’s not get it twisted– Trey Lance is talented. One look at the stat sheet from his final full season of college football will tell you as much. 28 passing touchdowns, 67% completion percentage, and zero, ZERO, interceptions. And that’s just through the air. Lance added another 14 touchdowns on the ground, putting up 1,100 rushing yards on 169 attempts.

But even with the immaculate stat sheets– Lance comes with a laundry list of concerns as a player. One of which being, that year of insane production in college was his only year of production in college. In 2018, Lance attempted just one pass in the role of backup. In 2019, he blew up. In 2020– his team played just one game, in what boiled down to essentially a showcase for his NFL potential, and it didn’t go so well.

The one and only interception of Lance’s college career came in North Dakota State’s one 2020 game against Central Arkansas. Granted, Lance made up for the missed opportunity with some truly special production on the ground with 166 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns, but against an FCS opponent that isn’t necessarily on the level that Lance will face in the NFL, he struggled mightily as a passer, even beyond the interception.

On 30 passing attempts, Lance completed just 15 for just 149 yards. Lance did enough in 2019 to show that he at least has the potential to be an accurate passer. The sample size is small, however, and Lance did little to put any concerns about his ability to throw the football accurately to rest.

But the player that Lance could be in the NFL is enough to justify drafting him in the first round, even as high as third overall. Particularly when you have a coach on the sidelines in Kyle Shanahan who has made a living on finding the ways to make the most out of his players.

In 2016, one year before Shanahan’s promotion to head coach of the 49ers, he served the role of offensive coordinator in Atlanta, where he helped Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan win league MVP and hit career highs in, well, everything. His 38 touchdown passes were a career-high, his 4,944 yards were a career-high, his seven interceptions were a career-low, and the list went on. Completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating and quarterback rating, all as high as they’ve ever been under the watchful eye of Shanahan.

Similarly, Shanahan has helped his cast of running backs reach new heights in San Francisco. Raheem Mostert was an NFL journeyman before joining the 49ers, with quick stops in Cleveland, Miami, Baltimore and Chicago that all resulted in not a single carry. With San Francisco, Mostert has blossomed to produce three seasons of efficient carrying, without a season below five yards per carry.

Shanahan might be able to work his magic once more with Lance. But concerns still remain. Lance is an inexperienced player from an FCS school. A perfect 2019 season? Sure. All the potential in the world? No question. Lance has the tools to be one of the all-time greats. But can he do it in year one?

Lance vs Garoppolo: The Final Verdict

The one and only time that Jimmy Garoppolo started 16 games in a season– he won 13 of them. 

Yes, he had the help of a transcendent defense. Yes, looking at his numbers in a box score isn’t as exciting as it would be for a player like Aaron Rodgers. And, yes, in the future, Trey Lance can and likely will be a better player than Garoppolo.

But Lance doesn’t need to be that player immediately.  Garoppolo isn’t going to make highlights like a rookie Lance would, but he can be exactly what the 49ers need in the short term. A player who can distribute the ball with ease to talented pass catchers like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle. A player who can run Shanahan’s offense well enough to win, with years of familiarity with the scheme.

Most of all, he can be a smart guiding hand for the 49ers quarterback of the future. A veteran to show Lance the ropes, the same way that Alex Smith taught Mahomes before him. The future lives with Trey Lance, but the present of the 49ers franchise can still be Jimmy Garoppolo.

49ers win/loss ceiling in 2021

By: Corey Hietpas

After making an appearance in the 2019 Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers had extremely bad luck with injuries in 2020. By week 9, Jimmy Garoppolo, Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, and a few other less notable players wound up on IR. Surprisingly, the 49ers were still able to win 6 games, with 4 of those coming in the first 8 weeks of the season. It’s very fair to say that they would have had a much better season with better injury luck, but we’ll never know just how good this team could have been in 2020. Instead, we can assume that the 49ers will have much better luck with injuries in 2021, and we can look forward to this season and speculate how good they may be this year. Below, I’ve done just that, and you can find what I think to be the Win/Loss floor and ceiling for this 2021 49ers squad. Oh, don’t forget there is an added 17th game going forward, so records are going to look weird for a bit.

Worst Case Scenario

Week 1: W at Lions

Week 2: W at Eagles

Week 3: L vs Packers (with Rodgers)

Week 4: L vs Seahawks

Week 5: L at Cardinals

Week 6: Bye

Week 7: L vs Colts

Week 8: L at Bears

Week 9: L vs Cardinals

Week 10: L vs Rams

Week 11: W at Jaguars

Week 12: W vs Vikings

Week 13: L at Seahawks

Week 14: W at Bengals

Week 15: W vs Falcons

Week 16: L at Titans

Week 17: W vs Texans

Week 18: L at Rams

For me, the worst-case scenario for the 49ers is about on par with how they performed in 2020 as I have them finishing at 7-10. Even if the 49ers have poor injury luck again, it’s likely that they are able to defeat the lowly Lions, Eagles, Jaguars, Vikings, Bengals, Falcons, and Texans. That doesn’t need much explanation, those teams are not in good shape, and the 49ers are well-coached. Now, for the non-conference losses. The Packers with Aaron Rodgers are one of the best teams in football, the Colts are a very good playoff-caliber team and this assumes Carson Wentz can return to form, the Bears at home would be a tough beat and Justin Fields will likely be starting by week 8, and the Titans are a solid and well-rounded team that would be tough to beat in Tennessee. For the conference losses, the NFC West is a very tough division full of playoff teams, and there’s a scenario where the 49ers go 0-4 against the Seahawks and Rams. 

Best Case Scenario

Week 1: W at Lions

Week 2: W at Eagles

Week 3: W vs Packers (No Rodgers)

Week 4: W vs Seahawks

Week 5: L at Cardinals

Week 6: Bye

Week 7: W vs Colts

Week 8: W at Bears

Week 9: W vs Cardinals

Week 10: W vs Rams

Week 11: W at Jaguars

Week 12: W vs Vikings

Week 13: L at Seahawks

Week 14: W at Bengals

Week 15: W vs Falcons

Week 16: L at Titans

Week 17: W vs Texans

Week 18: L at Rams

In a best-case scenario, I have the 49ers finishing with a 13-4 record. Even in a best-case scenario, I believe that the 49ers would only split the season series with the Seahawks, Rams, and Cardinals. This division is so good that it has the insane possibility of 4 playoff teams. The only other loss I have is at the Titans for the same reason stated above. Some notable changes here are wins against the Packers, Colts, and Bears. This scenario assumes that Aaron Rodgers is not playing for the Packers, Carson Wentz is still not good, and the Bears’ QB situation is too much to overcome for them.

The 49ers have an argument for having a top-3 roster in the NFL. Considering the fact that there is no way they have as poor of injury luck as they did in 2020, I believe they will enjoy a lot of success throughout the 2021 season. I would give a much higher chance of them going 13-4 than 7-10. I would be extremely surprised if they don’t make the playoffs.

What a Nick Bosa return means for the 49ers defense

A healthy Nick Bosa will ignite the 49ers defense

By: Steph Sanchez

A week ago, Bleacher Report released a ranking of every NFL defense after the draft. The 49ers were ranked No. 15. The grade can be argued with but you can see where they were coming from. The defense did seem to take a step back after losing several important players throughout the year. 

No player was missed on defense more so than Nick Bosa who suffered an ACL tear in just the second game of the season. Expectations for Bosa in his second year were high after a dominant rookie season that saw him earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The return of Nick Bosa alone could very well be the difference between being Top 15 and becoming a Top 10 defense.

Before departing to New York for a first-time head coaching gig, Robert Saleh turned a bottom of the barrel defense around in just a few years. But it wasn’t until Nick Bosa came along that the defense reached new, Super Bowl competing heights. Robert Saleh getting to add Nick Bosa to his defense in 2019 was like Thanos getting his final Infinity Stone.

Bosa unlocks the 49ers defense’s full potential. Nick Bosa tallied 80 total pressures and seven total assists during the 2019 regular season, according to PFF. Bosa will be playing with an improved supporting cast with new DL additions Samson Ebukam and Jordan Willis, Javon Kinlaw in his second year, and Dee Ford making a return from his own injury hiatus. The attention and double teams Nick Bosa commands should open things up for his defensive lineman counterparts. They should have no problems reaping the benefits.

Not only does Bosa’s impact allow other members of the defensive line to do more, it allows defensive backs to do less. Nick Bosa’s quick get off and high motor forces quarterbacks to get the ball out quickly. In 2019, Bosa accounted for 52 total hurries. The faster opposing quarterbacks have to get the ball out, the less time corners have to cover. This helps their stat sheet as well, as it’s more likely that the quarterbacks make an errant throw, resulting in interceptions or incompletions. It’s also great for overall playtime endurance. 

We can expect that with a new defensive coordinator in DeMeco Ryans, and some new chess pieces on defense, the 49ers defensive scheme may be more aggressive than we’ve ever seen it. I expect blitz packages to be dialed up more often. This will play well to Bosa and the rest of the defensive line’s strengths so they can get loose and wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

On the first day of mandatory OTAs, head coach Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers expect Nick Bosa back and ready to go by training camp. This is great news for the outlook of their season. His impact is unmatched and could only rival that of teammate Fred Warner. Barring any setbacks, Bosa’s presence on the field will be the reason this defense will be climbing power rankings come season time.

Three 49ers That Could Be Surprise Pro Bowlers in 2021

Which 49ers players could make the Pro Bowl next season?

By: Tayyib Abu

The San Francisco 49ers endured a torrid, injury-ridden season as they slumped to the bottom of the NFC West. After making a Super Bowl trip in 2019, 2020 was a disappointing year for the ‘Niners. 2021 offers a fresh start for the club, as several vital starters will return from injury.

The 49ers are determined to win the division and make a return trip to the Super Bowl. The 49ers will need a solid season with contributions from Pro Bowl players. It is time to assess which 49er players could become Pro Bowlers in 2021.

Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers traded up to draft quarterback Trey Lance from North Dakota State. In one move, the San Francisco hierarchy put an expiration date on Jimmy Garoppolo’s stint on the Gold Coast. Lance is the future in Santa Clara; Garoppolo isn’t. However, it is doubtful that Lance will start on Week 1; the raw quarterback requires time to learn the intricacies of the NFL and the 49ers offensive playbook.

Therefore, Garoppolo is still the leading man in California. And while he is an injury-prone player, Garoppolo’s record when healthy is impressive. In his seven-year career, Garoppolo’s played an entire season of 16 games, once.

That season was the best of Garoppolo’s fledgeling career. Garoppolo knows the 49er offence, and he owns healthy relationships with his skill position players. Garoppolo is a Shanahan-style quarterback.

He makes intelligent decisions, releases the ball accurately on short and intermediate routes. Garoppolo and Shanahan are a match made in heaven, and the added motivation of silencing the critics should see Garoppolo improve.

The Shanahan offence is quarterback-friendly, and Garoppolo understands it perfectly. The experienced quarterback will bounce back with a big year for his career and the 49ers in 2021.

Alex Mack

If Garoppolo is to enjoy success, six-time Pro Bowler Alex Mack will be critical. The center knows the Shanahan offence inside out; he played for Atlanta when the Falcons made the Super Bowl.

Mack is a veteran locker room leader familiar with the blocking concepts that Shanahan will employ in the run game and passing game. The heavy dosage of outside-zone running means Mack must anchor and pin down the defensive lineman.

The reliance on play-action will force Mack to use his high motor and endurance to maintain blocks. Therefore, it surprised no one that San Francisco offered a three-year contract to Mack in free agency. His familiarity and experience may send him back to the Pro Bowl in 2021.

Jaquiski Tartt

Defence anchored the 49ers’ Super Bowl run in 2019. That defence underwent some changes over the last 18 months. DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Akhello Witherspoon and Solomon Thomas have all left the franchise. Other players must step up.

Jaquiski Tartt is a player who could do that. Tartt is a heavy-hitting, Safety with strong eye discipline and solid awareness in pass coverage. Tartt is an experienced player with knowledge of the 49er defence.

Providing him with a more senior role, Tartt should grow in the defensive backfield. His physical tools are there, and he should get help from the linebacker corps and the defensive line that features a returning Nick Bosa. Tartt could flourish in 2021.

Should 49ers Trade away Raheem Mostert: 3 Potential Fits

Top Raheem Mostert trade destinations?

By: Adam Hulse (Twitter: @AdamHulseSports)

The NFL Draft is now complete as this offseason continues to push along. Teams are filling out their rosters and preparing their personnel for this upcoming season. With the free-agent market thinning out, and most of the worthy prospects already being signed, if a team needs a player to improve an area of their game, the trade market may be the best way to do it at this point.

For teams looking for a running back, an interesting name that could be available via trade is Raheem Mostert of the San Francisco 49ers. He, unfortunately, dealt with some injuries last year but was very productive in the 8 games that he did play, accumulating 677 total yards and 3 total touchdowns. He is a useful weapon out of the backfield and comes with a relatively cheap contract, but his time with the 49ers may be running short.

Mostert is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season, so it would make some sense for the 49ers to explore trade options now instead of letting him potentially walk for nothing at the end of the year. The fact that the team used two of their draft picks this year on running backs Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell, and also signed free agent Wayne Gallman to join a stable of backs that already included JaMychal Hasty and Jeff Wilson, could be a big indicator that the 49ers are already thinking about moving forward without Mostert.

If San Francisco does in fact look to deal him, here are three potential fits that may be interested in acquiring the versatile back via trade.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are a team that has been reportedly looking for more help at the running back position. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss didn’t do enough last year to help their young superstar quarterback Josh Allen. This is already a dynamic offense, and one of the best all-around teams in the NFL, but if they could improve their rushing attack they would be even more dangerous.

Mostert would be a good fit in Buffalo, not only for his rushing abilities but for his contributions in the passing game as well. He would give them another solid option out of the backfield and allow for a true committee approach to the position. This is a role that Mostert is already comfortable with because Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers offense utilized him in that exact way. The Bills are already a real contender this year, but making a move for Mostert could improve their chances even further.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have the most dominant running back in all of football. That beast is of course Derrick Henry. He’s coming off of a monster season where he rushed 378 times for 2027 yards and 17 touchdowns. All three of those totals lead the entire NFL. He is the true definition of a workhorse at the position, and he is as durable as they come, but for the longevity of his career and to optimize peak performance, it might be time for the Titans to get him some help to share the load.

This is where Mostert could come in. The offense would still obviously feature Henry as its main threat, while the contrasting style of Mostert would serve as a nice change of pace as the second option at running back. The one thing missing in the arsenal of Henry is that he is basically a nonfactor in the passing game. Mostert could assume those duties and do so effectively in a third-down back type of role. He could bring a new look to the Titans backfield that they were clearly missing last year.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are one the worst teams in the NFL at the running back position. Their offense is both young and solid everywhere else, including Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, and Mike Gesicki catching passes from now second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. They have invested heavily in the offensive line and in targets for Tua, but the one thing still missing is a reliable option in the backfield.

Mostert could potentially solve that very problem. If acquired, he would instantly be the best running back on the team. Providing Tua with a more consistent rushing attack would be a valuable asset for his development. It would take some of the pressure off of him to carry the entire load and would also open up the play-action passing game that he is so good at. All of these things considered, and including the fact that he was born in the state of Florida, the perfect fit for Mostert just might be Miami.

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