In 2021, the San Francisco 49ers took a big swing in the hopes of securing their franchise quarterback of the future; trading multiple first-round picks and a third-round pick for a chance to add Trey Lance to their roster.
Unfortunately, in the opinion of Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus, that decision was a mistake, as he named the move San Francisco’s worst over the past five years in an article appropriately titled “Every NFL team’s biggest draft mistake over the past five years.”
With the 49ers having a roster in position to win immediately, it never quite made sense to draft the least experienced and youngest quarterback in the 2021 class. After a leg injury to start the year, Lance is still the least experienced quarterback in that class, with just 124 career dropbacks to his name.
Afforded a rare top-20 pick following a season marred by injury, John Lynch traded up for a chance to add some dynamic athleticism and a cost-controlled athlete under center for the foreseeable future and was willing to mortgage some of that future in order to make it happen, even if the move was deemed risky at the time. While the Niners have, in a roundabout way, settled into an interesting position at quarterback heading into 2023, with Lance and soon-to-be-second-year quarterback Brock Purdy competing for the starting role, it’s hard for many fans not to look at all of the picks surrendered by Lynch and wonder what could have been.
Brock Purdy is open to competing with Trey Lance
Stopping by the “AP Pro Football Podcast,” Purdy was asked about the prospects of competing with Lance for the Niners’ quarterback spot moving forward by Rob Maaddi and gave a response that should make fans very excited.
“At the end of the day, both Trey and I, we want to win. We want to bring a Super Bowl back to San Francisco. We want to do whatever it takes,” Purdy said via The Associated Press. “And, if that takes us competing and bring out the best during camp, so be it. Let’s do it. And so we’re both excited to get back after it this year. But first things first, we both have to get healthy.”
With conflicting timelines on his recovery, including one where Purdy potentially isn’t available to play until November depending on how his surgery goes, the Niners will likely give an extended look to Lance in 2023 regardless, but getting Mr. Irrelevant’s endorsement of the competition should only bolster the morale in the locker room.
John Lynch Assesses the San Francisco 49ers’ Third-Year QB
Discussing Lance during his postseason media availability session, Lynch complemented his third-year quarterback but made it be known that he will never become a true franchise quarterback if he can’t consistently stay on the field.
“I really believe that’s a tough position to play in this league,” Lynch said via 49ers WebZone. “I understand there’s some players who’ve had incredible durability. As Kyle [Shanahan] said earlier, I think Brock’s been incredibly durable throughout his career. He ran into just an inopportune situation where he’s trying to throw the ball down field, and he’s got an NFL edge rusher pulling at your arm the other direction. It’s just not going to hold up, so that stinks.
“Trey had his issues and Trey’s had a rough go here the last couple years. He’s obviously going to have to prove that he can stay healthy, but I know there was periods of my career early on where I struggled to stay healthy, then I went eight years without missing a snap. So that happens sometimes. And yeah, I’m sure people wonder, Jimmy’s had his issues, but believe me, it’s nothing with the way we play our quarterbacks or anything.”
“I think it’s just coincidence and we look into everything, but I don’t think we have any more of an issue than anybody else. I think that’s a tough position in this league.”
Who knows, maybe Lance will follow in Lynch’s footsteps and become an ironman for the Niners or another franchise who employs him down the line, but logging just 262 offensive snaps as a pro, it’s clear his status was San Francisco’s quarterback of the future is very much up in the air.