Training camp is over for the San Francisco 49ers and a brief glimpse at the traditional counting stats leads any reasonable observer to two logical conclusions.
The first is that the Niners are absolutely in the middle of a quarterback competition, regardless of what any coaches or players are willing to say publicly. And second, rookie Trey Lance currently holds a solid lead over incumbent QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the battle to become the team’s top signal caller.
Grant Cohn, of Sports Illustrated’s All 49ers, has been tracking the play of Niners quarterbacks since camp began just over two weeks ago. On Thursday, Aug. 12, he shared the final numbers on Twitter.
Garoppolo saw more action, throwing 204 total times as opposed to Lance’s 167 pass attempts. However, Lance threw for 9 touchdowns to Garoppolo’s 7 scores. The rookie also rushed for 2 TDs, while the incumbent starter did not score a touchdown on the ground.
Lance took better care of the ball, throwing only two interceptions, as opposed to Garoppolo, who was picked off a total of six times.
And finally, the 21-year-old dual threat out of North Dakota State boasted a completion percentage of 68.9%, more than 7 points higher than former Super Bowl starter Garoppolo, who completed just 62.7% of his passes during Niners training camp.
Lance to Play in Regular Season, Extent of Role Remains Unknown
The Niners coaching staff has already made it clear that Lance will play regular season snaps beginning Week 1, when the team travels to Detroit to play the Lions on Sept. 12.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan made the declaration publicly at the podium Friday, Aug. 6 while speaking to media members at Niners training camp. Tracy Sandler, founder and CEO of Fangirl Sports Network, tweeted video of Shanahan’s comments.
“Trey’s going to play this year,” Shanahan told reporters.
The head coach was quick, however, to add a caveat to his comments on Lance, making clear he had not just named the rookie as the starter over Garoppolo.
“I know you’re all running to Twitter with that,” Shanahan said of the news that Lance would receive playing time this season. “Situationally, he’s going to get plays. That doesn’t mean that he’s going to be the starter or anything, but he’s going to get plays and you’ve got to prepare him for that every way possible.”
Over the following days, the head coach provided more insight, saying Lance will not only be a situational signal caller, but that he is also likely run full series of his own.
There Remains More to Learn about Lance Through Preseason Play
While Lance’s training camp performance stands clearly above Garoppolo’s, how he looks when taking preseason snaps will also have major implications on how much playing time, and the nature of that action, Lance will see early in the regular season.
The Niners open preseason play Saturday, Aug. 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs. They also have preseason contests scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 22 against the San Diego Chargers and Sunday, Aug. 29 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Lance should see a good deal of action, as the team has yet to commit to how much of the preseason will include the injury-prone Garoppolo, if any at all.
Shanahan and company have worked hard not to stir a quarterback controversy in the Bay Area over recent weeks but with the stellar play of Lance, it is appearing more and more that a competition under center is precisely the situation the Niners have on their hands.