All eyes will be on Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance when the 49ers start training camp in late July.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has said that it would take a lot for Lance, who the 49ers drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in April, to unseat Garoppolo this season, but that the rookie will have every opportunity to win the job.
Garoppolo has been good for the 49ers when healthy, and the arrival of Lance should elevate his game to new heights as he competes to hold onto the job that has been his since the end of the 2017 season.
Former 49ers left tackle Joe Staley believes Garoppolo deserves to hold onto the job, but he understands why Garoppolo’s health led the 49ers to draft Lance and why the North Dakota State product could push for the starting job in camp.
“Yeah, Jimmy has been — since Day 1 he has been a winner when he has been with the San Francisco 49ers,” Staley said on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” when asked if Garoppolo deserved to be the started in 2021. “He hasn’t been available in a lot of games, and I think that’s what the Niners did with drafting Trey Lance. It’s a little bit of an insurance policy.
“But Jimmy’s going to [get] every opportunity to win that starting job through training camp, and I think it’s good for him because, honestly, as a player myself, you know, I felt entrenched as a left tackle, but when I would get guys that came in as rookies trying to vie for my job, it definitely pushed you a little bit more in training camp. Competition just breeds more success on the football field if you frame it the right way, and I know Jimmy will.
“But Trey is a very exciting player as well. His skill set and what he’s going to be able to do in Kyle’s offense is going to be exciting to see this whole season, and it’s going to be really interesting to see how it plays out.”
Garoppolo has said and done all the right things since the 49ers made the trade up to draft Lance. While the 29-year-old admitted that he thought about asking for a trade, he instead decided to return and compete to keep the starting job and try to lead the 49ers back to the Super Bowl.
Drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots to be Tom Brady’s heir, Garoppolo has been in Lance’s shoes and understands how tough the transition can be. He also understands, from years of failing to usurp Brady, what it will take to keep Lance on the sideline.
Lance impressed during training camp with his athleticism, intelligence and willingness to be coached. But the plan all along has been for Garoppolo to pilot the ship in 2021 before turning things over to Lance next season.
Whether or not Lance can make the 49ers alter that plan remains to be seen.