49ers' Jed York Comfortable with Trey Lance Backing Up Jimmy Garoppolo for 2 Years

Adam WellsMay 5, 2021

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance holds a San Francisco 49ers jersey after being chosen by the team with the third pick in the NFL football draft, Thursday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak

After head coach Kyle Shanahan said he expects Jimmy Garoppolo to start for the San Francisco 49ers in 2021, CEO Jed York addressed the possibility that the 29-year-old will remain the starter for the duration of his contract.

Appearing on the 49ers Talk podcast with Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt, York said he would have no problem if Garoppolo played so well that he starts at quarterback through the 2022 season.

"If we are in a situation where Jimmy goes out and takes us to a Super Bowl again and has an MVP-caliber season, there are worse dilemmas to be in. And Jimmy certainly has the ability to do that," York said.

Shanahan appeared on The Rich Eisen Show this week to address the team's quarterback situation.

"Jimmy definitely is our starter right now, and right now there isn't a competition, because I don't believe Trey would be in a position to compete," Shanahan said Monday, via Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group.

There are legitimate reasons for San Francisco to move slowly with Lance. His 318 pass attempts at North Dakota State are the fewest by a player selected in the first round in 40 years, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Garoppolo had a very good season in 2019 with 3,978 yards, a 69.1 completion percentage and 27 touchdowns against 13 interceptions to help the 49ers win the NFC West and reach the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, Lance probably needs to get reps sooner than later for the benefit of his development. He only played one game for the Bison in the fall because the rest of their schedule began in February amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sitting behind Garoppolo in 2021 would mean Lance goes 23 months between taking snaps in a game from his last appearance at North Dakota State on Oct. 3.

A two-year wait would extend that period to 35 months. It seems highly unlikely that a first-round quarterback would sit that long, especially since the 49ers traded first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third-rounder in 2022 to the Miami Dolphins to get the No. 3 pick this year. 

It's not impossible to envision a scenario in which Garoppolo plays so well that the 49ers keep him as their quarterback, but it doesn't seem practical for a franchise whose long-term success depends heavily on Lance's development into a star.