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John Lynch Says Jimmy Garoppolo Is 49ers' QB1 and Trey Lance Is 'Pushing'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 13, 2021

San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (10) and Trey Lance (5) work on passing drills during an NFL football open practice, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said Friday he believes Jimmy Garoppolo remains the Niners' likely starting quarterback for their Week 1 game against the Detroit Lions, but rookie Trey Lance is making a strong case for consideration.

Lynch explained on KNBR 680 radio (via David Bonilla of 49ers Webzone) head coach Kyle Shanahan will have full authority over lineup decisions, though.

"That's up to Kyle. That's up to our head coach," Lynch said about the QB battle. "He makes the decisions on who's playing and whatnot. But I think it's Jimmy's right now and Trey's pushing. I think that's where it's at."

The 49ers open the preseason Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. While many teams are opting to hold their key starters out of the first exhibition game to limit injury risk, both of the Niners' top signal-callers are expected to see action.

Shanahan said Thursday that Garoppolo will play one series with the first-team offense before handing the reins to Lance for the remainder of the first half. The team's fifth-year coach added he's "excited" for the debut of the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft.

"It's fun to watch quarterbacks go out there for the first time," Shanahan told reporters. "But I don't get nervous for the person or anything like that because I think it's fun to watch. I know no one is going to remember how his first preseason game is, but they will the next day. That's all right."

Lance wasn't viewed quite as NFL-ready as some of the other quarterbacks in the 2021 class since he attempted just 318 passes at the college level, and most of that work came against FCS competition at North Dakota State.

That said, he put up some awe-inspiring numbers with the Bison, including 28 touchdowns without an interception in 2019, and his long-term potential is arguably second in the class behind only Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1.

It would qualify as a surprise if Lance doesn't end up starting at least some games for San Francisco as a rookie to begin his development process.

Meanwhile, Garoppolo is looking to bounce back from a 2020 campaign in which he was limited to six appearances because of an ankle injury and finished with a lackluster 7-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The 29-year-old Illinois native tossed 27 touchdowns and 13 picks in 2019 and led the Niners to a Super Bowl appearance at the end of the season. So he could build some trade value if he's able to rebound during the early stages this year.

After Saturday's clash with the Chiefs, the 49ers have two more preseason games (Aug. 22 vs. the Los Angeles Chargers and Aug. 29 vs. the Las Vegas Raiders) to settle their quarterback depth chart before the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against the Lions.