Sunday, September 25, 2022

The 49ers’ Trey Lance deserves an unflattering comparison to the former No. 1 pick

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Trey Lance has his critics after battling for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. Boomer Esiason is one of the naysayers about the Niners’ starter.

Esiason, who lost Super Bowl XXXIII to the Joe Montana and Jerry Rice-inspired 49ers as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, rated Lance after his shaky performance against the Chicago Bears. Boomer’s assessment led to an interesting comparison with Arizona Cardinals starter Kyler Murray, one of the 49ers’ NFC West rivals.

It’s not exactly a flattering comparison, but Esiason also outlined how Lance can avoid making the same mistakes as Murray. Avoiding these mistakes may save Lance from becoming hooked from Week 3 in favor of former go-ahead caller Jimmy Garoppolo.

Esiason, who also spent time with the New York Jets and Cards during his 14 seasons as a player, spoke about Lance on an episode of 95.7 The Game’s Kick off with Boomer & Valenti.

The discussion prompted Esiason to compare the erratic early performances of Lance’s career, which “look like he’s playing the game with his hair on fire,” to Murray’s ups and downs:

Those are strong words about two young quarterbacks who play the game differently than Esiason plied his trade. Murray and Lance are more mobile, better natural athletes who rely on their core physical tools to get them out of trouble and make big plays from losing positions.

When it works, they make magic, like when Murray teamed up with DeAndre Hopkins in the famous ‘Hail Murray’ playing against the Buffalo Bills in 2020:

Lance is no stranger to spontaneous moments of brilliance. He even managed to produce one of these amidst his fights against the bears.

The game occurred in a clutch situation on the 3rd and long and was highlighted by Akash Anavarathan of SB Nation’s Niners Nation:

The problem with this freelance style is that it doesn’t match the percentages. For every piece like this, Lance and Murray miss four or five attempts to conjure something out of thin air.

It’s one of the reasons Lance is on shaky ground in his attempt to permanently topple Garoppolo. Completing just 13 of Chicago’s 28 passes has done little to help Lance’s case keep the job, but Esiason doesn’t think another change is on the horizon just yet.

The key to qualifying Lance as Garoppolo’s replacement will not be his style of play, but the scheme the 49ers create around him. Fortunately, Esiason believes head coach Kyle Shanahan will give his young quarterback the right plays to help him succeed.

Many of those plays will depend on Lance’s ability to “Gain meters on the ground.”

Lance showed his flair as a runner by piling up 54 yards in 13 attempts in Week 1. Those wins were reminiscent of the double threat skills that made him worthy of being drafted third overall in 2021.

Murray’s similar athleticism made him the overall pick two years earlier. While he’s still in the works, Murray has earned two Pro Bowl nods and led the Cardinals 3-13 into last season’s playoffs in 2018.

The 49ers would certainly settle for the same from Lance. Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch have built their reputation on Lance being a success, so they will continue to work to make the start smoother.

Some might resent a team having to make so many concessions for one player that the 49ers traded three first-round picks for a draft, but Lance’s skills don’t live up to traditional quarterback expectations. Luckily, Shanahan proved he can build offense around a running passer when he helped make Robert Griffin III NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.

The formula didn’t last, but it represents the blueprint for the 49ers that make Lance a productive and successful starter.

The 49ers would certainly settle for the same from Lance. Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch have built their reputation on Lance being a success, so they will continue to work to make the start smoother.



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