Six months after publicly saying goodbye to the 49ers’ fanbase, Jimmy Garoppolo was regularly seen throwing passes to build his arm strength on the field behind the makeshift bleachers at training camp.
That was one year ago.
On Wednesday, Trey Lance was told he would open the season as the 49ers’ No. 3 quarterback behind starter Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold.
For reasons that are still not entirely clear, Lance was not on the field when the team went out for their latest training camp. The first clue, of course, when the 49ers moved Lance down the depth chart, a source confirmed that the front office was “exploring all options” and Lance was nowhere to be seen in training, was that his time with the organization had come to an end. end.
And then, you remember, these are the 49. Things are not always what they seem.
The organization allows everyone’s thoughts to wander for hours before providing any context for the day’s news.
Neither general manager John Lynch nor head coach Kyle Shanahan provided an answer to some obvious questions: Did Lance go AWOL? Did the team tell him to stay away while they’re having business talks? Or was it a mutual decision that the third-year quarterback should take a vacation?
And why exactly does a player need to take the day off to move one point down the depth chart? Lineups change all the time, so this was an odd turn of events that captain Fred Warner admits surprised him too.
By the way, Warner was the only representative of the 49ers organization available to comment on the situation after Wednesday’s practice. . . But that’s another story.
Finally, Shanahan went to KNBR for his weekly evening show. It made it seem as though Lance was so distraught at the news that it prompted the club to suggest he leave for one day.
Shortly after last season when Shanahan told Lance Purdy would enter 2023 as the team’s starting quarterback, according to a source, Lance was defiant and told Shanahan he would end up convincing him to change his mind.
Obviously, this did not happen.
The 49ers brought in Darnold to compete with Lance. Subsequently, veteran reserve Brandon Allen signed with the club as an apparent contingency plan in case Lance did not stay for the start of the regular season.
While the Garoppolo side show took place last summer, Lance was the undisputed starting midfielder. He was seen as the team’s franchise quarterback—a mark consistent with his status as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 49ers expected him to benefit from a full season of play. But this never happened. He did not play two full matches in a row for United. In the second week, he suffered a season ending injury.
The 49ers eventually had to turn to Purdy, and he proved to Shanahan that he was “the real deal,” as the coach recently referred to him.
The big question now is whether Lance will really be the 49ers’ No. 3 quarterback or if Allen will fill that role.
Shanahan said in his radio appearance that Lance will play — as strange as it sounds now — in the 49ers’ pre-season finals Friday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Meanwhile, the phone line is open to any commercial proposition that is unlikely to result in much compensation the other way.
If that were an option, Shanahan said, he would be happy if Lance stayed with the organization to open the season. He also said that the 49ers would “do right for Trey”.
These comments suggest that if Lance asks for his release, the 49ers will give him the freedom to make a fresh start with the team of his choosing.
But what is best for Lance? That’s what Lance has to decide.
At 23 years old, he needs to play. And before that he has to train.
As the 49ers’ third quarterback, Lance rarely gets any practice snaps from this point on.
Once the regular season begins, Purdy will get all the coaching time and Darnold will focus on staying active in his work on the scouting team.
Wednesday’s events painted the picture that Lance’s time with Team 49 was over.
But history suggests that with the 49ers quarterbacks, it’s not over until the bags are packed, the locker is cleaned out, and he’s on a plane moving on to his next career opportunity.
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