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Trey Lance 49ers

Is Trey Lance Getting Too Much Criticism?

  • Justin Melo
  • August 17, 2023
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance received unwarranted criticism for his performance against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 of the preseason. Lance completed 10-of-15 passing attempts for 112 yards and one touchdown. Despite showcasing growth in several key areas, Lance came under fire on social media for taking four sacks. We’ve reached an unfortunate point where criticizing Lance has become a familiar norm, whether he deserves it or not.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan wisely came to Lance’s defense.

“It just goes with the territory,” Shanahan said, via NBC Sports. “It goes with it for quarterbacks. It goes with it for anybody who’s a high draft pick, but especially a quarterback.”

There’s no sugarcoating it, Lance’s career hasn’t gotten off to an ideal start. The 49ers immediately placed a microscope on his development when they anointed him as their next franchise quarterback by trading three future first-round picks for him. Passing on Justin Fields hasn’t helped the narrative.

Things haven’t gone to plan. Through two campaigns, Lance has appeared in eight regular-season contests with four starts due to various injuries. The former North Dakota State quarterback has completed 54.9% of his passing attempts for 797 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Lance isn’t expected to start for the 49ers in 2023. Brock Purdy remains the favorite after seizing the job down the stretch of the 2022 season. Lance is battling veteran free-agent signing Sam Darnold for the backup job. That doesn’t mean we have to criticize Lance for everything he does. It’s getting exhausting.

Lance led San Francisco’s only scoring drive in their 34-7 preseason defeat to the Raiders. Lance’s performance wasn’t as good as the box score indicates. Lance could have avoided one or two sacks, and he attempted a few ill-advised passes. It was a mixed bag, but the entire 49ers offense was culpable. 

Lance caught a lucky break on his touchdown. An ill-advised throw deflected off a Raiders defender, who should have intercepted it, and into the waiting hands of tight end Ross Dwelley. Lance’s fiercest critics were quick to pinpoint the gaffe.

Fumbles and dropped passes were an issue. As is often the case with preseason football, communication breakdowns from backup offensive linemen led to a few more sacks and quarterback pressures that sped up Lance’s process. Lance didn’t deserve the firestorm that ensued. Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi went as far as to say that Lance lacked “quarterback instinct.” Dan Orlovsky said Lance can’t play in Shanahan’s system, a system that’s known for being quarterback-friendly. Ouch.

The onus remains on Lance to remain healthy and prove he’s capable of developing into a starting quarterback. Whether controllable or not, roadblocks have intercepted the 49ers’ efforts to appropriately analyze Lance’s future. We simply haven’t seen enough of Lance to critique him this harshly. 

Injuries and inconsistent play have prevented Lance from developing into the franchise quarterback he was touted to be. It’s possible to acknowledge Lance’s shortcomings to date while also treating each performance as a case-by-case scenario. Lance didn’t deserve the social-media firestorm following his performance against the Raiders. Everyone needs to take a step back.

Written By

Justin Melo