Kyle Shanahan details ‘tough’ conversations with Trey Lance Wednesday

Aug 24, 2023, 6:00 AM | Updated: 8:36 am

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers talks with his quarterbacks Trey Lance #5 and B...

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Wednesday at Levi’s Stadium was a tough pill to swallow for some, but mostly for Trey Lance.

News broke Wednesday morning that coach Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers had decided on quarterback Sam Darnold as the team’s backup for this season, leaving Lance in limbo, to say the least.

After bringing in Darnold through free agency in the offseason, many speculated that this would be the likely scenario moving forward. And while that is also the case, the team did admit that Lance made it a hell of a fight the last few months.

“I mean, it was a hell of a battle. They were neck and neck for a long time but just really over these last ten days we felt Sam started to separate himself,” Kyle Shanahan said on KNBR Wednesday. “We felt he did it in practice consistently and he’s been getting better each day. Trey made it real tight and made it tough. It wasn’t an easy decision for us.”

But while the 49ers are pleased with their decision, Lance has become a third wheel in the quarterback room.

Now behind Darnold, Trey Lance faces an even tougher hill to climb. Entering his third year in the NFL, the North Dakota State alum has only started four games for the 49ers. Barred by injuries and inconsistency, the former third-overall pick has been unable to develop to his fullest potential in The Bay.

With cap causalities also on the horizon, it now seems very possible Lance could find his way to a new team by the regular season.

“It’s been a tough road for him because the times he has got an opportunity, he ended up getting hurt and missing that window,” Kyle Shanahan stated. “We’ll always try to do right for Trey. If there’s a better situation that his heart’s in, we’re going to make sure not to hurt him in that way. So, that’s something I talked to him about this morning and stuff that I’ll talk to him about tonight and continue to talk to him about.

“Trey knows how I feel about him and I hope he ends up being able to be here and that’s the best thing for him, but we’ve got to see what is the best thing from now until then.”

As for Lance’s feelings towards the franchise? Probably not so encouraged.

The quarterback was seemingly sent home Wednesday after hearing the news, taken aback by his current standing in the QB totem pole. Once the 49ers’s future franchise QB, Lance has been reduced to a mere project that another team can acquire at a value price.

And while the team understands his frustration, they have to do what is best for the organization at this time.

“Trey’s put his heart and soul into this,” Shanahan said. “And these are conversations I have to have with guys a lot and they’re never easy. They’re really tough. But it’s also always tough when the [media] spotlight is on it. As much as it is with this situation, with it being Trey, with our quarterbacks, his pick in the draft, so I knew that was hard on him.

“We had such a light practice today and watching out Trey was when we talked, we just thought it was better ‘Hey, take the day off, get away a little bit clear your head some, and we’ll talk later in the afternoon and we’ll get you back in here tomorrow’… Just felt it was the best thing for him.”

While the team seems interested in getting their young QB to a favorable position, it won’t be a necessity by the start of the regular season.

The 49ers could roll with Trey Lance at the No.3 spot on the depth chart, learning from the sidelines as Brock Purdy takes center stage. The room has developed a good rapport with one another, all encouraged by QB coach Brian Griese’s methods.

While it seems unlikely that Lance stays on the roster past Week 1, bigger twists have developed in recent years. Most recently: Jimmy Garoppolo staying with the Red & Gold and playing backup QB for Shanahan.

“I’m really hoping so,” Kyle Shanahan said about Lance being with the team Week 1. “I mean this isn’t a thing where we’re giving up on Trey. This is more of how Brock [Purdy] played in his seven games and that was decided before the season started, and how Sam’s looked. They’ve both looked good but we have to make a decision here. You only get so many reps at it. We feel starting about 10 days ago Sam really separated himself, and we got to keep it real in that way.

“I feel very, very fortunate to have both of them here,” he added. “I really hope when it’s said and done that all three of these guys are here, and you never know when that’s going to come up. We needed four guys last year. It doesn’t happen much, but if we can have Trey as an option here, I would feel extremely happy about that. I think the other quarterbacks in our room would and our team would. Trey is a very well-liked guy and one of the better people I’ve been around, and I do think he’s going to have a lot of success in this league.”

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