Over the last three seasons, the San Francisco 49ers, when healthy, have been one of the NFL’s elite teams.
With Jimmy Garoppolo starting at quarterback, they have reached the NFC Championship Game twice and the Super Bowl once.
In that Super Bowl matchup, they held a late lead over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs before the roof caved in on them in the final half of the fourth quarter.
But it is now a new day in the Bay, as Trey Lance has taken over under center.
Although he had a good outing in his first preseason game of the year last week, there are still plenty of doubters who feel San Francisco should’ve kept Garoppolo as the starter for at least one more year.
But more and more, a growing number of observers are believing that not only will Lance do well this season, but so will his team.
In fact, ESPN NFL analyst Chris Canty had a lofty prediction for them while on “Get Up.”
.@ChrisCanty99 is expecting an MVP-caliber season for Trey Lance 👀
"My bold prediction for this season is that the 49ers will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. That's how confident I am in this 49ers team and the development of Trey Lance." pic.twitter.com/H9BdKmhKHK
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) August 16, 2022
“My bold prediction for this season is that the 49ers represent the NFC and the Super Bowl,” Canty said. “That’s how confident I am in this 49ers team and the development of Trey Lance because of who’s doing it.
“Kyle Shanahan and what’s around them, the supporting cast; you’re talking about a top-five run game, a top-five skill position corps and a top-five defense. All the elements are there for Trey Lance to be successful.”
Canty even agreed with ESPN writer Bill Barnwell, who wrote in a recent article that Lance is apt to have an MVP-caliber season.
Saying Lance will have an MVP-caliber year in just his second season and his first as a starter seems like hyperbole right now, but predicting that the 49ers will be in the Super Bowl isn’t by any means.
The 49ers Are Loaded
Even if Lance doesn’t turn out to be much better than Garoppolo, he has the good fortune of being surrounded by plenty of difference-makers on both sides of the football.
George Kittle is one of the game’s best tight ends, with 910 yards and six touchdowns to his name last season despite missing three games, not to mention three Pro Bowl appearances.
Elijah Mitchell emerged as a very solid rookie running back last year, and Samuel proved to be very effective when used in the backfield late last season.
Offensively, Garoppolo is a solid game manager and an above-average QB in general, but he isn’t very mobile, nor is he a dependable threat with the deep ball.
Lance, on the other hand, can turn nothing into something by using his legs to gain yardage, and he can connect with his receivers beyond 20 feet out.
Canty feels he will unlock the potential of San Francisco’s offense.
“The thing that Trey Lance brings is a couple of new dimensions to the offense,” Canty added. “The vertical passing game. We saw it in the preseason game with the bomb he threw to Danny Gray and then the quarterback as a focal point of the running game.
“[Head coach] Kyle Shanahan hasn’t had either one of those things since he got to San Francisco.”
The question with Lance seems to be how good he will be with making reads and passes in the short-to-medium-range game, as well as how effective he will be in the pocket and while pressured.
In last week’s preseason game, he showed a couple of glimpses of good pocket awareness and the ability to escape defensive pressure.
A lot is made of Trey Lance's ability to throw/run but rarely you hear people talk about his pocket awareness, which is arguably one of his best attributes imo
I love that he feels/evades pressure, keeps his eyes downfield, resets to throw, then takes off & slides for + yards pic.twitter.com/4oMIvOVBsh
— Brad (@Graham_SFN) August 14, 2022
If Lance develops those attributes, perhaps an MVP season from him will be coming in the not-too-distant future, especially if Shanahan starts to open up his playbook to accommodate a developing and maturing Lance.