SANTA CLARA, Calif. — If the San Francisco 49ers are going to have an open competition at quarterback, it’s going to have to wait for at least a little while, according to coach Kyle Shanahan.
“There’s no open competition right now in terms of they’re getting equal reps with the same group,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy is coming in as the 1 and Trey is coming in as the 2.”
That should come as no surprise as it falls in line with much of what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have said since making the March trade up to the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Despite persistent rumors and speculation that Garoppolo would be moved before or after the Niners selected their quarterback of the future, Shanahan has consistently said the plan remains to keep Garoppolo around and put the onus on Lance to prove himself capable of turning it into a legitimate competition.
Which means when the 49ers step on the field for their first practice Wednesday, it will be Garoppolo with the starting group and Lance with the second unit, just as it was during the offseason program.
After those organized team activities, Shanahan said he believed Garoppolo had his best spring since he arrived midway through the 2017 season. That performance kept Garoppolo in the driver’s seat to be San Francisco’s Week 1 starter, though Shanahan did acknowledge that Lance will be next in line.
For those spring sessions, Garoppolo and Lance got about an equal number of reps but with Garoppolo working with the starters and Lance leading the backups.
If that’s going to change any time soon, Lance is going to have to return from summer hiatus and quickly catch up.
“Anytime a guy is playing a lot better than the guy in front of him is when you start to split reps up with that team and start to talk about it,” Shanahan said. “But Trey has had seven practices with us and I haven’t seen him for 40 days, so I’m not thinking about that right now. We’ll have Jimmy go in as our starter, and we’ll give all those guys every opportunity to improve. If someone ever looks like they’ll give us a better chance to win, we’ll make that decision then.”
For any sort of competition to form, Lance will have to actually be on the practice field. As of Tuesday afternoon, Lance is one of two first-round picks who has yet to sign his rookie contract. Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who went right in front of Lance at No. 2, also remains unsigned.
In recent years, the 49ers have made a habit of going right up to the deadline before signing their top pick, but none has reached holdout status. On Tuesday, Lynch didn’t seem too worried about whether a deal would get done soon.
“It always seems to go down to the wire,” Lynch said. “But I’m confident. It’s important that he is here. I think for any rookie, for every player, every rep counts, every meeting counts, but in particular at that position. So, we’re hopeful and expecting that Trey will be here and certainly know the importance of him being here.”
Regardless of how the quarterback situation plays out, the 49ers sound like a team with big plans for 2021. Injuries ravaged the roster in 2020, leaving them at 6-10 just one season removed from the Super Bowl.
Those expectations remain no matter who is under center, according to tight end George Kittle.
“The goal is to win the Super Bowl,” Kittle said. “I know that John and Kyle are going to put whoever they think is best at the helm, and I know that Jimmy is a hell of a quarterback. I’ve said that for the last three years, and I’ve defended Jimmy. Everyone always questions all of his attributes and how good of a football player he is, which still confuses me because I think he’s a hell of a football player, and I’m excited to see what Trey does out there.
“But camp is a great time for competition. It’s a great time to see guys come out of their shells and really push to get better every single day.”