Jimmy vs. Trey: The NFL’s most ridiculous QB controversy

Let’s not forget who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl

By Mychael Urban

Special to The Examiner

Let’s talk about Jimmy G vs. Trey Lance, “The QB Competition That Never Really Was.”

From the day Lance was drafted, through OTAs and mini-camp and training camp, the idea that the rookie could overtake Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers’ starting quarterback was debated on a daily basis.

Lance Shines in red-zone drill! Jimmy G throws a pick in practice! Lance looks ready for prime time!

In a relatively dull offseason, the QB controversy drove the headlines, and analysis. Even the industry’s most highly respected, iconic journalistic beacons couldn’t resist the NFL’s lowest-hanging fruit. Here are a couple of passages from a Sports Illustrated report filed on the final day of camp:

Jimmy Garoppolo: Completed only 13 of 22 passes (59 percent) and threw one interception. Finished training camp with 11 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in 19 days. Not good at all. Garoppolo got outplayed by the rookie, even though the rookie was far from lights out. The 49ers can start Garoppolo Week 1 if they want, but he probably won’t hold onto the job for long.

Trey Lance: Took 3 out of the 5 first-team reps in the red zone, which means he played more with the starters than Garoppolo during that drill. Lance also went 13 for 19 in practice with a rushing touchdown and no interceptions while throwing short passes with touch for a change. He finished camp with 15 touchdowns (12 passing, 3 rushing), and just four interceptions. He’s still a work in progress, but he’s better than Garoppolo.

Backup quarterback Trey Lance (5), seen during a 49ers pratice, threw one pass for a touchdown in last week’s win over the Lions.<ins> (Courtesy Terrell Lloyd/San Francisco 49ers)</ins>

Backup quarterback Trey Lance (5), seen during a 49ers pratice, threw one pass for a touchdown in last week’s win over the Lions. (Courtesy Terrell Lloyd/San Francisco 49ers)

Don’t hold back there, SI.

For the rest of us, let’s not forget who led the Niners to the Super Bowl, just two short years ago.

Jimmy G didn’t seem concerned with the faux controversy. Or, at least, he didn’t let on.

On the day Shanahan revealed he’d decided on a starter, but kept the reveal to himself, Garoppolo stood before reporters and deadpanned it: “I feel pretty good about where I’m at.”

Shanahan wouldn’t give up the goods that day because, well, he’s Kyle Shanahan and you’re not. Throughout the summer, he seemed to be channeling his notoriously smug and super-smart dad, Mike Shanahan.

Kyle has developed his own version of the Shanahan mystique and persona, built around his ability to dice up defenses by dialing up relentlessly creative plays and schemes. The more arrows in the quiver the better, and that’s what Lance represents to Shanahan this year.

He’s not the starter. Lance is another weapon. And Jimmy G knows it.

It’s why Garoppolo was able to keep his head about him as the silliness swirled around him all summer, all the while adding to his already sizable cache as a locker room favorite and leader.

Lesser men would’ve taken the bait a time or two, maybe snapped at a scribe or stormed out of a presser. Not Jimmy G.

“He’s got perspective, man. And class,” marveled tight end George Kittle, a few days before the opener.

Lesser men would have chafed at having to not only surrender the car keys at the end of an impressive early drive he’d led so decisively in Detroit, but having to watch Lance jump in and immediately throw for a touchdown on his first official pass as a Niner.

Not Jimmy G.

Well, at least not outwardly. You can bet your assets he was hacked off, knowing that one play might very well obscure anything he’d do all day. But he did the right thing and was among the first to share in the rookie’s shine.

Analyst Mark Sanchez, who was every bit as blah a broadcaster as he was as a quarterback for about 53 NFL teams, noted it right away, giving Garoppolo credit for pushing through and congratulating Trey for that TD pass. Jimmy himself later admitted the celebration was a tad awkward.

Sanchez wondered aloud: “How does he do it?”

See Kittle, George.

Garoppolo has perspective and class in reserve. And the Niners are lucky to have him.

Mychael Urban is a freelance writer.

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