Evolving Lance-Shanahan relationship key to 49ers' success in 2022


In quarterback years, Trey Lance still is incredibly young. The young signal-caller started just 17 games in college at North Dakota State and made two spot starts for the 49ers during his rookie season.

Lance is still developing both the physical and mental aspects of his game. Kyle Shanahan's offensive system is one of the most complex in the NFL, and it was clear during Lance's two starts that Shanahan gave him a pared-down, simplified version of the offense to run.

With most expecting Lance to become the starter for the 2022 season, the 21-year-old is working on soaking up all the knowledge he can from his head coach so the duo can be in lock step next season.

"For us, it's just continuing to build that relationship," Lance told Rich Eisen on "The Rich Eisen Show" on Friday. "Him understanding how I see the game and vice-versa. I'm trying to get to that point. Every time he talks football, I'm trying to write everything down. I want to record it. He's just that type of brain. Same with [former 49ers OC] Mike McDaniel. I haven't been around too many people that every time they talk about something it really means a lot. I want to write it down because if I don't, I feel like I'm missing out on something. 

"For me, watching tape with Kyle is a big thing. Whether it's tape from my games, tape from Jimmy's games, any of the games from this season. Understanding how he sees the game and making sure we are on the same page throughout the year."

Tight end George Kittle echoed the need for Lance to immerse himself in the playbook during an interview with Colin Cowherd on Thursday.

"He just has to learn our offense," Kittle said. "And he has to learn how to make the right reads to get the ball out quick because that's what Jimmy's very good at, is getting the ball out quick. I'm looking forward to Trey's progress.

"What I love about Trey is you can tell he loves the game of football. You can tell he wants to get better. He's not cocky by any means. He is confident. But he's got a lot of the great attributes that I think make him a really good football player."

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With the 49ers expected to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo, it will be incumbent on Lance to have a productive offseason to continue the growth he showed throughout his rookie season.

“He needs to take a couple weeks off," Shanahan told Bay Area reporters during his year-end press conference when asked about Lance's offseason directive. "He's been going since pre-draft stuff, getting ready for the Combine and all that. So Trey's going to take a couple weeks off, and then he's going to go down to Southern California and work with some guys throwing the ball, isolate on that, just his throwing motion, working on that all the time, which I'd say 80 percent of the quarterbacks in this league do that.

"It'll be real good for Trey to kind of get away from us and just focus on those things. And we'll be in touch through the whole thing, and we'll get him back here and start talking X's and O's and scheme and footwork, just preparing him hopefully to have a good phase one, two and three of OTAs.”

While Garoppolo got the 49ers back to the NFC Championship Game, Lance's work behind the scenes did nothing to make Shanahan or general manager John Lynch question their decision to tab the North Dakota State product as the future of the franchise.

"He is who we thought he was and probably even stronger," Lynch said during his year-end press conference. "You have to have a lot to you. You have to have a lot of substance to play quarterback in this league. Both physically and from just a who you are standpoint. I think Trey checks both those boxes. What you know are the things that Kyle and his staff have identified as things for Trey to work with.

"This guy’s focus, his work ethic, he’ll have a plan, and it will be a comprehensive one. When you have the talent and that ability, and what he showed me in the moments, and there were few, when he had the opportunity to go play, I saw that competitive greatness that you look for in people that are going to lead your organization. However brief it was, I saw it. It gives me a lot of belief that it’s there, and he is exactly who we thought he was when we picked him, and we’re really excited about that."

Everyone is excited about the beginning of the Trey Lance era in San Francisco. But the young quarterback knows he has work to do to meet the expectations set for him and the 49ers in 2022.

"That's the goal and the plan and the expectation, absolutely," Lance told Eisen when asked if he could take the 49ers to the Super Bowl next season. "But a lot of work needs to be done before then. I understand that. But I'm definitely very excited for this opportunity with this group of guys."

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