Trey Lance

Young passionately defends 49ers QB Lance amid NFL-wide criticism

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Trey Lance's game has been picked apart by the national media all week after his showing in the 49ers' preseason-opening loss to the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday.

Steve Young joined KNBR's "Tolbert and Copes" on Wednesday to discuss why he believes the young quarterback is struggling, and he also disagreed with Tom Tolbert's claim that Lance can't process the game well and isn't seeing things as clearly as he should be.

"No, it's not that," Young said, firmly. "I'm really proud of Trey. I'm really proud of Trey because the whole offseason, he has the injuries, Brock [Purdy] goes on this incredible run that was a national, international story, and then he spends the offseason working at the things he's not great at. How many times have I watched quarterbacks in their offseason go work at things that they're great at already? Enhancing the thing that I'm already good at. Well, what about the thing that you suck at? Let's go work at that.

"And it's not that Trey sucked at stuff, but there are things- there's a humility in Trey that I love that he's going to go work at it and he's gotten better. He is a better player after this offseason."

Lance went from the future of the franchise to a possible third-string quarterback in one season. He was named QB1 at the start of 2022 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. He was replaced by then-49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who also suffered an injury and was then replaced by Purdy.

Mr. Irrelevant shocked the world and led the 49ers to eight straight victories before their NFC Championship Game loss where he, too, sustained a serious elbow injury that later required surgery.

The 49ers entered yet another offseason of quarterback uncertainty, that was until Purdy's rehab and recovery timeline beat everyone's expectations. It's not a question anymore; Purdy will start to open the 2023 season. This means Lance and new 49er Sam Darnold will compete for the backup spot in training camp and the preseason.

So far, it remains unclear who's leading that fight, but Young believes all the pressure to be perfect could be taking a toll on Lance.

"I don't know that it's that he's not seeing it, I think what's happened is he's now squeezed where every throw is a referendum on whether he's any good or not," Young explained. "There's all this expectation and aspiration and fear and anxiety. And [49ers coach] Kyle [Shanahan] said Brock's the guy, and now Sam Darnold comes in, and just listen to Kyle. Kyle loves Sam. So now, Trey's in the middle of this and now, every throw is critiqued and, 'How much better is he? What can he become? 'Who is he?' And so, for him, I think he's- and I think I've been there, where every time I go out for a series, something great has to happen. And all of a sudden, you're not free, you're not relaxed, you're pressing every throw, and then you're late for a throw, you get sacked, and you look back and you're like, 'Holy crap, how many bad things can happen?'

"So you get into a bad spot. You know he's competent, and I really believe the 49ers, if Brock wasn't there, Trey would start. But now Trey's in this spot where he has to go out every practice and try to prove that he's worth hanging in there with. And that's a tough spot to be in. I just, I wish he could start this week and go play a few weeks. I feel like Trey, we won't know. … The NFL is not for long, it doesn't give you much opportunity. There's a lot of mitigation that causes grief and causes problems. That's where Trey is right now. So somehow, he's battling. But if you judge him to your point, Tom, that he's not seeing things, I think he's a very good processor. I think he's jammed up and he's got to be perfect.

"They get in their own way trying to be perfect because they want to please. And Trey is that way. He wants to show you every down and I think it's kind of being overwrought. And I noticed this preseason, people are tracking completion percentage and interceptions and who's playing better. And competition is always that way, but Kyle is going to decide. And it feels like he's already told you where he's headed."

Shanahan said earlier this week that Darnold likely will start and play a majority of the snaps against the Denver Broncos on Saturday, although he added that Purdy and the starters could play "a series or two" during the game.

For Lance, he's focused on making every opportunity he gets count. Young just hopes he doesn't push himself too hard as the young QB works to again prove his NFL worth.

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