Trey Lance

Shanahan shares biggest Lance regret, believes he let QB down

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The Trey Lance era in Santa Clara ended before it began, and on Friday, the man who was so high on the quarterback just two years ago approached the podium to address reporters for the first time.

Kyle Shanahan had just finished coaching the 49ers' final preseason game and approached the media room for his regular postgame press conference -- but no one had questions about the game.

Instead, everyone's mind was on the fact that San Francisco traded its former No. 3 overall selection to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2024 fourth-round pick. While tensions were high and fair questions were asked, a very honest and transparent Shanahan explained the decision while also reflecting on what went wrong.

“I will always feel like I let Trey down. I mean, I wanted him to come here," Shanahan began. "I believe in Trey. I believed in him before we took him, and I'm responsible for that. I didn't want to throw him into the heat of battle right away, but I thought he needed to play. So, we tried to figure out every way to do that. I mean, if I can look back in hindsight, he broke that finger on a helmet on that fourth [2021] preseason game versus the [Las Vegas] Raiders. I wish I hadn't put him in a play that had him break his finger. Because I think that really hurt him in his first year.

"Not only did it hurt him not getting able to mix in much, but it hurt him in the practice time because he had to adjust how he threw and things like that, which I think set him back for a second year. When we went into the second year, we gave him every chance to do it. We were going to make an offense that, to me, gave him the best chance to be successful at that time. Which we did do. And when you do that, you hope a guy can stay healthy so he can stay out there long enough. But that didn't last long. It was the first game, and after that, I mean I always felt for him, and we continue to work with him. But sometimes things just don't work out.”

Lance appeared in six games and made two starts during his rookie campaign in 2021, but he possibly could have seen more action if he wasn't dealing with a broken finger on his throwing hand. And because the injury lingered into the entire 2021 season, Lance wasn't able to truly begin his development journey as an NFL quarterback.

But he was healed and ready to go for 2022, when he was named the unquestionable starter and hopeful future of the franchise. That lasted less than two weeks into the regular season when Lance sustained a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. Little did he -- or anyone -- know, that would be his final regular-season game in Red and Gold.

Shanahan and the 49ers took a huge risk in 2021, giving up three first-round picks and a third-rounder to move up in the draft to select Lance. More than two years later, they admitted it didn't work out.

The trade came two days after Shanahan told Lance that Sam Darnold had won the backup QB spot, making Lance the No. 3 option. From the No. 3 pick to the No. 3 option -- Lance's 49ers career was a mix of wrong timing and bad luck.

But why give up on someone you were once so high on?

"Well, we decided who our two [quarterbacks] were going to be that we were going with," Shanahan said. "We'll see how our 53-[man roster] works out to see if we're going keep three or not. And when we told Trey, we told him that he wasn't the two, I said we'd like to keep him here as the three, but we also want to do what's good for him, too, and we'll see how this plays out.

"Now when we looked in other teams and he told us that he would like another opportunity to go somewhere where we had a chance to be the two, we thought we got some good deals for him. There's a number of teams involved. To end up getting the fourth was a little better than we anticipated and clears up a lot of money, and allows a better situation for him, too."

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch said they wanted to keep Lance in the Bay, but they wanted to do what was best for the 23-year-old at the same time.

And "the best" no longer was with the 49ers, so Lance will get a fresh start and new opportunity in Dallas.

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