Trey Lance

Why King believes 49ers' ‘impatient' Lance trade was mistake

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Some can understand the 49ers' decision to trade away former first-round pick Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys, and others remain perplexed.

Count NBC Sports' Peter King among the latter.

The sportswriter detailed his stunned reaction to San Francisco turning the page on its young quarterback in his "Football Morning in America" column Monday, writing that the trade never should have happened. Above all else, King was confused that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan couldn't find a way to work Lance into things and get him the NFL experience he so desperately needs before giving up on the 23-year-old.

"Shanahan and [49ers general manager] John Lynch both said with Lance losing out to [Sam] Darnold for the backup job, there wasn’t going to be a chance for Lance to practice or play much at all. Why?" King asked. "Why can’t a smart coach, knowing Lance’s unique situation, figure a way to get him some experience, mostly in practice but who knows? Maybe during games depending on the situation.

"Jimmy Garoppolo practicing on a side field a year ago at this time wasn’t ideal either. But one thing Kyle Shanahan’s been good at in his six years coaching this team is juggling quarterbacks. He could have done it here -- and should have. You do not throw away something you believed in so strongly just two years ago."

After a broken ankle derailed Lance's second NFL season and first as a starter in Week 2 last year, a path was cleared for Brock Purdy to earn the QB1 role after Garoppolo, Lance's backup at the time, was injured as well. With Purdy now firmly entrenched as San Francisco's starting signal-caller for the 2023 season, Lance was told he would enter the campaign as the third-string quarterback after a training camp battle with Darnold.

Lance preferred to seek an opportunity elsewhere, and the 49ers granted his wish, receiving a fourth-round pick from the Cowboys in exchange for the quarterback drafted No. 3 overall just over two years ago. The move is puzzling to King on the Cowboys' side, too, he wrote -- unless Dallas has doubts about starter Dak Prescott, who is coming off back-to-back 12-win seasons.

In Santa Clara, the 49ers' QB depth chart now reads Purdy, Darnold and veteran backup Brandon Allen as the No. 3 -- which makes no sense to King.

"This trade means [Shanahan's] more comfortable with the three of Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold and Brandon Allen (2-7 with 56.7 percent accuracy in four seasons) than Purdy, Darnold and Lance. I really don’t get that," King wrote, later noting "word on the Bay Area street" is that Shanahan had given up on Lance and valued Allen more in case of any QB emergency.

King went on to suggest 49ers CEO Jed York should tell Shanahan he plans on taking a more active role in making sure something like the Lance situation doesn't happen again, in terms of how much San Francisco surrendered to move up and draft him, and how things ultimately played out.

And even though Shanahan explained what went wrong in his own, detailed words after the 49ers' preseason finale Friday night against the Los Angeles Chargers, King remains perplexed.

"All true," King said of Shanahan's postgame comments. "But coaches are paid to be problem-solvers. Shanahan’s been a good one. With what’s at stake, it stuns me he’d rather have Brandon Allen as his insurance policy than the guy he judged to have franchise talent two years ago. If I’m a Niners fan, it worries me too.

"This feels too knee-jerk, impatient to the max. And it puts tremendous pressure on Purdy to play as he did in his magical eight-game run last season. To me, this was a trade that didn’t need to be made. And shouldn’t have been made."

San Francisco has placed its future in Purdy's hands, while the 49ers Faithful wait to see if Mr. Irrelevant can follow up his 2022 performance with another successful season. But they'll also be keeping a close eye on Lance in Dallas, where he'll attempt to rise through the ranks and become the franchise quarterback he never got the chance to be in the Bay.

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