The San Francisco 49ers were on the cusp of an NFC championship and a trip to their third Super Bowl appearance in 10 years. Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams stood in their way and Stafford pulled off some magic and thwarted the 49ers' hopes.
This offseason, the 49ers used the number three overall pick to draft Trey Lance from North Dakota State University. The choice was a bold one, as it showed that the 49ers were less than confident in the quarterback that got them so close to a Super Bowl berth. We have discussed at En Fuego that Garoppolo is not as good as the team around him, but he is still an effective "system" quarterback who fails when he needs to be a playmaker. They are staking all their success on rookie Lance, which could work. That is the best-case scenario.
Best Case Scenario
The best-case scenario for the 49ers is that Trey Lance has a Prescott-Esque rookie year (in 2016 Prescott had 16 starts, 67.8% comp%, 3,667 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, 282 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns) and he leads the 49ers to the promised land. With the 49ers' elite defense and offensive weapons, if Lance comes out of the gate as good as they could have dreamed, it is a certainty that this team is winning a Super Bowl.
In nearly every defensive statistic, the 49ers' were in the top 1-6 in the NFL during the regular season last year. During last year's playoffs, the 49ers defense posted 12 sacks, 85.8 QB rating allowed, 3.1 ypr, 15.6 ppg allowed. They are still the best-ranked defense coming into week 1, and they are facing the anemic Chicago Bears to start the season. The best scenario is that their defense obliterates the Bears, giving Lance and the offense confidence which immediately gives them momentum.
Incredibly, the pundits are predicting an MVP-caliber rookie year for Lance. This includes ESPN NFL analyst, Chris Canty.
“My bold prediction for this season is that the 49ers represent the NFC and the Super Bowl. That’s how confident I am in this 49ers team and the development of Trey Lance because of who’s doing it. Kyle Shanahan and what’s around them, the supporting cast; you’re talking about a top-five run game, a top-five skill position corps and a top-five defense. All the elements are there for Trey Lance to be successful.”
If these guys are right, and Lance is the second coming of Tom Brady or Joe Namath, the 49ers are going all the way.
Worst Case Scenario
This is an obvious one. The worst-case scenario is that Trey Lance has an incredible amount of growing pains in his rookie season and he ends up being a worse quarterback option than Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers should give Lance a wide-berth to make mistakes and find his way, but they were brilliant enough to pay Garoppolo enough money to keep him around. Even if that worst-case scenario plays out, the 49ers will have virtually the same team that got them within a 13 points comeback of the Super Bowl.
Scary for the rest of the league. Comforting for 49ers' nation.