The annual quarterback tiers put out by the Athletic’s Mike Sando would indicate the 49ers are making a mistake at QB this season. A survey of 50 NFL coaches and executives put 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo in Tier 2 at No. 16 overall, with Trey Lance buried deep in Tier 4 at No. 29.
Perhaps the most interesting part of survey is the hard, negative stance the coaches Sando spoke with took on Lance. One opposing coach even went so far as to say he’s glad the 49ers are making the move from Garoppolo to Lance.
“That would be like my early Christmas present if they just get rid of Jimmy, so that way he can’t play for them, and then make Trey be your guy,” an opposing coach told Sando.
Another head coach compared him to Tim Tebow.
“I love the skill set, but he had ball-accuracy concerns on his tape coming out, and he was really raw,” one head coach told Sando. “The very little I’ve seen of him last season, he’s got a little Tim Tebow to him — it’s a long delivery. It seems like there are some mechanical things he has to work out. But that is from watching a limited number of plays.”
The element of the unknown looms large with Lance, and what he put on tape as a rookie had as many bad flashes as good ones. That’s why he landed in Tier 4, which is defined as “an unproven player (not enough information for voters to classify) or a veteran who ideally would not start all 17 games.” That’s also why Lance wasn’t starting for San Francisco though. He was selected with 2022 circled as the date he’d be ready to step in and compete for an NFL offense. Rawness was expected, and it’s hard to make any firm conclusions about him one way or the other.
On the other hand, there haven’t been a lot of opportunities to prove skeptics wrong. Any negative assessments of Lance will likely hold until he puts better film together as an NFL starter. The good news for San Francisco is what a couple of coaches think isn’t going to define his career. There may be a learning curve, but that’s to be expected. A better evaluation will come later in the year once he’s had a chance to gain some experience playing NFL snaps.
The other interesting aspect of Sando’s tiers is where Garoppolo landed. He was the second QB in Tier 2, which is defined as “a legitimate starter but needs a heavier running game and/or defensive component to win. A lower-volume dropback passing offense suits him best.”
Most coaches and execs put him in the Tier 3 category, saying the description fit him perfectly. Another NFL head coach though had him listed one tier above that because of his winning percentage.
“Jimmy is a 2, in my opinion, and the only reason anyone would say he’s a 3 is because of the injuries,” the head coach told Sando. “Most of the 3s with a good run game and a good defense are still like .500 quarterbacks. San Francisco has been either to the Super Bowl or the NFC Championship three times with Jimmy. Once you do that, you are in that 2 category.”
Therein lies the greatest question mark hanging over the 2022 49ers. How much did Garoppolo impact winning? There were undoubtedly games where he was superb and helped lead San Francisco to a win. Other times though it’s hard to find a play where he did something above and beyond the skill of a standard NFL quarterback.
Perhaps his willingness to take hits and throw to tight windows over the middle was the key to success for the 49ers’ offense and the coach putting him in Tier 2 will be justified in doing so. There’s also a chance though that Lance elevates the offense to new heights by the end of the year. If that’s the case, Garoppolo and Lance should find themselves in much different spots in next year’s tiers.