With 49ers quarterback Trey Lance off the injury report and set to be the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, one thought persists: Lance's time may be coming.
San Francisco has lost four in a row, with Garoppolo struggling mightily in an ugly loss last week against the Colts. That has led to questions about his job status and when to play Lance. Coach Kyle Shanahan faced many of them this week.
Based on conversations with sources this week, here is where it stands: Garoppolo will start this week, with Lance as the backup. And based on a variety of factors -- including how Garoppolo plays and the team's record -- Lance could be on the field in a key role soon.
In a perfect world, Lance would sit the entire year. That would be ideal. If Jimmy G plays well, this is all moot.
But if the losses continue, they may not have that luxury. Lance may have to play to begin the development for 2022 and beyond. Based on the team's 2-4 record, another few losses may force them to look to the future.
If Garoppolo continues to struggle, Lance's snaps should only increase after he shows he's completely healthy. Sources believe Lance will be the starter at some point this season and, if the losses continue, that sounds like it will be sooner rather than later.
The 49ers won't push Lance coming off an injury, and there is no set plan on when to install Lance as the starter. But depending on performance today, this may also hit fast-forward in the next couple of weeks. It may hasten the desire to begin the on-field development.
Shanahan was asked about his quarterbacks this week, mostly deflecting. He was asked if Garoppolo is one game away from losing his job.
"I would never answer a question like that," Shanahan said this week. "I don't think like that. We're trying to get our team out of this losing streak. We've had four losses in a row. We've hunkered down this week, we're trying to get our guys back and we're going to go to Chicago and play as good as we can. When you play good, you play bad, you review the tape after the game, you go into Monday and Tuesday and you try to make decisions by Wednesday."
Later, when asked if Lance will get into the game, he said, "Every time Trey is up, there's always potential for him to have a package in the game."
Lance, the No. 3 overall pick, represents hope for the offense. In his one start this season because of a Jimmy G injury, Lance went 15 of 29 for 192 yards and an interception while also adding 89 rushing yards -- an element Garoppolo doesn't have. He also suffered a knee sprain in that game, putting him on the sidelines.
Now back today, it's likely that it is only a matter of time before Lance will be on the field for the team that traded all the way up to draft him.