SANTA CLARA, CA – As seen by the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Tree Lance Left on a wagon with his right leg in an aerobic mold, the feeling of “here we go again” washes over the sidelines.
It didn’t take long to find out that Lance’s injury was serious. Shortly after Sunday’s 27-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks, coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Lance has a fractured right ankle that will require end-of-season surgery. It’s the third time in six seasons under Shanahan that the Niners have lost their starter quarterback to a season-ending injury. happened to Jimmy Garoppolo At week 3 of 2018 (left anterior cruciate ligament tear), Garoppolo at week 8 of 2020 (high ankle sprain) and now Lance.
The two previous times, Garoppolo’s injury had been a death knell for the Niners season. He’s missed a combined 23 games in those two seasons and the Niners climbed to a 10-22 aggregate. But the Niners believe things will be different this time around as it is Garoppolo who will replace the injured midfielder.
“We feel very fortunate to have Jimmy here at our second quarterback, and especially when your first player is injured, it’s good to see the player’s experience and how good he is,” Shanahan said. “We’ve been in this before, and I feel like we’re a little more prepared than the backup we have now.”
On Sunday, the mood in the locker room after a decisive victory over a top-tier rival was understandably bleak as the Niners were concerned about the young midfielder.
While the potential for quarterback controversy has vanished this season, Lance’s injury raises a new set of questions.
What’s the plan for the quarterback?
For 2022, the plan is simple: Garoppolo will start at Lance’s place. It’s the job he knows best after making 45 regular season starts in San Francisco since being acquired in 2017. The 49ers had a huge hit with Garoppolo under position, going 31-14 in regular season games, 4-2 in postseason and a trip to the Super Bowl.
non-veteran Brooke Purdy Quarterback number 2 will be behind Garoppolo. was purdy”Mr. irrelevant“In the 2022 NFL Draft, 49 players used the last pick (#262 overall) on him. He’s now one step closer to gaining a lot of prominence.
“My mentality hasn’t changed,” Purdy said. “I was prepared. I studied like I was the initiator this week, so my role now is different in terms of fitting in and being ready to go in case something happens.”
The Niners are not expected to add another midfielder to the roster but will likely need to find another arm of the coaching staff.
What does this mean for Lance?
Lance’s injury has significant short- and long-term implications. The Niners spent a training camp with Lance as a start. That means some tweaks to San Francisco’s approach, with more tailored middle drills and deep passes built into the attack. They will have to redo what they did well with Garoppolo, which could take some time given that Garoppolo will be training on the starting attack for the first time since January.
Most important is what this means for Lance’s future. He played moderately as a rookie and wasn’t even a full five quarters of the season before the injury, which means the Niners still don’t really know what they have in him. That doesn’t even explain how Lance will recover or what he will look like when he returns.
The Niners knew Lance would take some blocks this season as he knew on the fly, but the hope was that he would step up and defending and running could keep the Niners competitive. Now he didn’t get the chance. Assuming Lance returns in time for the start of the 2023 season, he will have made five entries since 2019, the junior season in red in North Dakota.
There is a financial aspect, too. Part of the attraction of handing over the keys to Lance was that the Niners would ask him for a reasonable novice contract that would allow them to allocate resources elsewhere. Lance will count $7.75 million off the cap this year, but it will be another year closer to free agency when he returns from injury.
It’s unfortunate for him,” Shanahan said. “We’re really hurting him, and we were really hoping to see a lot more of him this year.”
What does this mean for the future of Garoppolo?
When the Niners returned the Garoppolo, they thought it was the ultimate insurance policy. The quarterback, who was under center for two trips to the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIV for a guaranteed $6.5 million, was a no-brainer despite any potential embarrassment that might accompany it.
Sunday provided a sobering reminder of why Lance – who struggled with knee and toe injuries in a limited sample last year – struggled with an ankle injury. The Niners had hoped that such a scenario would never arrive but at least found solace in that Garoppolo was there to intervene.
The irony is that the Niners have to rely on Garoppolo to stay healthy to stay competitive. The first reason the Niners wanted to move from Garoppolo to Lance was because Garoppolo couldn’t stay healthy. Lance’s injury happened too early which means Garoppolo will have to try to stay on the field for at least 15 games.
Ross Doyle wouldn’t be denied because he muscled across the goal line to score touchdowns for the 49ers in the second quarter.
It could also mean big things to Garoppolo’s bank account. As part of his reworked contract, Garoppolo has over $8 million in incentives based on playing time and performance. For example, he gets $250,000 for every game he takes at least 25% of offensive shots, $100,000 for every win in those games.
And even though Garoppolo has a no-trade clause, there’s no chance of it being dealt with now. Another notable addition to Garoppolo’s contract was a no-tag clause, meaning he could become an unrestricted free agent after the season and the Niners couldn’t stop him from testing the market.
That may be more rewarding than anyone had imagined when the deal was announced.
What happens if Garoppolo has a good year and the Niners delve into the post-season? Will the Niners feel comfortable handing him over to Lance? Could the Niners want to pay a premium to bring back Garoppolo?
These are questions that will be answered in a timely manner, but the fact that they can actually be asked tells you everything you need to know about this unique situation.
It’s never about you,” Garoppolo said. “It’s about winning football matches. I’m a big believer in that. People can say whatever they want, talk about stats, whatever, but when you win football matches, that’s what we’re here to do. And that’s all I do I try to do.”