The San Francisco 49ers are starting No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance at quarterback today in an important divisional matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Not because they want to, though. Jimmy Garoppolo's chronic injury issues popped up again last week as the starter suffered a calf injury against the Seattle Seahawks and won't be able to go this week. The Niners, though, have held their season-long stance that Garoppolo is the starter when healthy. Ian Rapoport explained Kyle Shanahan's insistence on that this morning for NFL Network.
Does this sound familiar? It should sound familiar. Because the Chicago Bears have been the talk of the football town after the same situation played itself out earlier this season. Matt Nagy would tell anyone who listened that Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback when healthy over No. 11 overall pick Justin Fields. When Dalton had to miss time due to injury, Nagy told everyone that Fields was just holding down the fort until Dalton returned. Then Fields played well enough that Nagy was forced to acknowledge reality and named Fields the starter.
It's not the exact same situation, to be sure. Garoppolo is much better than Dalton and has proven he can win in his coach's offense. Lance is a better athletic talent than Fields but Fields had way more starts under his belt coming into the big leagues. Most of this Niners roster went to the Super Bowl in 2019 while most of this Bears roster has yet to win a single playoff game. From a perception standpoint, Shanahan is much more highly-regarded as a coach than Nagy right now, making us all more inclined to believe the Niners when they say Lance isn't ready.
Lance would have to play out of his mind to displace Jimmy G, and that doesn't seem a likely outcome based on what we've seen of Lance as a thrower so far. But still! A lot of similarities here.