One mediocre preseason game has the knives out for 49ers’ Trey Lance

Quarterback Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers prepares to fake a handoff against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first quarter of a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium on Aug. 13, 2023, in Las Vegas.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Trey Lance’s performance as 49ers quarterback in the Las Vegas desert on Sunday was no mirage, in the eyes of ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. 

“I don’t think Trey Lance can play in Kyle Shanahan’s offense,” Orlovsky declared Monday on “Get Up!” “I just — I’ve seen enough.”

It certainly wasn’t a good night for the 23-year-old entering his third season. Lance’s stats looked decent (10-of-15 for 112 yards and a touchdown) for one half of action, but those numbers don’t include some important context. The quarterback started the game with three straight three-and-outs and nearly threw two interceptions. (His lone touchdown came on a dropped pick in the end zone.) He was also sacked four times.


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What Lance did, or failed to do, was apparently enough to make commentary about a poor Week 1 preseason game sound like criticism levied against a slumping veteran in the middle of a losing season. 

It began with a classic case of anonymous critics. Mike Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle quoted an unnamed guy from the Raiders, with whom the Niners practiced this past week, to color in just how much Lance has struggled in practice.

“He must have fumbled about six snaps,” the source told Silver. “It looks like he doesn’t have much confidence.”

(The Chronicle and SFGATE are both owned by Hearst but have separate newsrooms.)


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“1.Purdy 2.Darnold 3.Allen  Very solid QB crew!” the band wrote on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

It might be an overreaction to one preseason game, but it’s easy to understand. Lance cost a king’s ransom of draft picks in 2021 and has given the Niners basically nothing of value in return, even in his limited opportunities. Meanwhile, a quarterback who was first introduced to San Francisco sports fans as “Mr. Irrelevant” has proved to be a viable starter with an undefeated regular-season record in his rookie year.


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This isn’t all Lance’s fault. He was drafted with the third overall pick as a raw prospect that the team, led by quarterback whisperer Kyle Shanahan, would develop into a franchise leader. Two years that could have been spent growing into that role — time that was desperately needed because of his overall lack of experience going back to high school and college — were hampered because of injuries. Lance had no say in any of that.

He does have a say in how he responds. Perhaps to the chagrin of his critics in the fan base, Lance told reporters that there was “definitely some good” in his performance. He also mentioned it “felt good to be back out there” and took full responsibility for the early three-and-outs. 

“That was definitely frustrating, but I obviously put it on myself to continue to be better, make sure the guys around me are ready to go, I’m ready to go,” Lance said. “It starts with me so I put that on myself.”


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