SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Teams one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance rarely find themselves in position to select a quarterback near the top of the draft.
Teams with a roster capable of contending for a Super Bowl rarely put the team in the hands of a rookie quarterback.
But after having two of the past three seasons derailed by injuries to starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and seeing Garoppolo's limitations in a Super Bowl loss the other season, the Niners invested heavily in their next quarterback.
Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch traded three first-round picks to take Trey Lance third overall, and head into this season with Garoppolo still as starter and Lance as a situational player ready to take over at some point.
“It doesn’t really change anything. The goal is to win the Super Bowl,” star tight end George Kittle said. “I know that John and Kyle are going to put whoever they think is best at the helm. And I know that Jimmy is a hell of a quarterback."
The Niners will start the season with Garoppolo while they also plan to use Lance after becoming the first team to draft a QB higher than 25th only one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance.
Lance, who played only one college game since 2019, is raw but provides a running element that could provide a new look to the Niners' offense. Shanahan must decide how best to use it, weighing the best way to compete and still develop a young QB.
“You try to start with what gives you the best chance to win. And that’s kind of what you owe to an organization. That’s what you owe to your building,” he said. “You always try to think of when it’s your decision, ‘Hey, what helps us win’ and keep it there. At the same time, I get spending the draft picks to get a young quarterback and you’ve got to do what’s right for that guy, too.”
Shanahan gave a few hints of what could come during the season in the first two drives of the final exhibition game when Garoppolo and Lance shuttled in and out depending on personnel groupings. The Niners hope that will allow them to get the most out of both quarterbacks without breaking up any rhythm on offense.
“It was weird at first. Just having to process the whole thing,” Garoppolo said. “But after being on the field, it was fun. When we’re clicking like that and the defense is scrambling like that, it makes it hard. We’re trying to win games out there and so whatever it takes, we’re going to do that.”
The Niners were dealt a major setback last season when 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.
San Francisco eased Bosa back slowly in training camp but he seems ready to pick up where he left off as a rookie when he was one of the top pass rushers in the league.
“I don’t know how he could have got stronger, but he did,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “Very few people come back from major injury and are better than they were when they left. I played Nick before he left and I played when he got back, and he’s better.”
DEFENSIVE PLAY CALLER
There will be a new coach calling the defensive signals after Robert Saleh left to become head coach of the Jets. DeMeco Ryans has moved up from linebackers coach to coordinator and will bring a few of his own wrinkles to what has been a successful scheme. If training camp and the preseason is an indication the Niners might be a little more likely to bring pressure.
“Obviously he’s going to have his own taste or his own, his own touch to the defense,” All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said. “He brings that passion every day and he knows exactly what he wants. So it’s been great so far.”
The biggest question for the Niners could be depth in the secondary. Jason Verrett is slotted at one cornerback spot but has been healthy just once in the past five years. Emmanuel Moseley is on the other side despite only 17 starts in his career. If one of them goes down, all that's behind them are Davontae Harris, who has eight career starts, and rookies Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir.
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