A generation ago, a future Hall of Fame offensive lineman expressed trepidation about the prospect of a rookie quarterback taking over for an injured veteran. 49ers left tackle Trent Williams, however, has a far different viewpoint on rookie quarterback Trey Lance replacing Jimmy Garoppolo than Steelers guard Alan Faneca had 17 years ago regarding Ben Roethlisberger stepping in for Tommy Maddox.
“I think he’ll still give us a chance to complete all the goals we set out for in the beginning of the year,” Williams said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s everything you want to see out of a young quarterback. He’s only 21. We’re asking a lot of a 21-year-old, and he’s under a magnifying glass. And he’s responded in a perfect way, in my opinion.”
That’s a far cry from Faneca answering the question of whether he was “excited” to play with Roethlisberger in 2004. “Do you want to go work with some little young kid who’s just out of college?” Faneca said at the time.
“If he’s the guy we have to go in to battle with this weekend, I have 100-percent confidence he’ll give us an opportunity to win the game,” Williams said regarding Lance, who possibly will start against the Texans on Sunday. “And we can win the game off his back, not just by him playing solid football. . . . I think he can go in and make the plays that propel the football team to a W. That’s the talent he has, and that’s why he was picked where he was. Obviously, I have a ton of faith in him.”
It’s high praise, but it’s no surprise. The 49ers saw something in Lance to justify investing three first-round picks and a third-round pick. The fact that Lance has made precious few appearances, however, has created the impression that he has not shown coach Kyle Shanahan enough. Otherwise, Lance would be playing more. Or, as the case may be, at all.
Garoppolo, in the opinion of some (including me) is holding the 49ers back from being great. Lance, if Garoppolo’s injured thumb prevents him from going, could provide the same lift that Colin Kaepernick did in 2012, after Alex Smith suffered a concussion.
Regardless, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers winning a Super Bowl with Garoppolo. Maybe Lance provides a higher ceiling for the 49ers. That’s why he was drafted. The time to start proving it could be arriving very soon.