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Armando Salguero: Jimmy G Decision Looms Friday While Trey Lance Waits to Make History

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UPDATE: On Friday, the 49ers and head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Trey Lance as the starter for Week 5’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Jimmy Garoppolo missed Friday’s practice as his status for Sunday was deemed unquestionable all week due to missed practices on behalf of a calf injury. Lance partook in first-team reps all week, including Friday.

It’s a big day for the San Francisco 49ers because starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, nursing a calf injury, is going to try to practice for the first time this week.

“Jimmy told me he wants to give it a go [Friday], so we’ll see him out on the practice field tomorrow,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said Thursday on the Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks show, per 49erswebzone.

“If he looks good, then he’ll have a shot. If he can’t, then we’ll shut him down.”

If Garoppolo can step up in the pocket and use his legs to get into his throws, he’ll have a chance of playing against the undefeated and NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

If not …

… History will be made.

That’s because if backup Trey Lance starts for San Francisco this weekend, it would mean all five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the April NFL draft would be starting for the first time this season.

And it would mark the first time in NFL history five rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round started this early in the season.

But, honestly, the 49ers should be hoping Garoppolo can get on the field — because, so far, all the other starting rookie quarterbacks have been unable to do much winning, which doesn’t exactly bode well for Lance.

Trevor Lawrence was the first pick of the draft last April and, why not? He’s got it all: Size, an electric arm, smarts, great make-up for a quarterback.

But he’s winless in four games.

Lawrence is the league’s 29th-rated passer. His 57.0 completion percentage is also 29th. And he’s lost more games this season than he did his entire three seasons at Clemson.

So the kid who was something of a prodigy in college, winning the national champion as a freshman, has not seen that quite translate to the NFL.

Zach Wilson, selected No. 2 overall by the New York Jets, has actually had greater success than Lawrence in that his team won a game last week. But it kind of stops there (for now).

Wilson has completed 56.8 percent of his passes, which is 30th overall in the NFL or one spot below Lawrence. And his QB rating of 62.8 is the second-worst of any quarterback who’s played more than one game.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the last draft, is scheduled to make his third start this Sunday at the Las Vegas Raiders. And so far?

The Bears are 1-1 in the games Fields has started, but it hasn’t been pretty. Fields has completed 48.1 percent of his passes and his QB rating is 53.9, which is worse than the previous two guys.

Fields, by the way, is still looking for his first NFL touchdown pass.

The rookie who has gotten the most love from national media is clearly New England’s Mac Jones, who was picked No. 15 overall.

All you had to do was tune in to the Sunday Night Football broadcast last week to hear Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels shower Jones with praise. But has he actually earned it?

The Patriots are 1-3 with Jones as their starter. And his 84.7 QB rating is 26th in the NFL.

Jones has a very impressive 70 percent completion rate. But his 6.3 yards per attempt average is worse than the other rookie QBs, except for Lawrence, which suggests the Patriots continually have Jones check the ball down to backs or throw short routes.

New England coaches are obviously protecting Jones in how they handle him. But that couldn’t be the case in the New Orleans game when the Patriots fell behind and needed Jones to stretch the field.

The young quarterback threw three interceptions that game.

All told, these rookie quarterbacks have a combined 3-11 record as starters so far.

And now the possibility of Lance, who was perhaps the rawest of the bunch, starting on Sunday presents an opportunity but also some issues for the 49ers.

Did the 49ers spend the entire week authoring and then practicing two game plans, one for Lance and one for Garoppolo?

“No, that’s what you try to do in the offseason is build an offensive system that flourishes everyone,” San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said Thursday. “Then you have specific things that are tailored to people’s skillsets, but for instance Trey Lance’s touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel [last week], that was a play that Jimmy [practiced] all week. So, there’s a lot of overlap.”

And so how would Lance compare with his fellow rookies when he finally gets his chance to start, whether that’s this week or in the future?

“I feel like he’s in the boat with a lot of rookies, in terms of you’re looking at him and you’re like, ‘This isn’t the end result,’” McDaniel said. “I think every day he shows us that he’s wise beyond his years, much more mature than I was at his age, I can tell you that much.

“And as far as expectations, we expected him to be a rookie who threw 300-and-some-odd passes in college. But you know what, in an NFL football game this season, he’s had more two-minute reps than he’s had his entire college career.

“I’m not sure if you guys know, but he’s really good at winning football games in high school and college, so he was never behind. Just knowing that on the front end, you know there’s going to be a lot of things to grow on. And he knows that as well, which is why when bad things happen, he doesn’t blink.”

Follow on Twitter: @armandosalguero

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Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

2 Comments

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  1. The rookie QBs aren’t winning because have you SEEN the offensive teams they’re on? They’re repugnant. Name one starting WR for the Jags, Jets, Bears or Pats without Googling it. I bet you can’t unless you’re a die hard homer fan. Though not conducting any deep research, analyzing analytics or consulting with experts I will conclude that MIGHT have a lot to do with the rookie QBs not winning. Despite the belief that great QBs can singlehandedly raise the dead, newsflash, they ain’t doing it without really good WRs and an o line who can block.

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