The San Francisco 49ers listed quarterback Trey Lance as the third-string option Wednesday, behind starter Brock Purdy and new backup Sam Darnold. Lance and Darnold reportedly fought for the backup position throughout the preseason, but head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed that the team reached a verdict earlier this month.

“We gave (Lance) a big chance to win that 2-spot this year… it was a very tough fight, but in the long run, Sam ended up winning it,” Shanahan said, according to The Athletic.

In the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers gave the Miami Dolphins three first-round picks in order to move up to the third overall pick and draft Lance, a largely inexperienced passer with just one full college season at North Dakota State. In two seasons since, Lance has only appeared in eight NFL games and began the 2022 season as the starter before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2.

While Lance recovered from surgery, the 49ers turned to Jimmy Garoppolo and then Purdy, the rookie third-string quarterback who only went in after two injuries at his position. Purdy made an immediate impact, leading the team into the postseason and all the way to the NFC Championship before going down with an injury himself. Shanahan said that his late-season performance secured him the starting job early on in the offseason.


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“I mean this isn’t a thing where we’re giving up on Trey,” Shanahan said in a local radio interview Wednesday. “This is more of how Brock played in his seven games and that was decided before the season started, and how Sam’s looked. They’ve both looked good but we have to make a decision here. You only get so many reps at it. We feel, starting about 10 days ago, Sam really separated himself, and we’ve got to keep it real in that way.”

Before arriving in San Francisco, Darnold played three seasons for the Jets and two for the Panthers, never making a convincing case as a franchise quarterback for either team. The USC product will return to California and provide a capable safety net if Purdy struggles or goes down again.

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