It is often a difficult transition when a team moves on from a veteran quarterback to a young one.
But it didn’t have to be as difficult as the 49ers made it when they decided to hand Trey Lance the starting job in his second season this year.
They decided they were going to trade Jimmy Garoppolo at the combine, but there was no market for him once he had to undergo surgery.
Instead of releasing him, the 49ers spent the offseason treating him like a pariah. They had him working out on a separate field while he rehabbed his shoulder and didn’t have him join in the quarterback meetings.
Richard Sherman endorsed the idea of going with Lance, but didn’t like the way they treated Jimmy G.
“It is the most awkward situation I’ve ever heard of,’’ Sherman said in the spring. “It is like the couple being divorced, and the divorced wife stays in the house while the husband gets re-married.”
The 49ers apparently thought there would be a market for Jimmy G. once his shoulder healed, but teams were leery of giving much for him at the start of the season when they weren’t sure whether he had recovered.
So instead of cutting him, the 49ers offered him a paycut to $6.5 million with incentives if he plays. Jimmy G. will be a free agent at the end of the season and they can’t franchise him. He also has a no-trade clause so they can only trade him to a team he likes. Jimmy G. took the cut because it was his best option instead of being a free agent when most teams were set at quarterback.
The 49er move also gave the impression that they might not be sold on Lance and wanted an insurance policy if he doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Coach Kyle Shanahan tried to put the best face on it, saying it is best for the 49ers to have both quarterbacks and that Lance had no problem with Jimmy G. being his backup.
“There aren’t 32 starting quarterbacks in the league, and we believe we have two of them,” he said.
Meanwhile as the 49ers open the season Sunday against the Bears, this awkward situation puts more pressure on Lance. If he struggles, there will be calls for Jimmy G. to get a shot.
There’s also the chance the 49ers will get something for him if a contender loses its starter because of injury. But it has to be a team Jimmy G. wants to go to because he has the no-trade clause.
One thing is certain. They have put a lot of pressure on Lance. If he lives up to expectations, he can be their quarterback for the next decade.
If he doesn’t, who knows what the 49ers will do next?
All we know now is Jimmy G. opens the season on the sidelines as the backup. At least he is now with the team.