Ex-49ers QB Alex Smith identifies with ‘unfair’ Trey Lance criticism originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
Alex Smith entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, but success did not come quickly.
In fact, his first four seasons with the 49ers were completely forgettable. But in time, Smith figured it out and made the first of his three Pro Bowls in his eighth NFL seasons.
Few are as qualified as Smith to relate to the turbulent young career of 49ers quarterback Trey Lance.
“I identify a lot with him,” Smith said this week on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “You can see him carrying a lot of weight.”
Lance, like Smith nearly 20 years earlier, entered the NFL with huge expectations. The 49ers traded up to select Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
Lance has not had a real opportunity to prove if he can be a franchise quarterback. He opened last season as the 49ers’ starter but sustained a season-ending injury in the first quarter of Week 2.
On Sunday, Lance got onto the field for the first time in a game setting since he sustained a fractured ankle and ligament damage against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 of the 2022 season.
He did not look crisp in the 49ers’ preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“You can see him wanting so badly to go out there and justify that (draft position),” Smith said. “You don’t want to make a mistake. You hold onto the ball a little too hard. You almost want it too bad.”
Lance simply has not played a lot of football since his senior season at Marshall (Minn.) High School. In three seasons at North Dakota State and his first two in the NFL, he attempted just 420 passes.
Now, compare his experience to 49ers starter Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold, who is competing against Lance for the backup role.
Purdy attempted 1,700 passes in four years at Iowa State and his one season with the 49ers. Darnold had a combined 2,611 pass attempts in two years at USC and his five years in the NFL with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers.
“Go to the facts,” Smith said of Lance. “The guy has played five games in the last three years. Five football games. He’s 23 years old. I think he still has an incredibly bright future.”
Purdy won the starting job this season based on how well he played as a rookie last season upon replacing Jimmy Garoppolo.
One year after opening the season as the starter, Lance finds himself in competition for 49ers’ backup quarterback.
RELATED: Steve Young passionately defends Trey Lance amid NFL-wide criticism
That circumstance, as well as his choppy preseason opener, meant that Lance became the subject of intense media scrutiny and criticism this week after his first preseason game.
Said Smith, “I think it’s incredibly unfair.”
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