Why San Francisco 49ers QB Trey Lance is the NFL’s 2022 mystery man

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—“So,” I asked Niners GM John Lynch Sunday, “what’s the story with Jimmy Garoppolo? What’s he been doing every day?”

From his office desk in the shadow of the 49ers’ stadium, Lynch craned his neck toward the picture window on the side of his office. He pointed to the far practice field, where a solitary figure was working out and throwing footballs efficiently.

Garoppolo, who quarterbacked this team to a win over Aaron Rodgers and the top-seeded Packers eight months ago, is a strange sight to behold these days. He works out, throws and rehabs apart from his teammates, most often when they’re inside in meetings. When the other 89 men on the San Francisco roster are practicing outside, Garoppolo is usually inside, or on his way home. I heard he does not have a playbook, does not attend quarterback or team meetings and barely knows new quarterbacks coach Brian Griese.

While Garoppolo awaits his fate — he’s most likely to be released before Labor Day unless a needy team suffers a major quarterback injury or Deshaun Watson is banned for the season in Cleveland — the new kid, Trey Lance, spent Sunday taking every snap of practice. Seriously: every one. Lance played little in the preseason opener Friday and won’t play next weekend at Minnesota, so afternoons like Sunday are crucial in his development.

Lance has thrown 389 passes in real football games since he graduated from high school, and this Final Four team in 2021 is working to try to be a Final One team in ’22. So every rep is gold for him now. And for his coach, Kyle Shanahan, who thinks that Lance, eventually, can take this team deeper into the playoffs and do more things with his arm and legs than Garoppolo could.

But whether Lance can do it is one of football’s great mysteries entering this season. Shanahan really likes coaching Lance and loves his potential, but sitting in his office after practice Sunday, he made a startling admission that really should be startling about a player who’s had one starting season—that in FBS football—in the last four years.

“Is Trey ready to take it on his shoulders?” Shanahan said. “He shouldn’t be. He hasn’t gone through it enough.

“I believe in him as a man, as a person. I believe in his talent. I don’t think he is going to make or break our season, just like in 2019 and last year, I didn’t think Jimmy was going to make or break our season.

“But what sucks is when you’re learning how to play and you’re not there yet, how do you not get worse sometimes when that pressure’s on you and you need to go through the growing pains?”

Complicated story, as you can see.

Most places I go, practice gets a little humdrum at times. I’ve been watching summer football practices since 1984, when I covered the Bengals, and I once had the audacity during a blazing-hot two-a-day full-padded practice to ask Cincinnati owner Paul Brown — only one of the greatest coaches in the history of this game — whether he ever got tired of four hours of football practice, daily, in the heat of camp.

“Young man!” Brown said sharply. “This is our lifeblood!”

Bad question.

I thought of that Sunday, watching Lance take every snap of a camp practice. For Lance, this is lifeblood stuff. Part of the heavy load was because the Niners had a game Friday night, so Shanahan wanted most of those who played big swaths of the game to sit out Sunday, with those who didn’t play Friday night getting lots of work here. Lance got 11 snaps Friday, ergo he played a lot Sunday.

I loved it. Facing lots of first-teamers on an excellent defense is the best medicine for Lance right now. I compared Lance of 2021 camp to Lance of today (no tape, just recalling from my mind’s eye), and the words that came to mind were “more decisive.” He’s more confident, more sure in the pocket. No wasted motion. The footwork is significantly better.

He made three superb throws, I thought, on Sunday: a lofted corner route to Deebo Samuel, throw right on target…a red zone TD throw, with soft, excellent touch, to tight end Ross Dwelley in the right corner of the end zone. “You stayed in,” the back judge working the practice said to Dwelley, nodding…a three-quarters-motion throw, also for a TD, to tight end George Kittle, who had to stretch to make the catch. The awareness, avoiding the rush by coming down with the arm angle on the throw, was perfect.

Trey Lance threw for 603 yards in his rookie season with the 49ers. (NBC Sports)

“Mentally,” he said later, “I feel like things are a lot more clear for me. I understand the offense, and I’m able to play fast.”

That’s the good. I worry a bit about the accuracy. In this practice, he threw high on a 15-yard cross for Brandon Aiyuk, a throw that should be easy. He missed an open Samuel twice, by my count.

There’s a lot to learn in all aspects of the game. Before practice Sunday, Shanahan met with the full team and reviewed the win over Green Bay. What bugged Shanahan was some of the sloppiness, even on big plays. One of the big stars for the Niners was rookie third-round wideout Danny Gray, who caught a 76-yard TD bomb from Lance in the first quarter. “Your game is speed,” Shanahan told him. Yet Gray broke from the line in a bad stance, negating his best asset, and the TD made everyone overlook it.

Same thing with Lance. On an early handoff to running back Trey Sermon, Lance was supposed to carry out a bootleg fake, so maybe a defender or two would chase him and not Sermon. No. Lance just watched the play develop, and didn’t carry out the fake. Shanahan said: Great, you threw a touchdown pass and we won. But you’ve got to do everything well, not just some things.

When I asked Shanahan about it, the answer was some about his own players, some about coaching, some about society. I think his answer’s important — all of it — to coaches and players.

“I don’t have to think too hard about things,” Shanahan said. “I just say what’s there. These guys are told after games they’re successful because they won a fantasy football game for their uncle or something. If you get the numbers and stuff, you played good, according to everybody. That doesn’t tell you anything. Nothing. We talk about what actually happened on the play. We can say we had a good game because we won, but that’s not really what we’re focused on here in the preseason. We’re focused on the product and how you did it.

“It’s up to me to teach these guys that the people who are deciding whether you make the team or people around the league who are deciding if you don’t make it here, whether they could sign you to their active roster, how those people see the play. I want them to know what coaches who are studying you see on tape. Then you actually get the reality. Stats don’t dictate success. Doing it the right way dictates success.”

So…the near future. What’s it say?

The Niners have two weeks to cut the roster to 53. Theoretically, they would want to make a decision on Garoppolo by then, because in an ideal world they don’t want a guy they have no intention of keeping count against their 53. But that’s out of their hands unless Cleveland or Seattle figures it would be smart to trade something for him. If they keep Garoppolo, they’d have to expose a make-it player on cutdown day and they could lose a valuable special-teams performer, let’s say. The next landmark is the week before the Sept. 11 opener. If Garoppolo is on the roster then, the club would have to guarantee his $24.2-million salary for the season.

The reality is that the Niners likely won’t keep Garoppolo with the big salary. But then there’s the danger of releasing Jimmy G before the season, and a motivated Garoppolo going to Seattle, for example (San Francisco’s week two foe), and interfering with the Niners’ contention plans.

With or without the solitary figure on the practice field, this team is Lance’s now. And I would advise patience for Niners fans. It’s absurd to expect a savior to show up at Soldier Field in the opener. Shanahan will be ready to take some pain in 2022. Will Niners Nation?

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

What to know about the 2023 Pro Bowl: Dates, how to watch/live stream info, AFC, NFC coaches, competition schedule, and more

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The 2023 NFL Pro Bowl will take place over the course of two days at Allegiant Stadium–home of the Las Vegas Raiders–in Paradise, Nevada. The excitement begins on Thursday, February 2 as NFL fan-favorites compete in a brand-new skills challenge featuring the following events: Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball, Lightning Round, Longest Drive, Precision Passion, and Best Catch.

Sunday, February 5 will feature the following: the Best Catch Finale, Gridiron Gauntlet, Kick Tack Toe, Move the Chains, and three seven-on-seven non-contact Flag football games between the league’s best players.

See below for additional information on how to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl as well as answers to all of your frequently asked questions.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Who are the coaches for the 2023 Pro Bowl?

AFC Coaches:

  • Peyton Manning – Head Coach
  • Ray Lewis – Defensive Coordinator
  • Diana Flores – Offensive Coordinator

NFC Coaches:

  • Eli Manning – Head Coach
  • Demarcus Ware – Defensive Coordinator
  • Vanita Krouch – Offensive Coordinator

How will the 2023 Pro Bowl be different from previous editions of the event?

Rather than the traditional tackle football game, this year’s Pro Bowl will debut a skills competition and a non-contact flag football game.

How will scoring work?

According to the NFL, points will be calculated in the following way:

  • The winning conference of each skill competition earns three points towards their team’s overall score, with 24 total points available across the eight skills events.
  • The winning conference from each of the first two Flag football games on Sunday will earn six points for their team, for a total of 12 available points.
  • Points from the skills competitions and first two Flag games will be added together and will be the score at the beginning of the third and final Flag game, which will determine the winning conference for The Pro Bowl Games.

How to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl:

  • Where: Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada
  • When: Thursday, February 2 (7:00 PM ET) and Sunday, February 5 (3:00 PM ET)
  • TV Channel: ESPN, ABC, and Disney XD

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

What teams are playing in Super Bowl 2023?

The Philadelphia Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs marking the first time since 2017 that both top seeds qualified for the Super Bowl.


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Super Bowl food 2023: Appetizer, entrée, and dessert ideas for Super Bowl LVII inspired by the Eagles and Chiefs

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As the countdown continues toward Super Bowl LVII, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs are getting their game plans set. But while they go over their plays, the rest of America goes over their menus in preparation for the big day. When it comes to the Super Bowl, everything is always the best — the best teams, the best performers and, of course, the best food.

But how can you impress your party in the kitchen while showing support for your favorite team? Let’s take a look at some iconic food from each of the Super Bowl team cities to prepare for Super Bowl LVII.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl LVII: Date, location, how to watch

Philadelphia Super Bowl food

Crabfries

Why have plain old fries when you could have crabfries? That’s exactly what Pete Ciarrocchi, the CEO of the legendary Philadelphia restaurant Chickie and Pete’s, said one day when creating this intriguing concoction.

While the name may be misleading, crabfries do not contain any actual crab, but rather a blend of spices and Old Bay seasoning that allow the dish to take on a subtle seafood flavor. Topped with a creamy, cheesy dipping sauce, the crinkle-cut fries are sure to take your taste buds to the next level.

Cheesesteak sloppy joes

It simply isn’t Philly without a cheesesteak. Keep it casual in your kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday with Katie Lee Biegel’s Philly Cheesesteak sloppy joes, an easy way to rep the Birds.

Can’t get enough of the cheesesteak? Bring some more Philly specials to the table with this cheesesteak dip, the perfect way to amp up your appetizer game and leave party guests feeling like they just took a trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

RELATED: Rob Gronkowski predicts Eagles to win Super Bowl LVII

Water ice

Is the action of the game heating up? Cool down with a classic Philly treat, water ice. First originating in Bensalem, Pennsylvania in 1984, the icy dessert is now sold in over 600 stores nationwide. The original Rita’s Water Ice shop, however, still remains open for business.

You can even show a little extra passion for the Birds by whipping up this green apple variation, sure to leave you refreshed and ready for the Lombardi.

Kansas City Super Bowl food

Cheese slippers

If you’re looking for a classy, yet authentic appetizer to bring to the table, there’s no better fit than the cheese slipper. This ciabatta loaf baked with melty cheeses and topped with seasonal vegetables and herbs has Kansas City natives hooked.

While the bread is typically baked to perfection by local shops, test your own skill level with this gourmet slipper bread recipe that you can complete with the mouth-watering toppings of your choice.

RELATED: How many Super Bowls have the Chiefs been to, won?

BBQ burnt ends

It’s rare to hear the words Kansas City without barbeque following short after. If you’re looking to impress your guests with your Super Bowl food spread, get out to the grill and start showing off.

While many cities in America know how to cook up some excellent BBQ, the combination of the sweet flavors and mouth-watering sauce has made Kansas City a hub for barbeque lovers for decades.

BBQ burnt ends, while a bit time-consuming, are  well worth a little elbow grease. The dish is also one of the few in Kansas City with a distinct origin story. The meal first found its creation at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, a legendary African American restaurant in KC. Bryant originally made the burnt ends from the trimmings of pork belly, but since then, BBQ lovers have made incredible bites out of many styles of meat.

And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, try fixing up some classic Kansas City sides to pair with your entrée to perfection.

RELATED: What to know about Rihanna, the Super Bowl LVII halftime performer

Chiefs chocolate chip cookies

While there is no specific dessert that defines the Heart of America, you can still show your Kansas City pride with these ever-colorful Chiefs chocolate chip cookies.

Make sure to have your food dye handy, because the red and yellow hue of these cookies are sure to show everyone whose side you are on.

Or, if you’re feeling artistic, design an eye-catching Chiefs jersey out of the fan-favorite rice krispie treats. Whether you make Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce or Chris Jones, you’ll have the tastiest Super Bowl jerseys around.

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs:

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