San Francisco’s Evolving Quarterback Conundrum

49ers stadium
"San Francisco 49ers Panorama" by Aaron Sholl is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

There’s an old adage in the NFL that talks about having multiple quarterbacks, and what that essentially means for the franchise. Many in the game believe that if an organization has more than one player who can viable start at quarterback, that team doesn’t have a true leader that they can build around.

It’s an understandable vantage point, as the quarterback should be viewed as the focal point of a locker room and a roster. However, the San Francisco 49ers seem to be debunking that theory, as they’ve had notable success with a couple of different players under center.

Their continued execution speaks to their ability to identify talent, and put players in a position to perform. Brock Purdy will be under center as the 49ers look to maintain their playoff run this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Regardless of how far San Francisco advances in the postseason, it’s going to be fascinating to see how they handle their quarterback situation moving forward.

Brock Purdy

To everyone’s surprise, the final selection of the 2022 NFL Draft has come in and played extremely well in his first professional action. San Francisco has not lost a game with Purdy under center this season, and the rookie deserves a lot of credit for understanding what the coaching staff expects out of him. It doesn’t seem like he’s ready to win games on his own at this point of his career, but Purdy has been an effective distributor as he’s involved the weapons around him.

It would be hard to fathom San Francisco not taking a serious look at him as their 2023 starter, given how well he’s played. Purdy’s relatively low salary as a seventh round draft pick will continue to allow the 49ers to spend money on proven talent, which will bolster their team all across the field.

Jimmy Garoppolo

The emergence of Purdy was something that wasn’t supposed to happen, considering that Jimmy Garoppolo had the 49ers playing well down the stretch of the 2022 regular season. San Francisco was 7-3 in games that Garoppolo started this year, and the savvy veteran appeared to have the team well positioned to make another deep playoff run with him under center. The 49ers made the Super Bowl with Garoppolo, as well as an NFC title game last season.

Garoppolo is the most expensive quarterback on the 49ers roster, and his inclusion or exclusion on the team next year may come down to dollars and cents. He’s proven his worth to the organization, but is also likely to fetch the most compensation in a trade.

Trey Lance

For the second straight season, the player that the 49ers moved up to select in the 2021 NFL Draft will watch someone else lead the team in the postseason. Second year quarterback Trey Lance was one of the most exciting prospects a couple of years ago, but injuries and ineffectiveness have clouded what was once deemed to be a bright future.

Despite Garoppolo’s accomplishments last year, San Francisco decided to install Lance as their 2022 starter. He was only able to play a little over one game, as he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. Lance’s ceiling still figures to be higher than that of Garoppolo’s or Purdy’s, but the team’s success without him might make them question whether he should go into 2023 as the leader of the offense.