The quarterback position on the ever-shifting 49ers team took another turn when Jimmy Garoppolo broke his foot in Week 13 and opened the door for seventh-round rookie pick Brock Purdy to take over the starting job.
Purdy’s success with his three starts has not only changed the 49ers’ fortunes in 2022, but could ultimately change the way the club operates in the midfield this season.
Trey Lance was supposed to be the team’s long-term starter early this season. The plan was for the young, inexperienced QB to improve while having a full starting roster under his belt while the 49ers tried to thread the needle between developing a raw franchise signal caller and competing for the Super Bowl.
Whether this plan will work is up for debate, but Lance’s Week 2 injury completely derailed it. It looked as if the 49ers would add another veteran who could either compete for the job or hold a backup spot should Lance fall again. They will give themselves the opportunity to effectively do what they did with Garoppolo this year. The QB could be Garoppolo depending on what his market as an unrestricted free agent looks like. But this is where Purdy comes in.
The discourse around Birdie’s future has tilted heavily toward whether he’s the new QB1 moving into 2023 and beyond. There is definitely an opportunity for that. However, the more likely outcome is that Purdy has played well enough to eliminate the need to add a veteran capable of either competing with or backing up Lance.
It is unlikely that it will be decided over the next few weeks if Purdy is the confirmed starting QB next year. Too many things can change too quickly in the NFL for roster decisions as big as this one to be made six months before training camp. The 49ers also have a great investment in Lance that they’ve made because they believe he can take the club to new heights because of his physical tools. Simply pushing him into a backup job as he entered his third season after playing in just three complete games his first two years didn’t seem like a move they were eager to make.
Rather than turn the starting QB conversation in reverse, it looks like Purdy will instead give the 49ers some reassurances about what they have at home. If he continues to play well, San Francisco can comfortably go into next year with Lance and Purdy (in some order) as the top two QBs. They’re going to add a third player to the QB room, but it could be someone like Nate Sudfeld or Josh Johnson (who’s on the roster) or Jacob Eason (who’s on the practice squad). These types of players fit the typical QB3 mold for the 49ers as they hold a coaching position and fill in for the QB2 in question.
Of course, Purdy could improve over his last few weeks, lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl and turn the conversation around again. She’s not out of the realm of possibility in a 49ers QB saga that has taken many ups and downs over the past three years. For now, though, his play will likely provide some internal stability that allows the 49ers to continue their way forward without shelling out big money for the veteran QB they can win. Then the real decisions can come next year at training camp.