With the regular season approaching, most teams are worrying about backup depth charts and getting rookies up to speed. In San Francisco, the 49ers preseason quarterback battle is wide open. The current plan, according to GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, is to have recently recovered Brock Purdy start the regular season.
After the painful NFC Championship game where the 49ers lost all quarterbacks to injury, a plan was set in place to not let history repeat itself. In the off-season the team signed former first round draft pick Sam Darnold to a 1 year/$4.5-million-dollar contract. Along with Darnold, former Cincinnati Bengals backup Brandon Allen also signed a one-year deal that will more than likely land him on the practice squad, only to be used in case of emergency.
How Did We Get Here?
Oddly enough, the 49ers preseason quarterback battle has not one, but two guys drafted in round 1 at pick #3. Trey Lance, who the Niners drafted in 2021 at that #3 spot, has great athleticism and knowledge of the position. Unfortunately, his ability has not been seen at the NFL level due to injury last season. In his rookie year he did see some playing time, where he started two games after injuries to then starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
Last season, the Niners were poised to debut their thought-to-be franchise quarterback, but during Week 2 Lance suffered a season ending ankle injury. After his injury, the Niners went back to veteran Jimmy Garoppolo before eventually losing him in Week 13, setting the table for Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy to lead the Niners to the NFC Championship Game.
We all know how that game went, where both Purdy and emergency backup Josh Johnson went down, leaving the Niners no choice but to run the ball to a 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
What Happened Yesterday?
Enough of the history lesson; what is the current and future state of this QB rodeo? Based on off-season conversations, we will see Brock Purdy start Week 1 and show the team if he is their franchise guy. He might not have a long leash, as Sam Darnold and Trey Lance will be battling hard to prove why they are the #1 guy to hopefully lead the 49ers to Super Bowl 58. After the first preseason game. the future is still a bit cloudy as both Lance and Darnold got their time to shine.
Lance went 10/15 with 112 yards and 1 touchdown. His one touchdown was a miraculous deflection off the defender directly into the unsuspecting hands of backup TE Ross Dwelley. As the saying goes, “it’s better to be lucky than good”.
Sam Darnold had a chance in the third quarter to prove himself where he went 5/8 with 84 yards. His one highlight came on a 38-yard-deep pass to rookie Ronnie Bell.
Now, both guys did have a few good plays, but neither one was able to separate himself from the other. Maybe it would be different if both guys had a chance with the Niners’ starting offense, but they both had to show what they could do with the second and third team.
Don’t worry right now 49ers fans, everything will be okay. A 27-point loss to the Raiders is deflating, but it is preseason football. None of the All-Star cast stepped on the field yesterday. Not having your everyday starters impacts everyone, including the quarterbacks.
The focus needs to be on what happens in these last two preseason games, as everyone has now had their first taste of the 2023 season. Hopefully what happened in Vegas yesterday stays in Vegas.