Pick your fighter: Sam Darnold, Trey Lance, or Brock Purdy? Kyle Shanahan and the Niners have a crucial decision to make as the 2023 NFL season approaches.
The Niners boast one of the most impressive rosters in the NFL. In fact, since Kyle Shanahan arrived in the Bay Area, San Francisco has appeared in three NFC Championship games, including one trip to the Super Bowl.
Although the depth chart is beaming with talent, Shanahan has largely succeeded in spite of the quarterback position — not because of it. Jimmy Garoppolo is the only starting quarterback to appear in 16 or more regular season games in Shanahan’s six-year reign. That only happened once in 2019, when the Niners nearly defeated the Chiefs for a Super Bowl title.
Last season, the team started three different signal-callers en route to a second straight NFC title game. Former No. 3 overall pick, Trey Lance, suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 before Garoppolo took over and eventually went down with an injury himself later in the year.
Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, was thrust into the starting quarterback position on a championship-caliber roster. To the surprise of many, the Iowa State product held his own by winning every game he started in the regular season, including two playoff victories vs. the Seahawks and Cowboys.
The injury gods struck again for the Niners, as Purdy suffered a torn elbow ligament against the Eagles in the NFC Championship, effectively tanking the chances of San Francisco advancing further. The injury was so severe that Purdy’s timetable for a return remains clouded as of this writing.
The roster remains one of the strongest in the league, but the familiar concerns behind center persist as well. The quarterback position lost its insurance piece when Garoppolo netted a lucrative three-year deal from the Raiders, ending his six-year stint with the Niners.
In Garoppolo’s place, general manager John Lynch signed former top-three pick Sam Darnold in free agency. While his talent cannot be denied, Shanahan has his work cut out to coach away some of the bad habits Darnold has developed over the years.
On top of the uncertainty surrounding Purdy and Darnold, Trey Lance has five total starts under his belt since his college days in 2019. Like Darnold, Lance possesses an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent, but the word potential means nothing if the young signal-caller fails to stay healthy.
Niners Dilemma: Start Sam Darnold, Trey Lance, Or Brock Purdy?
Now that we know the options for Kyle Shanahan in 2023, which player presents the highest likelihood of staying healthy and getting the Niners over the hump in the NFC?