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49ers starting Quarterback: Choice, Chance and Change

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San Francisco 49ers fans are eagerly awaiting answers to what next year’s team will be their starting quarterback. Many are looking at key players whose contracts could be extended or resigned, and what additions can be made to strengthen the team through free agency and the draft.

One major unanswered question about the Niners next season is who will be starting under center, after losing four quarterbacks to injury last season.

Series of Unfortunate Injuries

To say that 2022 was not a good time to be a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers is an understatement.

The season started off with a switch for the 49ers, calling up their 2021 No. 3  draft pick, Trey Lance, as the new starter and play caller for the team. This was short-lived as he went down in Week 2 with a broken ankle and was subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Even before his starting debut, Lance was an unknown, and what he had proven was not impressive. Throughout his eight NFL appearances, he threw for five touchdowns and three interceptions, completing only 54.9% of his passes, earning a QB rating in the low 30s.

Former starter Jimmy Garoppolo had been seemingly pushed to the side, with discussions of trading or releasing the QB on the table. Luckily for San Francisco, this was unsuccessful and he was resigned to a one-year restructured contract. This proved beneficial to the team after Lance’s injury, as Garoppolo was thrust back into the starting role and didn’t miss a beat. 2022 was one of his most productive seasons of his career, throwing 16 touchdowns and over 2,400 yards, catapulting the Niners to the top of the NFC West. Unfortunately, in week 13 fans saw a familiar sight of Garoppolo getting carted to the locker room this time with a broken foot, which also took him out for the season.

Next on the list was the 2022 “Mr. Irrelevant” himself, the last pick of the draft, Brock Purdy. This title proved inapplicable to Purdy, who soared into the position, winning all seven of his career starts all the way through the playoffs to the NFC Championship game. He was only the 5th rookie to start and win in the divisional round. Niners fans rallied around him and were convinced he could bring the team to the Super Bowl. This was until the fateful Championship game against the Eagles.

Early in the first quarter, Purdy was hit while throwing, completely tearing his UCL in his elbow. Josh Johnson was put in as the replacement, but only lasted two quarters. In an eerily similar hit, Johnson went down in the third, being ruled out due to a concussion.

Four. An unprecedented four different quarterbacks all meeting the end of their season, which in turn dashed the hopes for the Niners.

Recovery and Pushing Forward

As all teams do in the offseason, SF regroups and looks at what they can compile for next season, and what will give the team the best chance at another trip to the playoffs.

The three QBs in the discussion are Lance, Purdy, and Garoppolo. Purdy will remain under contract, vying for the starting job, after showing off his ability and how profitable he can be for the team,  Unfortunately, his injury remains an issue. Reports are of an ongoing inflammation in the elbow delaying the surgery needed to be back to 100%.

Lance also has more healing to do. Undergoing his second surgery at the end of December, according to the team. A full recovery is anticipated to come in time for OTA’s, while Purdy’s return is looking closer to training camp.

The scene is set for a competition between Lance and Purdy, both vying to be the starter for next season. Even though rumored to be up for trade or free agency, a top-tier pickup such as Tom Brady or other QB’s is unlikely.

With Garoppolo hitting free agency, it is looking more likely that his home next season will not be in San Francisco. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler expects a bidding war for the veteran quarterback once other big-name players like Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers have been picked up, saying “Garoppolo is gonna be costly. He wants a contract commensurate with his skill set and ability.”

San Francisco fans will have to wait and see not only who will be taking the field as  49ers starting quarterback, but also if the decision to not keep Garoppolo will benefit or hinder their next run to the playoffs.

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