There is an old adage in football, often attributed to the legendary John Madden, that says if you say you have more than one player at the start, you never have any.
Kyle Shanahan doesn’t seem to agree with this idea. The San Francisco 49ers coach said Thursday that he believes the trio Brooke Purdy, Tre Lance And Sam Darnold All of them are able to lead a team:
“I think we’ve got three quarterbacks of talent, all of whom are capable of being such quarterbacks as the franchise,” Shanahan said at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series event. According to David Lombardi of The Athletic. Brock did it in the eight [games]. And we have two other people on our list who we strongly believe can do that, too.”
But there can only be one player who’s been the 49ers’ Week 1 starter this season, and all signs point to Purdy being that player.
Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch effectively named Purdy for 2023 this spring and have admitted they’ve had trade calls for Lance. Shanahan said Purdy would be “the initiator of this [the season]Earlier this season, Lynch added that Purdy “earned that right to be the guy” after leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game this past season with a 7-1 record. San Francisco added Darnold in free agency after spending the past two years as a starter again, and again to the Carolina Panthers after a tumultuous three-year stint with the New York Jets.
The case of Lance and Darnold
Shanahan flatly refused to rule out Lance or Darnold as the team’s starter. He claimed that Lance, who sat out a season after the 49ers finished third overall in 2021, could have “reached a level where he would have done similar things” to what Purdy did in 2022 had Lance not broken his finger. 2021 and broke his ankle in 2022.
“We expected you to see Lance [to be the man for a long time] And I think he can still do that. “You also don’t expect the last pick in the draft to come in and play at that level,” Shanahan said. I really think Trey can come in and do it, but Brock has already done that and that’s a very good thing for us.”
As for Darnold, Shanahan said he still considers him the former No. 3 talent in the 2018 draft. Oddly enough, Darnold is the most experienced player of the bunch, with 55 career starts under his belt.
“You watch his entire career and there’s no reason to think differently,” Shanahan said. “He wasn’t in the best position, so we’re happy to have him here.”
So why is Shanahan saying all this? Maybe he wants real quarterback competition this season between three players under the age of 26. The 49ers did not have a single player in state for Shanahan as head coach after San Francisco was replaced Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017 and named Lance the Week 1 starter in 2022.
Or perhaps Shanahan had said what he had in case Purdy didn’t fully recover from UCL surgery by week one. While Shanahan said he believes Purdy will be ready through bootcamp, it’s impossible to know for sure until he puts the pads on and starts practicing.
Another idea is that Shanahan is simply trying to raise the value of Lance’s trade ahead of the 2023 season and entice a team to bid him.
Either way, the 49ers will have one of the most important decisions of the year in this offseason. San Francisco is not only the favorite to win the NFC West (-175, Per BetMGM), the 49ers have the second best odds (+300) of winning the NFC and have the third best odds of winning the Super Bowl (+900).
There’s a lot going on around who taps Shanahan as the starting quarterback, and he hasn’t fully shown his cards yet.