What John Lynch’s comments on Brock Purdy mean for 49ers QBs
John Lynch on Monday at the NFL owners’ meetings gave a definitive comment on the 49ers’ quarterback situation going into the season. Second-year signal caller Brock Purdy is the “leader in the clubhouse” for the starting job if and when he’s healthy enough to play. He also added QBs Trey Lance and Sam Darnold would also be in the mix and competing, but that felt like an afterthought compared to his declaration that Purdy is (likely) the team’s starting QB in 2023.
It isn’t a huge surprise that the team would roll with last year’s Mr. Irrelevant as their starter. He has the largest sample of the team’s present trio and he saw nothing but success until getting hurt in the NFC championship game. The team was 7-0 in games Purdy started and was healthy for. He completed 67.1 percent of his throws with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. His elusiveness in the pocket and playmaking outside of it added a new level to the 49ers’ offense, and they started lighting up the scoreboard with Purdy running the show.
However, the question now turns toward the long-term with the 49ers’ QB situation. Here’s what Lynch’s comments mean for each of the QBs on the 49ers’ roster:
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It’s pretty straightforward for Purdy. He’s the guy for the 49ers once he’s healthy after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a torn UCL he suffered in the NFC championship game. His “clubhouse lead” indicates there’s nothing he can do to lose his spot. Purdy does need to get healthy, but Lynch’s commitment to him indicates the team is optimistic about his return-to-play timeline and that once he’s back his play won’t be hampered by his surgically-repaired elbow.
Whether he holds the job long-term and earns the “franchise quarterback” label will depend on a larger sample size and how the team fares with him at QB for a full season, but at least for 2023 Lynch believes Purdy is the player most suited to win the 49ers a Super Bowl.
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This is more complicated for Lance. He’d need an extraordinary effort during his offseason and preseason reps to put himself above Purdy in the mind of the 49ers’ decision-makers. Lynch made it sound as though the team isn’t prepared to have a real QB competition though, and preseason snaps aren’t likely enough to untangle Purdy’s hold on the top QB spot.
So, assuming Purdy maintains his seat atop the depth chart, this season becomes a fascinating one for Lance. In the short-term, he’ll need to win the backup job behind Purdy. This might even come with a start or two at the beginning of the year until Purdy is healthy.
Longer-term though we could be seeing the beginning of the end of Lance’s time in red and gold. The 49ers (or at least Lynch) clearly believe in Purdy, and Lance is running out of years to get the in-game reps he so desperately needs. Lynch said at the combine the team believes in Lance, but he just needs to play. The team doesn’t appear interested in giving him that playing time this year, which calls into question if/when they’ll ever be interested in doing so.
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Lynch’s comments don’t do much for Darnold, who was always going to be competing for the backup job. The GM did say that all three QBs would “compete” for the starting gig, but the chances Darnold does enough to overtake Lance and Purdy are not high. It’d be a significant win for him if he winds up as the QB2 though.