By Nick Murray
The San Francisco 49ers have built one of the most scary offenses in the NFL consisting of All Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, All Pro tight end George Kittle, All-Pro receiver Deebo Samuel and young receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The team averages the tenth most yards per game and thirteenth most points per game. The Niners currently hold a record of 9-4 and are likely to win the NFC west. The team is considered a strong competitor to win the NFC conference arguably just behind the Eagles and Cowboys.
However, quarterback Jimmy Goroppolo recently went down with an ankle injury, initially expected to knock him out for the season. Further tests discovered that he did not have a broken ankle as originally diagnosed and therefore could potentially return in 6-8 weeks–somewhere between the divisional round and conference championship– if the 49ers can make a deep playoff run.
However, this leaves the 49ers with a difficult decision assuming they can make it to the conference championship. With 2021 first round pick quarterback Trey Lance out with a broken ankle, the 49ers are turning to Brock Purdy, the 2022 final pick of the draft: Mr. Irrelevant. Prior to Purdy, no Mr. Irrelevant had ever completed a forward pass. However, Purdy completed 25 of his 37 pass attempts for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first start and win over the Miami Dolphins in week 13 followed up by a 16 for 21, 185 passing yard 3 touchdown win over Tom Brady in week 14.
While it is unlikely that Purdy is the answer to quarterback longterm in San Francisco, the question remains, if Purdy can manage the starting job to the extent that the 49ers make it several rounds into the playoffs, what should the team do when Jimmy Goroppolo returns. Do you sit your rookie quarterback who just brought you all the way to a divisional round or conference championship and start 31 year old Jimmy Goroppolo who is at the end of a one year 6 million dollar contract? Or do you continue with the success of your rookie quarterback and potentially develop him for the following season if Trey Lance does not pan out? While the NFC Championship isn’t the best situation to develop a young quarterback, the 49ers have been trying [unsuccessfully] to move on from Jimmy Goroppolo for 2 years and perhaps Purdy is their way out.
Regardless of the teams decision, the 49ers quarterback struggles are undeniably holding back an otherwise lethal offense and the difficult decision at quarterback will ultimately come down to head coach Kyle Shannahan and General Manager John Lynch. All of this hinges on the assumption that the 49ers can survive long enough in the playoffs to allow Jimmy Goroppolo to return but the decision will have serious implications for the future of the 49ers franchise.