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Battle over before it starts? Insider believes 49ers have decided on Brock Purdy as QB of the future

Jan 21, 2023 at 8:32 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers invested a lot to acquire quarterback Trey Lance. The team is unlikely to admit any wrongdoing there. Not yet, at least. That's not to say that Lance can't develop into a competent starter for the Bay Area squad. The team obviously believes that to be possible, having decided he was the Week 1 starter early last offseason.

Circumstances have changed, though.

Brock Purdy has taken the NFL by storm, surprising even those who drafted him with the No. 262 overall pick. Lance went down in Week 2, elevating Jimmy Garoppolo into the starting role. That lasted until Week 13 when Garoppolo went down with a broken foot.

Enter Brock Purdy and the birth of a continuously accelerating hype train.

Some expected the rookie quarterback to eventually stumble after taking over. That moment never came. Instead, Purdy extended the 49ers' win streak to 11 games, including last weekend's Wild Card playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

"Did we know it would go as well as it has? Absolutely not," general manager John Lynch admitted in December, after Purdy's first start, a win against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Purdy has excelled. And that leaves the 49ers in a tough spot—at least perceptually. On the one hand, they invested the draft capital equivelant of a fortune in Lance. But, on the other hand, it would be tough to move away from Purdy.

Of course, that is a decision for this offseason. San Francisco is laser-focused on the Dallas Cowboys, their next playoff opponent. The quarterback situation, and any potential battle between Purdy and Lance, is an afterthought.

If what one NFL reporter hears is correct, that battle may already be over.

"On Thursday, I talked to two people with knowledge of the organization's plans, and they confirmed what is already semi-obvious: The battle is over, and Purdy has won," wrote Mike Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers may still decide to stage a quarterback battle this offseason, declaring trust in both young players throughout. However, Silver, and many others, believe Purdy has done enough in his rookie showing to prove he belongs. He has the trust of his teammates and, more importantly, his head coach, who also happens to be the 49ers' offensive play-caller.

"You may hear protestations in the coming months that such a proclamation is premature, perhaps in an effort to drive up Trey Lance's trade value," Silver wrote. "If so, don't believe the noise. Purdy, even if he throws 12 interceptions Sunday, is the 49ers' quarterback of the present and future."

What does that mean for Lance? No matter their order on the depth chart, having two quarterbacks you believe in on rookie contracts is a blessing, even if the higher-priced one becomes the backup. The 49ers won't be recouping the draft capital spent, which included multiple first-round picks, to acquire Lance, so they might as well hold onto the young quarterback and see what happens. After all, this season has proven you can never have a surplus of talent at the position.

Trading Lance would be admitting to significant mismanagement of resources. Based on conversations around the league, Silver speculates that the Niners would be unable to net more than a third-round selection for the former No. 3 overall pick. Perhaps more.

"A former NFL general manager and current personnel executive told Pro Football Network that the price he'd be willing to pay for Lance is a second-round pick 'and something else,'" wrote PFN's Adam H. Beasley.

Would even that be enough to intrigue the 49ers? Instead, they might prefer to wait and see how everything plays out. After all, they have learned that the NFL is full of surprises.

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