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49ers end-of-season grades: Quarterbacks

Rohan Chakravarthi
Feb 13, 2023 at 12:00 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers had a whirlwind of a season in regard to quarterback play, which is why it only makes sense that we begin our end-of-season grades series with the position.

San Francisco played four different quarterbacks this season: Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brock Purdy, and Josh Johnson, and ended the year with none of them healthy.

Going into the offseason, the 49ers will, once again, be intertwined with a quarterback situation, as Purdy, who finished the season as the starter for the 49ers, is undergoing UCL surgery later this month, with his timeline of recovery currently in question.

Meanwhile, Lance is recovering from a fractured ankle, placing him as the only healthy quarterback under contract to be ready for organized team activities(OTAs).

But, before we dive into the 2023 situation, let's go back and re-grade the quarterbacks over the entire season.

Trey Lance

Lance began the year as San Francisco's starting quarterback, taking the reigns from Jimmy Garoppolo, who surprisingly returned to the 49ers as the backup quarterback under a reworked contract.

Lance had a tough first start, completing just 13/28 passes for 164 yards and an interception, but encountered rainy conditions, especially in the fourth quarter when the 49ers were down by a score.

In his second start, Lance attempted just three passes before fracturing his ankle on a quarterback run up the middle, ending his season.

While the passing numbers weren't impressive for Lance in his extremely small sample size, the 49ers ran the ball at a highly efficient level when Lance was at quarterback, which allowed them to operate under the zone-read.

Lance himself had 67 yards on 16 attempts, but the 49ers as a whole benefitted significantly, as the quarterback's dual-threat ability forced defenses to respect his legs, aiding his running backs' as they ran the ball.

The 49ers ran for 284 yards during Lance's five quarters at quarterback, averaging 6.1 yards per carry despite operating under a run-heavy approach.

Still, while there were several impressive throws, Lance has work to do as a passer, but more importantly; the now-third-year quarterback needs reps.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Garoppolo entered the fold in the second quarter of San Francisco's 28-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 following Lance's ankle injury, taking over until his injury in Week 13.

The first few weeks of the Garoppolo experience weren't promising, as the veteran quarterback arguably had the worst game of his career in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos, while the 49ers went 2-3 in his first five starts.

However, the bread and butter came in Week 8 for the 49ers, with their season in limbo at a 3-4 record on the road against the Los Angeles Rams.

Garoppolo had an extremely efficient performance, completing 21/25 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers, leading the 49ers to a 31-14 win over the Rams, spearheading what would be a 12-game winning streak.

From Weeks 8-13, Garoppolo didn't turn the ball over once, snapping a turnover streak, as he had never gone three games without a turnover in his career.

During that stretch, San Francisco's quarterback completed over 71% of his passes, while having a touchdown-interception ratio of 7:0.

While he averaged under 200 passing yards a game, and was a proponent of the 49ers' yards-after-the-catch(YAC) system, Garoppolo got the job done and the 49ers, with their elite defense, continued to win, pointing analysts to even say that it was the best stretch of his career.

But, it came to an end against the Miami Dolphins when Garoppolo broke his foot attempting to extend a play, putting San Francisco's third-string quarterback into action for the remainder of the season.

Brock Purdy

When Garoppolo went down, it felt as if the 49ers' season was over, but rookie quarterback Brock Purdy impressed everybody when he led the 49ers to seven consecutive wins, picking up where the veteran left off, and arguably executing the offense at the highest level its been at since the Kyle Shanahan era began.

During Purdy's six games of the regular season, the 49ers' quarterback completed 68% of his passes, while sporting a 13:3 touchdown-interception ratio.

The storyline itself was impressive, given that Purdy was a seventh-round rookie off the bench that saved the 49ers' season, breaking several accolades on the way, but the quarterback also played a level of football that hadn't been seen in the offense before, going through progressions and showing a willingness to be aggressive with passes.

Granted, the bar wasn't necessarily high before Purdy's entrance and there still are several areas of improvement, but what the rookie did with the 49ers was unprecedented in the NFL.

However, it came to an end at the worst possible time, as the 49ers quarterback tore his UCL on the team's first drive of the NFC Championship Game, ending their chances of making a Super Bowl appearance in 2023.

Overall, the 49ers' quarterbacks each had their ups-and-downs, but the quarterback play improved as the season went along, with the signal-caller doing what was asked of them in the offense.

If we eliminate emotion and storyline, judging specifically the play of the quarterbacks itself, the position group earns a "B" grade for the year.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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  • Paul
    I agree with Big Al. The Chiefs fixed their Offensive line after the Super Bowl beating from Tampa. Great offenses tends to last a lot longer than great defenses. The Legion of Dome, The Bears, Ravens, and Tampa (in the first Super Bowl win) didn't last that long at top tier.
    Feb 14, 2023 at 2:33 PM
  • BigAl
    believe contrary to everybody that Lance will be QB1 next year. Jalen Hurts is yet another example of not bailing on a guy too early, especially a QB with plus athletism who can also understand coverages. In fact if Lance isnt the starter, its because hes internally viewed as a bust. Purdy certainly rounds it out but I cant help but think the SB had the 2 teams with the best pass pro OLs. The 49ers have put alot into the DL, its time to start realizing OL is more important. Offense is king, and thats real 49er football in the first place. Something needs to change and frankly that NFC Championship game was embarrassing.
    Feb 13, 2023 at 3:18 PM


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