Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5 things to know about new 49ers QB Sam Darnold

Mar 13, 2023 at 6:29 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers added veteran depth at the quarterback position on Monday after agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with former New York Jets and Carolina Panthers signal caller Sam Darnold.

The 25-year-old Darnold joins a quarterback room that currently consists of Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, both of whom are making their way back from significant injuries. What will the 49ers be getting in Darnold? Here's a quick look at some things for fans to know as Darnold makes his way back to his home state of California after five seasons on the East Coast.

He gives the 49ers what they need, but...

The 49ers were in the market for an experienced backup given the injuries to Lance (ankle) and Purdy (elbow), who still have only 12 total NFL starts between them. Darnold has 55 starts since joining the league in 2018 as a first-round pick of the Jets and should get his share of snaps in the months ahead with Purdy expected to be held out of practices for six months.

Darnold is still young, of course, and could be in a good spot to grow with Kyle Shanahan as his new head coach and former NFL quarterback Brian Griese as his position coach. He gives the 49ers a strong-armed, mobile quarterback capable of stepping in and winning a game or two if called upon and seems to be a good fit for what the 49ers were looking for in a backup. But he doesn't come without concerns, in particular an injury history of his own that fans may not like to see given the health issues the 49ers have had at the position in recent years.

An up-and-down, injury-riddled NFL career

The Jets hoped Darnold would finally end the decades of torment they've endured at the quarterback position when they selected him with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but things didn't work out that way.

Darnold went just 13-25 with the Jets over three seasons with 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions before being traded to Carolina ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft (which saw the Jets select quarterback Zach Wilson at pick 2 overall). Darnold didn't stick with the Panthers either, even though he was helpful down the stretch in 2022 when the Panthers closed the season winning five of their final eight games. Darnold started the final six games and posted a 4-2 record over that stretch, but it wasn't enough for the Panthers to bring him back for another season. Darnold finished his time in Carolina with an 8-9 overall record, 3,670 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. On his career, Darnold has 11,767 yards, 61 touchdowns, and 55 interceptions with a passer rating of 78.2, while rushing for 222 yards on 48 carries with five touchdowns.

Part of Darnold's problem has been staying healthy. Darnold hasn't suffered any injuries on the level of what Lance and Purdy are dealing with now, but he has a long list of smaller issues that have caused him to miss games in each of his five NFL seasons. Here's a rundown:

-2018: Darnold missed three games with a foot sprain

-2019: Darnold missed three games due to mononucleosis

-2020: Darnold missed four games due to a sprained shoulder

-2021: Darnold suffered a concussion in late October, then fractured his scapula in November and missed the ensuing five games

-2022: Darnold spent the first two months of the season on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain

Darnold will certainly be hoping to reverse that trend as he looks to revitalize his career with the 49ers.

The 49ers have had their eye on him for a while

Maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that Darnold wound up being the 49ers' backup quarterback of choice. They've seemingly had interest in him for a while and reportedly looked into what it would take to acquire him before they made the trade that eventually landed them Trey Lance in 2021.

Shanahan spoke highly of Darnold in 2020 before a Week 2 road game between the 49ers and Jets that the 49ers won 31-13 (Darnold went 21-of-32 for 179 yards and a touchdown in that game, which was the infamous turf monster game that saw the 49ers lose defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Raheem Mostert to injuries).

"I've watched him a lot whether it was college or last week's game," Shanahan said, per "I'm a big fan of Sam's. He's a very good player. He's going to have a very good career in this league. He makes a lot of plays. If you're not on your stuff, if you let him get comfortable back there, he'll pick you apart as good as any quarterback. He can throw it very well and he sees the field extremely well. We have to make sure not to let him get comfortable because when he does, he'll show everyone why he's that good."

The 49ers now have their chance to work with Darnold, although it isn't exactly a scenario they could have envisioned back in 2021.

A heavy sports background led to an unlikely rise

Darnold has always been a terrific athlete dating back to his childhood in Capistrano Beach. Darnold played baseball, soccer, taekwondo, basketball, and football, with the latter two sports being his best. Darnold was a fine basketball player in high school, winning two conference player of the year awards while averaging 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds as a senior. He originally was a wide receiver and linebacker in football before an injury to his team's starting quarterback put him under center late in his sophomore season, which started him on a meteoric rise that eventually ended with a scholarship to play football at USC.

Darnold made an unforgettable superstar turn at the end of his redshirt freshman season for the Trojans when he threw for 453 yards and five touchdowns on 33-of-53 passes in a 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. That game sent Darnold's NFL stock into the stratosphere and began the chatter of him being the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold didn't quite wind up being selected that high but put in a strong enough sophomore season (4,143 yards, 26 touchdowns, 13 interceptions) to make him one of the first three players selected in 2018.

He has a subreddit devoted to him, and it's... unique

The web site Reddit once had a subreddit called The_Donald, which was a place where fans of Donald Trump congregated before Reddit shut it down in 2020. NFL fans on Reddit took it upon themselves six years ago to create a parody of that subreddit and dedicate it to Sam Darnold, giving it the name The_Darnold.

While The_Donald is no more, The_Darnold is still active and is still filled with tongue-in-cheek The_Donald-style posts that pile praise upon Sam Darnold. Fans there have given Darnold the nickname GEQBUS, which stands for God Emperor Quarterback of the United States. It's unclear if Darnold has ever seen the sub, but his decision to sign with the 49ers gave it some life on Monday.

So, if by chance you see Darnold referred to as GEQBUS in the months ahead, at least you now know what it means and where it originated. And feel free to sign up ad join the nearly 30,000 members of The_Darnold if you wish to add to their praise of their one and only God Emperor Quarterback.
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