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Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

Albert Breer: Win-now roster creates QB dilemma for 49ers

Mar 31, 2023 at 6:11 PM--

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Once again, the San Francisco 49ers find themselves entrenched in offseason quarterback drama. Brock Purdy, the rookie signal-caller who took the NFL by storm this past season, is recovering from surgery on the torn ligament in his elbow. Unfortunately, that means likely missing time until September, putting his Week 1 availability into question.

The 49ers' former No. 3 overall pick, Trey Lance, is returning from a season-ending ankle injury. He still has only four starts after two seasons under his belt, making it impossible to gauge his potential just yet.

San Francisco signed Sam Darnold, who has started 55 career games but only won 38 percent of those matchups.

Even after watching several players walk away in free agency, the 49ers remain one of the most talent-rich teams in the league. However, with head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch entering year seven with the organization, it's tough to believe that the quarterback situation remains unresolved.

Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer joined Rich Eisen this week to discuss the 49ers' uncertain quarterback situation and what it all means for Lance and his future with the team.

"Trey Lance needs reps, OK? Trey Lance needs to play," Breer told Eisen. "If you look at the number of throws he's had since, I guess really, since 2019—2019 was his last full season played. That number is so small."

Lance has played only 262 snaps and attempted 102 passes since entering the NFL. He played just one game in 2020, his final season at North Dakota State, attempting 30 passes.

"Here's the problem the Niners are facing," Breer continued. "Last year was the year that they were going to sort of sacrifice his development."

Lance entered last season as the 49ers' starter, despite many believing that Jimmy Garoppolo, even as a late-offseason returnee, was the better player. The hope was that Lance would take his bumps early in the season but gain much-needed experience and be much-improved by the time the Niners reached the playoffs.

A year later, having reached the NFC Championship Game in each of the past two seasons, the 49ers might have a greater sense of urgency to take advantage of their championship window.

"Now, I think this is the point where that team is such a win-now operation," Breer explained. "Like, you look at the way they're set up, and now they have this other young option and Brock Purdy. They can't afford to throw another season overboard in the name of a young quarterback's development, especially when they've got another good option on the roster.

"And so I think what they want to see from Trey Lance is, It's up to you. You can make this difficult on us. It's up to you. And we're not handing you anything this time around. And it sucks because that's not your fault. You got hurt.

"I think they still love him as a person. I think they still believe he could get there if they gave him a full year to develop with reps and everything else. But I just think they're past the point where they're willing to make the sacrifice of saying, OK, we're going to let all this happen in the name of his development because they do have another option now, because they do have such a win-now roster."

Breer acknowledges that Purdy's injury opens the door for Lance. Of course, it also opens the door for Darnold, who could just as easily make a solid push to be the 49ers' Week 1 starter.

"Both those guys are going to come in," Breer said. "I think the Niners are hoping that they have a very, very healthy competition between the two for reps in the spring and summer while Brock Purdy is getting healthy. And really, it's up to those two to make John Lynch or Kyle Shanahan change their mind.

"But as of right now, I can tell you there's strong belief that Brock Purdy can be a really good starting quarterback in the NFL, and it really is on both Lance and Darnold to move the Niners brass off that spot."

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