placeholder image

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Is new 49ers backup QB Josh Dobbs an upgrade over Sam Darnold?

Marc Adams
Mar 24, 2024 at 2:45 PM--

Videos are auto-populated by an affiliate. This site has no control over the videos that appear above.
In 2022, the San Francisco 49ers seemed to have an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback spot. They had second-year player, and first-year starter Trey Lance, who they had traded the world away to draft. They had Jimmy Garoppolo, the team's starting QB from late 2017-2021, as Lance's backup. And they had a seventh-round draft pick in Brock Purdy, though he would be unlikely to play. Or so we thought.

After Lance and Garoppolo went down, Purdy surprised everyone by keeping the ship afloat and leading the 49ers back to the NFC Championship Game. But after an injury to the UCL in his throwing arm, Purdy's 2023 season was in jeopardy. Which quarterbacks the 49ers would take to training camp was now even more important. They still had Lance, but they added Brandon Allen and former first-round draft pick, Sam Darnold, to be there in case Purdy wasn't able to recover.

Purdy recovered so well that the 49ers decided to trade Lance to the Dallas Cowboys before the regular season began. The team was set at QB, with Purdy, Darnold, and Allen. But the big question was, what happens if Purdy goes down again? Can Darnold, who had struggled in his previous seasons, lead the team back to the playoffs and beyond?

Fortunately for the 49ers, Purdy stayed healthy, leading his team back to the postseason and Super Bowl LVIII. If not for a fluke special teams play, and a couple of missed blocks, he may have been the first 49ers signal-caller to win a championship since Steve Young.

And though things worked out at the position in 2023, there was always the fear that Darnold would be forced to play. The much-maligned former New York Jets QB has thrown 56 interceptions in his six seasons, not to mention many lost fumbles. He's also been sacked 149 times.

49ers fans did not want to see Darnold play for any extended period. And can you blame them? With a history of turnovers like Darnold has, it makes it extraordinarily difficult to win games.

But Darnold has moved on, signing with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. The guy who finished the season as Minnesota's QB? Joshua Dobbs, who the 49ers recently signed to be Purdy's primary backup.

So with Darnold and Dobbs swapping teams, it only seems reasonable to ask if Dobbs is an upgrade over Darnold. Certainly, he's not, as far as raw talent goes. But is he an upgrade in the sense that you feel better about having to win a few games with him if Purdy were to go down?

Dobbs doesn't have the great arm talent that Darnold has. And he hasn't played as much as last season's backup. But Dobbs has some tools that may give him the edge over Darnold.

For starters, Dobbs is a better all-around athlete. He can use his legs in a way that Darnold can't, whether it's keeping a play alive or picking up a first down by running the ball. Dobbs has a career average of 5.5 yards per carry. To put that in perspective, Justin Fields averages 6.2 yards per carry in his career. Purdy has a career average of 2.6 yards per attempt. Darnold's career average is 3.6.

Dobbs is not simply a quarterback who takes off running, though. As he scrambles, he still looks to make plays in the passing game but is a threat to run when he has to. Darnold can do that, as well. But not like Dobbs can.

Last season, when Dobbs was with the Arizona Cardinals, he played against the 49ers. And he was pesky, passing for 265 and two touchdowns to go along with 48 yards rushing on 12 carries. His QB rating against the 49ers was 102.2, showing that he's more than just a running quarterback.

Although Dobbs' Cardinals were overmatched against the 49ers, the QB kept his team in the game, and late in the third quarter, pulled Arizona to within five points before Purdy and company finally put the game away. The 49ers won 35-16, but Dobbs kept the Cardinals in the game.

Another reason Dobbs may be an upgrade over Darnold is his mind. That's not to suggest Darnold isn't smart, but Dobbs is extremely bright. Last season, Dobbs started a game for the Cardinals, and then the following week, after being traded to Minnesota, passed for 158 yards and two touchdowns (101.8 QB rating) in his first game with the Vikings. He also rushed for 66 yards and one touchdown, on seven carries.

To change teams, and in only a few days, be able to learn a new offense and new teammates and still win a game on the road, is not something just anyone can do. It displays how bright Dobbs is. Darnold would have been lost in a situation like that and likely would have turned the ball over multiple times.

This is not to say Dobbs is without flaws. He has his share. Dobbs was benched later in the season when he threw four interceptions in a game against the Chicago Bears and wasn't much better a week later against the Las Vegas Raiders. Dobbs did not play the final four games of the season.

So Dobbs isn't going to be any threat to unseat Purdy, but he will be a good backup the 49ers can trust to come in and win a few games if he needs to. And that might make him an upgrade over Darnold.
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.
Nobody's perfect. Did you find a mistake in this article?
Report it.

Facebook Comments

Do not use the comments to notify us of errors in the article. Editors may not see it. Instead, report errors here.

More San Francisco 49ers News

placeholder image

49ers' culture led to Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings reunion

By David Bonilla
Apr 7

When Josh Dobbs signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent, he was already familiar with at least one new teammate. Dobbs played two seasons alongside Jauan Jennings, the Niners' dependable and physical wide receiver, at the University of Tennessee, and was thrilled to reunite with him in Santa Clara. San Francisco made Jennings a seventh-round draft pick in 2020. Four years later, they find themselves teammates once again. Jennings recently joined Dobbs on his podcast, "Torchbearers." The two reminisced about their time at Tennessee before briefly discussing their reunion with the Niners. When asked to share his thoughts on the team, Jennings offered a glowing assessment: "Everybody just comes to attack the job, to do their best, and

placeholder image

Latest mock draft suggests 49ers upgrade right tackle spot

By David Bonilla
Apr 8

NFL Media's Adam Rank has thrown his hat into the mock draft ring. However, there's a slight twist. Rather than projecting what NFL teams will do in Round 1, he's sharing what he believes they should do in Round 1. For the San Francisco 49ers at No. 31 overall, Rank suggests general manager John Lynch should focus on upgrading the offensive line. Specifically, he recommends finding a replacement for Colton McKivitz at right tackle. Rank proposes that the 49ers use their first-round pick on former Oklahoma tackle Tyler Guyton. "Last season, Colton McKivitz gave up nine sacks -- tied for fourth-most in the NFL, per PFF," Rank

placeholder image

5 things to know about new 49ers RB Patrick Taylor

By Kirk Larrabee
Apr 3

The San Francisco 49ers added some depth to their backfield on Wednesday with the addition of running back Patrick Taylor, who agreed to terms with the team on a one-year deal. Taylor, 25, comes to the 49ers after four years with the Green Bay Packers, who first signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2020. Let's take a look at what to know about Taylor as he begins his time with the 49ers. How he fits Taylor joins a deep backfield in San Francisco that includes Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, and Jordan Mason. The first thing that jumps out about Taylor is his size -- at 6-2, 217, Taylor is easily the biggest back on the 49ers roster at the moment. With McCaffrey and Mitchell set as the top two running backs on the roster,

placeholder image

New Mock Draft from The Athletic has 49ers Addressing the Lines of Scrimmage with Early Picks

By Kraz Greinetz
Apr 8

Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic has released his three-round mock draft, complete with trades, as well as commentary on the first-round picks. Like previous mock drafts from writers at The Athletic, Baumgardner's has the Niners taking an offensive lineman in the first round. Baumgardner thinks the Niners will select Arizona offensive tackle Jordan Morgan with the No. 31 overall pick. Morgan, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound Senior, breaks the trend of Athletic


Trending News

Share 49ersWebzone