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Brock Purdy must be ready as 49ers backup QB
Aug 25, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (14) warms up prior to the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. (Photo: Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

Brock Purdy must be ready as 49ers backup QB

SAN FRANCISCO (BVM) – Brock Purdy is the San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback, and just one play away from having all of the expectations in the world heaped onto his shoulders. 

Of course, the season didn’t begin that way. Purdy’s role changed in Week 2 when second-year quarterback Trey Lance suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the 49ers’ 27-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks. With Lance done for the year, Jimmy Garoppolo has stepped back into the starting role and earned millions of dollars of incentives as a result. 

For Purdy, it means he’s the new backup QB in San Francisco after beating out veteran backup Nate Sudfeld for the QB3 role in training camp to make the 53-man roster. The 49ers selected Purdy with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft – Mr. Irrelevant – but the former Iowa State star has impressed in limited action since arriving in Santa Clara. 

Despite not having attempted a regular-season pass yet, Purdy was 30-of-49 (61%) for 346 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in three preseason appearances. While most 49ers fans hope Purdy won’t have to contribute much this season, the fact of the matter is that Garoppolo is likely to miss time now that he’s back in the starting lineup. 

Garoppolo’s lengthy injury history is worrisome and something that dates back to his time in New England. With Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the 2016 NFL season for Deflategate, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick named Garoppolo the starter and he played well in a Week 1 win (24-of-33 for 264 yards and a touchdown) before suffering an A/C joint sprain in his shoulder that sidelined him until Brady returned from suspension in Week 5.   

Then in 2018 with the 49ers, Garoppolo tore his left ACL in Week 3 which sidelined him for the rest of the season. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan was forced to start two relatively ineffective backups – C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens – as the 49ers finished 4-12. 

After helping lead San Francisco to Super Bowl LIV in 2019, injuries resurfaced for Garoppolo. 

He missed two games with a high right ankle sprain and then in Week 8, he suffered another ankle sprain that caused him to miss the rest of the 2020 season. Last season, Garoppolo missed one game with a calf strain before suffering a fracture in his right thumb during a Week 16 loss at Tennessee. He played the 49ers’ final four games (including the playoffs) of the season with a torn thumb ligament before suffering a shoulder sprain in the Wild-Card win over the Dallas Cowboys. 

San Francisco planned to trade Garoppolo this offseason with Lance slated to take over but was unable to find a trade partner after he underwent shoulder surgery in March as a result of that sprain. That development turned out to be a fortunate one for the 49ers, but now Purdy is just one snap away from being thrust into the starting role. 

Purdy actually became the starter at Iowa State in a scenario that could play itself out in Santa Clara. Entering his freshman year in 2018 as the third-string QB to Kyle Kempt and Zeb Noland, Purdy became the starter after Kempt was injured and Noland was ineffective. He went on to throw for 12,170 yards and 81 touchdowns over his four-year college career, including a pair of first-team All-Big 12 nods (2020-21). 

With Lance out of the picture this season, Garoppolo’s performance will be under a microscope. After throwing a touchdown pass on his first full drive following Lance’s injury, Garoppolo led the 49ers to a divisional win over the Seahawks in Week 2 by going 13-for-21 for 154 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). 

But in Week 3, Garoppolo and the 49ers offense struggled in a Sunday Night Football loss to the Denver Broncos. Garoppolo went 18-of-29 for 211 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one fumble with a QBR of 14.2. The loss dropped San Francisco to 1-2 on the season and could cause some 49ers fans to become disgruntled with their 30-year-old quarterback. 

Whether it’s the inevitable injury to Garoppolo or simply poor play from the two-time Super Bowl champion, Purdy must be ready to lead an ultra-talented 49ers squad this season.