Quarterback controversies are nothing new to the San Francisco 49ers. However, the latest comes with an interesting twist. For over a year, the debate between whether Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo should be the 49ers’ long-term starting quarterback burned through the minds of football fans. That debate has finally cooled, and not the way fans had hoped, as injuries have ended both players’ seasons. The unfortunate events have left an opening for the latest San Francisco quarterback debate. Should the star-studded roster be led by “Mr. Irrelevant” or a veteran on his fourth stint in San Francisco? Let’s make the case for each.
The case for Brock Purdy:
The 49ers undoubtedly did not imagine that pick number 262 of the 2022 NFL Draft would go on to be their starter by the end of the season. Nevertheless, they lie in that circumstance. However, maybe the situation isn’t as gruesome as one would imagine. In fact, the rookie posted impressive numbers when filling in for Garoppolo against the playoff-bound Miami Dolphins. Purdy completed 25-of-37 passes for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his first extended stint on the job. For somebody who had tallied less than 10 passing attempts in his NFL career prior to the game, the stat line shines a bit brighter than usual.
It begs an intriguing question, if this is the beginning, what is the end? That’s a question the 49ers should be ambitious of investigating. While a veteran could come with a higher floor, wouldn’t it be wise to roll the dice on some potential? After all, Garoppolo is evidence that the 49ers don’t need a hero under center. Purdy’s performance against the Dolphins may be best described as Garoppolo-esque. He was able to distribute the football to the offense’s plethora of playmakers while not committing too many costly turnovers. Last but not least, if Purdy plays well over the rest of the season, what is his trade value in the offseason? Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but it’s a concept that deserves a conversation.
The case for Josh Johnson:
Is Josh Johnson new to this roster? Yes. Is Johnson ready for this job? 13 years of NFL experience should answer that question. Johnson is no stranger to change as the veteran has played for 14 different teams, the most of any player in league history during his career. Not to mention, he’s especially no stranger to the Bay Area. This will mark the Oakland native’s fourth total stint with the 49ers. San Francisco has shown multiple times that they are best with stability and consistency at the quarterback position. Although plenty of success has been achieved with Garoppolo at quarterback, it would be foolish to point to him as the main reason for that success. San Francisco doesn’t need a star, they need a football version of a point guard. In other words, a consistent distributor of the football who refuses to turn the football over in key spots.
While Purdy may offer more upside than a veteran like Johnson, it is not worth sacrificing a Super Bowl caliber roster to discover if that’s an accurate claim. With the large amount of money and draft capital invested into this season, would it be wise to invest it in a seasoned veteran or an unknown commodity? Simply put, Johnson fits the role the 49ers need to fill. After all, it took only a few hours, not days, before signing him away from the Denver Broncos practice squad.