One of the more under-the-radar signings of the NFL offseason has been the San Francisco 49ers bringing in the well-traveled and once-heralded Sam Darnold.
It was a very smart move by General Manager John Lynch.. After all, the 49ers have arguably the most-talented roster in the entire league. The one question, and it’s an important one, is quarterback.
Gone is Jimmy Garoppolo which leaves Brock “Mr. Irrelevant” Purdy as the starter.. Purdy was one of the biggest stories of last season as he was thrown into the fire due to injuries and quickly showed that he more than belongs as he thrived in Head Coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.
Unfortunately, Purdy was injured in the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles and needed to undergo elbow surgery.. There’s uncertainty over when exactly he’ll be back at full strength.
Of course, former third-overall pick Trey Lance is still in the mix, but the addition of Darnold is an interesting one.. Also a former third-overall pick himself, Darnold is still only 25-years-old which is pretty remarkable to think about.
Already labeled a bust, most people have long-forgotten that Darnold once upon a time was projected as a future franchise quarterback.. More motivated than ever, Darnold finds himself in a unique situation and will have the opportunity to at the very least be the number one backup.
It’s not the craziest thought in the world that he could possibly impress Shanahan enough that he wins the starting job altogether.. Although Purdy’s hold on that is reportedly safe for now.
Pure arm talent has never been an issue for the former USC star.. Count NBC Sports San Francisco reporter Matt Maiocco as someone who has been very impressed watching Darnold sling it during offseason workouts…
“Sam Darnold might be the most talented thrower of the football that the 49ers have ever had,” Maiocco told KNBR’s Murph & Mac podcast. “Let’s just put him in the very high echelon of guys who can just drop back in the pocket and throw the football.”
“I think that he hasn’t really had any chance to succeed since his college days are over. I think he’s had four head coaches in five years, five offensive coordinators in five years. He’s a talented guy.”
You can certainly make the argument that Darnold hasn’t been given a fair shake in the league and all the dysfunction and turnover he’s had to deal with has stunted him.
But to say he’s possibly the “most talented thrower of the football” in 49ers history might be taking it juuuuust a bit too far.. After all, we’re talking about a historic franchise that featured legendary Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young.
In fairness to Maiocco, he knew exactly how his statement sounded and went on to explain that all three quarterbacks in question have their own strengths – and for Darnold its his pure throwing of the football.
Having said that, it’s still a stunning statement to make.. But he sure got attention for it which is maybe why he made it.
Darnold flashed at times with the Jets, albeit rarely.. In his five-year career with New York and Carolina he’s thrown for a total of 11,767 yards, 61 touchdowns and 55 interceptions with a 59.7% completion percentage.. As a starter, his career record is 21-34.
Despite the relatively mediocre numbers, Maiocco explained that he’s not the only member of the Sam Darnold Fan Club…
“Frank Gore popped his head in at the 49ers local pro day, and was like ‘You will be shocked at what you see from Sam Darnold,’” he said. “Frank Gore is a Sam Darnold guy. They spent one year together with the Jets, and he just felt like he didn’t have any chance to succeed.”
Apparently, Maiocco and Gore aren’t alone according to ESPN Insider Jeremy Fowler…
I’ve talked to multiple teams who believe that Darnold signing is sneaky significant. That this is a guy who could start for them Week 1, play meaningful snaps.. They believe he’s a great fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. So if Trey Lance is going to play, he’s going to have to earn it against Darnold.”
Regardless of who the starting quarterback is, the 49ers are so loaded and the NFC is so wide-open that you’d have to consider them Super Bowl contenders no matter what.
But who knows?.. Maybe Darnold will finally get his shot in a stable, functional organization after all.