San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch held their season-ending press conference on Wednesday from their headquarters in Santa Clara, California.
The meet-and-greet with media came mere days after San Francisco’s otherwise successful 2022 season came to a bitter end in Philadelphia. Riding a 12-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, the 49ers were blasted by a superior Eagles team, 31-7.
Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy suffered an elbow injury in the 49ers’ first possession of the game. While he would return later in the matchup, the seventh-round pick from Iowa State was severely limited. It led to a run-first offense and short passes as the 49ers’ season came to an ugly end.
There’s now multiple questions surrounding the 49ers’ quarterback position after they lost in the NFC Championship Game for a second consecutive season. Purdy’s elbow injury and return timeline was a major point of focus, as was the status of impending free agent Jimmy Garoppolo. Fellow quarterback Trey Lance — sidelined since Week 2 with an ankle injury — was also a topic of discussion as Shanahan and Lynch spoke to the media.
San Francisco 49ers Rule Out Jimmy Garoppolo Return In 2023
When asked about the possibility of Garoppolo returning for another season, Shanahan was about as clear as he could be. “No, I don’t see any scenario of that (happening),” the head coach said.
It was roughly this time last year that most figured Garoppolo had played his final game in a 49ers uniform. Garoppolo had suffered a shoulder injury in San Francisco’s NFC Wild Card win over the Dallas Cowboys. He would play the next two weeks, nearly leading San Francisco to the NFC Championship over the Los Angeles Rams.
San Francisco’s brass made the decision to move on from Garoppolo and name 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance its starting quarterback shortly thereafter. The 49ers had invested a ton in trading up for Lance during the 2021 NFL Draft, and were ready to move on to him.
This situation changed dramatically after Garoppolo underwent surgery. San Francisco couldn’t find an off-season trade partner for the veteran quarterback. Running thin on options, he opted to sign a restructured deal with San Francisco to be Lance’s backup.
Once Lance went down with the ankle injury in Week 2, Garoppolo took over and led San Francisco to a 7-3 record in 10 starts. Garoppolo himself went down to another injury himself in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, suffering a foot fracture.
Unlike last offseason, San Francisco’s public stance regarding Garoppolo now seems to be that the relationship is over. He’s an impending free agent. The 49ers have no recourse to place the franchise tag on the Super Bowl quarterback due to language included in the aforementioned restructured contract. He’s as good as gone.
Focus On Brock Purdy’s Health
After Purdy went down to injury early in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, reports surfaced that he was dealing with an UCL injury to his throwing elbow. After San Francisco’s loss, the belief was that he had suffered a torn UCL in his right elbow.
Typically, an injury of this ilk would cost a player six months. That’s dependent on the player not having to undergo full reconstruction of the UCL (Tommy John Surgery). Said procedure could sideline a player one full year.
Based on what the 49ers told media on Wednesday, it seems like Purdy’s timeline for return of the shorter variety.
“It seems to be consistent that the right approach is that one takes about that six months. They’re continuing to work through that process, but they seem encouraged by the prognosis,” San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch on Brock Purdy.
Coined Mr. Irrelevant as the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Purdy put up an historic run once he took over for Garoppolo during that Dolphins game. He led San Francisco to seven consecutive wins, accounting for 17 total touchdowns compared to four interceptions, before exiting early in he NFC Championship Game.
The timeline for a return to the field now seems to be some time at the start of training camp, meaning that Lance will likely take starter reps during the 49ers’ offseason program.
Trey Lance And Relying On Two Young Quarterbacks
Outside of the fact that both Purdy and Lance are coming off serious injuries, there’s something to be said about a Super Bowl contender relying on inexperienced players to lead the quarterback room.
Dating back to his days at North Dakota State, Lance has thrown all of 117 passes since the end of the 2019 season. He filled in for Garoppolo a couple games as a rookie in 2021 and started two games to open his sophomore campaign. At least from the perspective of San Francisco’s brass, availability is key for Lance.
“Trey had his issues, and Trey’s had a rough go here the last couple of years,” Lynch told reporters. “He’s obviously going to have to prove that he can stay healthy.”
This certainly complicates things from the 49ers’ perspective. If they are concerned about Lance’s ability to stay healthy, there’s going to be a need for a veteran presence. Shanahan was not buying into this narrative, saying “I know we have two starters on our team right now that I believe we can win with.” The head coach went on to note that “you’re not that eager to go look around.”
Things were thrown for a loop on Wednesday with seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady announcing his retirement after 23 seasons. He was set to hit free agency in March and had been linked to the 49ers.
Short of San Francisco attempting to pull off a blockbuster trade for someone like Aaron Rodgers, it stands to reason that adding a veteran backup is the only likely scenario here.
Things can change. Purdy could opt for another route in his recovery, forcing him out for a longer period of time. Lance could prove during the off-season program that he’s not starter-caliber.
For now, the San Francisco 49ers’ brass said all the right things publicly in their season-ending press conference. Whether we should take it with a grain of salt remains to be seen.
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