Who Will Be the San Francisco 49ers Starting Quarterback in 2023?


Feb 23, 2023

The wheels churn in the NFL’s offseason. Players get bought out, free agents sign with their preferred destination, and prospects get acclimated to the rigors of the pro game. It’s a double-edged sword for most franchises, as roster adjustments inevitably come at the expense of team chemistry. Teams crave stability but also understand the importance of creating the most competitive roster possible.

That’s the fine line the San Francisco 49ers have straddled over the past few seasons. The NFC runner-ups have made the playoffs in three of the past four years, making a run to the NFC Championship in each of the last two seasons while losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. 

The paradox is more profound than that, though. Most teams must suffer through many lean years to draft a cornerstone quarterback, develop them, and reap the rewards of their patience. However, the Niners have succeeded with a stable of young signal callers who have delivered when called upon. 

With wins more important than ever, and the 49ers’ enviable quarterback situation, it begs the question, who will be the Niners’ starting quarterback in 2023?

Jimmy Garoppolo

One name that could be quickly scratched off the list is Jimmy Garoppolo.

Jimmy G arrived in San Francisco amid much fanfare in 2017. He enjoyed several successful campaigns with the team but has been the subject of trade rumors since the 49ers moved up to draft another top-tier pivot in 2021. A trade never materialized, and Garoppolo’s contract expired at the end of the 2022 season, meaning he’s all but assured of finding a new home. He bids adieu to the Bay Area after six triumphant seasons as he pursues a starting gig with another franchise. 

Brock Purdy

When it’s all said and done, Rudy might not hold a candle to the Brock Purdy story. Mr. Irrelevant started the 2022 season third on the 49ers’ depth chart; unlikely that he would see any playing time behind the top two quarterbacks. 

Eleven games and two injuries later, Purdy was thrust into the spotlight. He led San Fran onto the field as their starting quarterback in Week 13. Quickly, the rookie earned a reputation as a difference maker, completing 67.1% of his passes in the regular season and leading the Niners within one win of the Super Bowl.

Purdy suffered a similar fate to his two predecessors as an elbow injury forced him off the field in the NFC Championship. Surgery is indicated but has not yet been completed. That could prevent him from participating in OTAs and earning valuable reps with the starters, putting him at a disadvantage in the quarterback competition. The goal is now for Purdy to be ready for the start of the 2023 season, albeit at a modest disadvantage.

It says something about the depth of a franchise when a third-string quarterback can lead a team to the NFC Championship. Kyle Shanahan hasn’t been shy about rotating signal-callers in for different schemes, and that could be Purdy’s saving grace next season. However, it’s unlikely he will usurp Trey Lance for the starter’s role. 

Trey Lance

Like a gambler splitting zeros, San Francisco made a calculated risk when they traded away multiple first-round picks for the third-overall selection in the 2021 draft. Lance spent the first season watching from the sidelines, making a couple of spot starts in place of the injured Garoppolo. 

Seasoned with two starts, six appearances, and 71 pass attempts, Lance was ready to take the reins of the franchise. Somehow, his sophomore campaign was even more disappointing than his rookie season. Through two starts, the North Dakota State product completed just 48.4% of his passes before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Two surgeries later, Lance is back on the mend and expected to be ready for OTAs. Although he’s still got a lot to prove, Lance has the raw talent and has had moments of brilliance, which support that he’s capable of being an elite starter in the NFL. 

The Niners mortgaged the future to build around Lance, and they won’t abandon that plan a few snaps into his tenure.

Still, with Purdy waiting in the wings and injuries frequent among Niners’ pivots, Shanahan will be glad he embraced stability in the most important position on the field. 

Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Picked For You