The Green Bay Packers arguably have one too many legitimate quarterbacks on the roster. After Sunday, one of their primary NFC rivals has at least one too few.
Back in mid-June, the Packers made a roster move that was considered surprising by many, releasing third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert in favor of Danny Etling. Benkert caught on with the San Francisco 49ers in October and remained a member of the team’s practice squad for more than a month before the franchise released him in November.
On Sunday, December 4, the 49ers lost QB Jimmy Garoppolo for the remainder of the season to a broken foot, leaving rookie seventh-round pick and the 2022 NFL Draft’s “Mr. Irrelevant” Brock Purdy with full-time quarterback duties.
“With Jimmy Garoppolo breaking his foot today, the 49ers starting QB will now be Brock Purdy, their rookie 7th-round pick from Iowa State,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted.
While Purdy performed admirably in a win over the visiting Miami Dolphins on Sunday in Garoppolo’s stead, there is little question that the Niners will be in the QB market immediately come Monday morning. While several options will be at their disposal, Benkert is among those who make the most sense.
ESPN analyst and former NFL signal caller Robert Griffin III said as much in response to Schefter’s news that Garoppolo would be lost for the season following his injury.
“Well @KurtBenkert they need you!” Griffin wrote via Twitter.
Benkert caught Griffin’s tweet and responded by simply posting the 🤞 emoji.
Kurt Benkert Beloved by Packers Fans For Upbeat Attitude During Short Stint
Benkert graduated from the University of Virginia following the 2017 season, and served as a member of the Atlanta Falcons practice squad for three years before linking up with the Packers in May of 2021.
The third-string quarterback was almost exclusively relegated to the practice squad in Green Bay, though he was activated to the 53-man roster in December of last year when second-string signal caller Jordan Love was sidelined due to a bout with COVID-19.
Benkert won the love of the Packers faithful with his heartwarming response to the news via Twitter.
“Been in the league 1,319 days and Sunday will be my first time suiting up for a game,” Benkert tweeted on December 8. “Moral of the story: keep going.”
Benkert had been an outspoken supporter of Rodgers, who took flak in 2021 for what some characterized as his misleading of the public as to his COVID vaccination status. In turn, Rodgers took up Benkert’s case to play against the Chicago Bears last December, pulling for the backup to get into the game once the outcome had been decided.
The Packers granted Benkert that opportunity, as the career practice squad player took two snaps for Green Bay, kneeling both times to accumulate a total of -1 yards on two official rushing attempts, per Pro Football Reference — his only regular season statistics as an NFL quarterback to date.
Packers’ Playoff Hopes Improved Sunday, While 49ers’ Super Bowl Chances Took Hit
While Green Bay’s playoff chances caught a boost with a win over the Bears on Sunday, the Niners’ Super Bowl aspirations took a huge hit, despite achieving the same result over the Dolphins.
The Packers now head into their bye week, an opportunity for Rodgers to rest the broken thumb on his throwing hand and a banged up rib cage he suffered last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay will return to action on December 19 to face off against the Los Angeles Rams, who will be without quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, both of whom are expected to remain on IR for the rest of the season.
Rodgers and the Packers still have an uphill battle to earn a Wildcard playoff berth, but should be heavily favored to move to 6-8 before a Christmas Day game against the aforementioned Dolphins in South Florida that will likely determine the fate of the Packers’ season — at least if they happen to lose.
The 49ers, on the other hand, face a real conundrum. Purdy played well enough Sunday, but it strains credulity to believe he can be the man to lead San Francisco on a deep playoff run one year removed from an up-and-down collegiate season in Ames, Iowa.
It’s also relatively unbelievable that Benkert can be that guy for a powerful Niners roster that has obliterated teams over the last month-plus on its way to five consecutive wins. However, Benkert is a reasonable stopgap as a backup, or even potentially as a replacement for Purdy considering Benkert’s five years of professional football experience and his familiarity with the 49ers offense, having played as a member of the franchise’s practice squad until just a few weeks ago.