49ers’ Backup Sam Darnold ‘More Talented’ Than Brock Purdy: Analyst

Sam Darnold (left) and Brock Purdy of the 49ers

Getty Sam Darnold (left) and Brock Purdy of the 49ers

With its starter in concussion protocol and uncertain for Week 8 against Cincinnati, it could be that San Francisco is looking at its fourth quarterback in the last 24 games. But when it comes to 49ers backup Sam Darnold replacing Brock Purdy, coach Kyle Shanahan has plenty of confidence.

In fact, former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky says that the 49ers’ Darnold—at least physically—is a better player than Brock Purdy and the only reason that Purdy has remained the starter is that he’s played well enough to keep the job.

“Physically, (Sam Darnold) is more talented,” Orlovsky said on ESPN this week. “He’s the backup because of the way that Brock Purdy played last year, he deserved to be the starting quarterback this year and he hasn’t done anything to have that role taken away.”

On the season, Purdy has completed 131 passes in 193 attempts, for 1,668 yards. He has 11 touchdowns and three interceptions, for a 107.2 rating, second-best in the NFL.

Sam Darnold, Brock Purdy Had Different 49ers Paths

Sam Darnold was the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL draft, a much different story than Brock Purdy, who was the last player picked in 2022. Still, Darnold has had a long journey before getting to the 49ers. He played three seasons for bad Jets teams, and was traded to Carolina for three draft picks in 2021. He was the Panthers quarterback for two seasons.

In all, Darnold has a 21-34 record in five seasons, and a career quarterback rating of 78.2 He has thrown 61 touchdowns and 55 interceptions in the NFL. Last month, on the eve of the opening of the season, CBS Sports rated the top backup quarterbacks in the league, and Darnold was No. 3.

Orlovsky noted that the 49ers will be “fine” with Darnold.

“I think they will be just fine with Sam Darnold,” he said. “I have constantly believed that if Sam Darnold was placed on a team that is similar to San Francisco, he would play worthy of that top draft pick. This young man has been weathered, he has been through it all, he is the most talented quarterback, physically, that Kyle Shanahan has had in that offense, at least since Matt Ryan.

“So that’s six or seven years. Out of all due respect for Brock Purdy, he’s a really good player, this offense will be just fine with Sam Darnold.”

Kyle Shanahan Has ‘As Much Confidence as I Could’ in Sam Darnold

Indeed, Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers offense is packed with the kind of weapons Sam Darnold has never had during his NFL career. And because Darnold has, even as he has struggled to land a starting job, continued to show good arm strength and pocket mobility, there’s every reason to think he would thrive in this system.

Shanahan expressed as much when meeting with reporters this week.

“I have as much confidence in Sam as I could have with someone that I haven’t gone into a real NFL game with,” Shanahan said. “He was great in the offseason. He’s been great here in these seven weeks so far and he’s always ready to go. He’s great in the meetings and stuff. He doesn’t get many reps, as no backups do, but he does it well on the scout team, he’s always good in the meetings.

Shanahan added that Darnold would get some work with the first unit.

“We got mainly walk-through today, so Brock’s allowed to do some of the walk-through. We’ve got a couple periods that aren’t, so Sam will get those periods,” he said.

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