Brent Jones is one San Francisco 49ers legend who is completely on the side of Trey Lance, voicing his backing for the third overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft on KNBR’s Murph & Mac Show on Monday, June 5.
But is Jones a believer in the other former third overall pick the 49ers have?
The legendary tight end who helped bring three Vince Lombardi Trophies back to the Bay Area shared some strong skepticism for the 49ers’ $4.5 million signing of the March 2023 offseason.
“Sam Darnold, I don’t know,” Jones said to both hosts. “I thought early on in his career he could be something special. I know that he has all the skills in shorts, right? In seven-on-seven, Sam Darnold looks like a world-beater, but you got to be able to do it when you put on the pads and you’re going against live bullets, and he hasn’t proven that thus far in his career.”
Darnold to Spilt QB1 Duties for June
Darnold is on his third NFL team since his arrival to the league in 2018. He’s on board with a one-year deal and provides needed depth and insurance for a QB room that saw Lance (broken ankle) and Brock Purdy (elbow) endure ailments. Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) and Josh Johnson (concussion) also got hit with injuries on the 49ers.
Darnold, though, was named QB1…as part of shared duties with Lance for minicamp as noted by head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“We’ve been switching them up each day,” Shanahan said to reporters Tuesday, June 6. “It’s OTAs. Every position, like I said before, I don’t try to come in and know who’s ahead or not. All this is, is a chance to compete in training camp.”
This doesn’t officially make Darnold a threat to win QB1 duties right away. But the vision laid out by Shanahan is allowing Lance and the newcomer to split the first-team duties during the 49ers’ upcoming minicamp. Especially during a time Purdy is still on the road to recovery from his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear on his throwing elbow.
Still, Darnold gets a fresh start and his first offseason with the 49ers. Yet, Jones doesn’t sound too convinced.
Who Jones is ‘Rooting’ For
Darnold, again, is being perceived as more of a depth move and not a legitimate option for a 49ers team with high expectations for the upcoming season. Jones is one on the fence of believing Darnold is more for an extra presence needed on the 49ers.
“So [he’s] certainly a good guy to have on the squad. I don’t think that hurts us in any way but it’ll be interesting to see how it all evolves,” Jones said.
While Jones likes Lance and his attitude, who is he rooting for to eventually lead the Niners into 2023?
“Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m rooting for Brock Purdy to be 100 percent,” Jones said. “Let’s just see how these guys compete in training camp. It’s going to be a day-in-and-day-out scenario.”
Jones added how he thought Purdy was another who handled himself well considering his own circumstances of leading the Niners as the third QB option.
“I think Brock had it going last year, and I was really impressed with the young man,” Jones said. “And obviously it sounds like from everything I hear behind the scenes, he’s progressing very well.”