With the San Francisco 49ers officially back in Santa Clara, California for the first phase of the pre-preseason, reports have begun to trickle out about how the team’s new players look in red, gold, and white.
The star of the spring so far, at least in the opinion of NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maicco, is none other than Sam Darnold, the former Jets and Panthers quarterback who signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the 49ers back in March.
“He might be — can I say this — the most talented thrower of the football that the 49ers have ever had,” Maiocco said on “Murph & Mac” via KNBR. “Let’s just put him in the very high echelon of guys who can just drop back in the pocket and throw the football. I think that he hasn’t really had any chance to succeed since his college days are over. I think he’s had four head coaches in five years, five offensive coordinators in five years. He’s a talented guy.”
While Maiocco isn’t the first media member who has named Darnold a player to watch heading into 2023, as he’s become a bit of an external front-runner to start for the 49ers in Week 1, this is the first report coming out of camp on how he’s looked in San Francisco. If his impressive efforts continue, the 49ers may have a legitimate quarterback contest on their hands heading into the summer.
Matt Maiocco Believes Brock Purdy Is Still the 49ers’ QB Front-Runner
With Darnold looking like “the most talented thrower of the football” the 49ers have ever had, could San Francisco have a new favorite in the clubhouse to become the team’s new franchise quarterback? In the opinion of Maiocco, Brock Purdy is likely still the favorite in the clubhouse.
“He’s a really talented guy. And how this whole thing shakes out nobody knows, but he does things better than Brock Purdy. He does things better than Trey Lance. But also, Brock Purdy and Trey Lance do things better than him. Brock Purdy has already had more success than both of those two guys combined. Certainly talking to John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, it is Brock Purdy’s job to lose,” Maiocco said.
“All things being equal, Brock Purdy would be the starting quarterback Week 1 for the 49ers, however, all things aren’t equal. That opens up a huge set of circumstances and what ifs that we don’t know who is going to be the starting quarterback for the 49ers Week 1, and whoever, if it’s someone other than Brock Purdy, that person just runs with it and plays great football, then how eager are the 49ers to make a change?”
When the 49ers’ season came to an end, many of his teammates, including George Kittle, came out in support of Purdy, with Shanahan and Lynch echoing that sentiment to Maiocco and others so far this offseason. Still, if he’s unable to go in time for Week 1, and Darnold turns in a Purdy-esque run under center, the USC quarterback may take the job and run with it.
Sam Darnold Has a Fan in Frank Gore
In his interview with KNBR, Maiocco left 49ers fans with one final tidbit of information about Darnold, who, apparently, has a fan in 49ers and former Jets running back legend Frank Gore.
“Frank Gore popped his head in at the 49ers’ local pro day, and was like, ‘You will be shocked at what you see from Sam Darnold,'” Maiocco said. “Frank Gore is a Sam Darnold guy. They spent one year together with the Jets, and he just felt like he didn’t have any chance to succeed.”
After spending a decade in San Francisco, Gore bounced around the NFL, playing for Indianapolis, Miami, Buffalo, and the Jets, where he ultimately appeared in 15 games with 14 starts in 2020. Though that team didn’t win very many games, with a record of 2-14 to show for their efforts, Gore clearly saw something in Darnold that he liked, and that element of his game remains now that both are employed by San Francisco.