PHOENIX — One former 49ers head coach believes the decision already has been made for Kyle Shanahan.
Brock Purdy played well enough in eight consecutive victories, including two in the playoffs, that Steve Mariucci did not hesitate when NBC Sports Bay Area’s Jennifer Lee Chan asked if the starting job was the rookie quarterback’s to lose.
“I do,” Mariucci answered on the red carpet before NFL Honors on Thursday night.
A year ago, the 49ers anointed Trey Lance as the starter in the offseason after trading up to select him at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
This year, there are a few more complexities involved, not the least of which is the elbow surgery Purdy is scheduled to undergo on Feb. 22.
The 49ers are optimistic Purdy will be cleared for full participation in training camp and ready for the start of the 2023 regular season.
“The decision has to be made so there’s no controversy, right?” said Mariucci, the former 49ers coach and current analyst on the NFL Network.
“So in my opinion, he [Purdy] did enough to show that he can be the team leader and playmaker as their starting quarterback. And Trey Lance just has to be patient, I guess.”
Lance entered the season as the 49ers’ starter ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo and Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
However, Lance sustained a fractured right fibula and ankle ligament damage in Week 2. The injury ended his season after taking just 84 snaps in his second year in the NFL.
Purdy was called upon in the first quarter of the 49ers’ Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins when Garoppolo sustained a season-ending fractured foot. Purdy played so well to conclude the season that he was named as one of three finalists for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
He sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow in the first quarter of the 49ers’ NFC Championship Game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He is scheduled for a ligament repair, which involves an expected six-month recovery.
“He played well early, and I’m going, ‘OK, that’s awesome; that’s nice,’” Mariucci said of Purdy. “But then he kept doing it. Every game was the same kind of great performance. And I went, ‘Whoa, this guy has it — the it factor.”
Purdy’s “moxie” impressed Nick Bosa, who also told Chan that Purdy has done enough to earn the staring role — “It's hard to say otherwise,” he said. Also, tight end George Kittle had similar praise for Purdy while talking on Von Miller's "The Von Cast.”
"Our offense was operating at the highest it's probably been since 2019,” Kittle said. “So, in my opinion, it's Brock's job to lose."
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Mariucci said the 49ers — and their fans — are fortunate to have the promising young quarterbacks.
Said Mariucci, “It’s great for 49ers Faithful to have him, I’m assuming, as the starter and Trey Lance competing and there as a backup with great promise.”