The 49ers had a plan to absorb an injury to their starting quarterback. Neither they nor many other NFL teams have a fallback plan ready for dealing with injuries to two quarterbacks. After losing Trey Lance to a season-ending broken right ankle in Week 2, Kyle Shanahan's team has been dealt a second brutal blow. Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to miss the rest of the season after fracturing his left foot in Sunday's 33-17 win over the Dolphins.
The injury puts a damper on what is now a five-game winning streak for the 49ers and brings an end to what might have been the best stretch of Garoppolo's career. Over his past five starts, he completed nearly 72% of his passes, averaged 8.0 yards per attempt and threw eight touchdown passes without a pick, with the 70.8 QBR he posted good for eighth-best in football. As a free agent after the season, Sunday might have been Garoppolo's last game in a San Francisco uniform.
Let's look into the repercussions and impact of the Garoppolo injury, both on the 49ers and the rest of the league, through 2022 and into next season. San Francisco went all-in at the trade deadline last month, dealing significant draft capital for running back Christian McCaffrey, which makes their short-term future more complicated. We'll start there:
Jump to a question:
Can the 49ers win a Super Bowl with Brock Purdy?
Are there QBs available to sign elsewhere?
What does this mean for their QB job in 2023?
How should we look back at the Garoppolo era?
Which NFC teams could now take advantage?
Can the 49ers win games with Brock Purdy at quarterback?
As we saw Sunday, yes. After Garoppolo suffered his injury on the opening drive, Purdy came into the game. The rookie seventh-round pick, whose nine NFL passing attempts before Sunday came in a Oct. 23 loss to the Chiefs, played about as well as the 49ers could have hoped. He went 25-of-37 for 210 yards, throwing two touchdown passes against one pick. He took three sacks, but the 49ers scored 20 points on 10 drives with Purdy in the game before kneel-downs.
The offense was conservative, which was unsurprising given Purdy's inexperience and sudden move into the lineup. Purdy averaged just 5.3 air yards per pass attempt, the fewest of any other quarterback in the league. He threw just one attempt 20-plus yards downfield, an incompletion near the end zone to Deebo Samuel. His 40 dropbacks generated 0.1 passing EPA; he was essentially anonymous when it came to generating points for the offense. San Francisco won comfortably anyway.
The track record of seventh-round picks playing during their rookie season is pretty scary, frankly. Pro-ready passers don't fall to the seventh round, which means the quarterbacks who do come off the board during the final round of the draft are usually long-term projects with slim chances of succeeding.