Thu. May 30th, 2024

On Wednesday, news broke that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was in the concussion protocol following the team’s “Monday Night Football” loss at Minnesota. Purdy will probably be unavailable Sunday at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, opening the door for backup QB Sam Darnold to make his first start for San Francisco.

For the 26-year-old Darnold, Sunday may be his best — and possibly last — chance to prove himself worthy of a starting role. 

ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL QB, is bullish on the 2018 NFL Draft’s No. 3 overall pick of the New York Jets.

“I do not expect them to skip a beat,” he said of the 49ers, adding, “Darnold is the most talented QB physically [49ers head coach] Kyle Shanahan has had in his offense at least since Matt Ryan.”

Darnold, however, has underwhelmed as a pro. He got off to a hot start in his NFL debut, throwing two touchdown passes in a 48-17 “Monday Night Football” win at Detroit. Over the next three seasons, however, that performance proved to be an outlier. Darnold posted a 13-25 record for the Jets with 45 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions.

Following a dismal 2020 campaign, Darnold was traded to the Carolina Panthers for draft picks. Carolina was in need of a quarterback. Darnold, meanwhile, was in need of a scenery change. He led the Panthers to a 3-0 start and appeared to leave his Jets days behind him. After that, however, Carolina won just two games the rest of the season, one of which Darnold didn’t even start while on injured reserve with a shoulder fracture.

The next offseason, Carolina appeared to give up on Darnold by trading for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield solidified the starting job after Darnold suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason, but never nailed down the job. 

The Panthers lost eight of their first 11 games and Mayfield was gone before the end of the season. Darnold returned in Week 12 and won four of six starts, but this strong performance wasn’t enough to secure his future in Carolina. The Panthers acquired the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft from the Chicago Bears and used it on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

In March, Darnold signed with San Francisco and became the 49ers backup when Trey Lance was traded to Dallas.

Unquestionably, this 49ers team is better than any team Darnold has played for. Even with wide receiver Deebo Samuel injured, Darnold has weapons such as stars RB Christian McCaffrey, TE George Kittle and WR Brandon Aiyuk. 

Everything is set up for Darnold to succeed and play the best football of his career in Purdy’s absence. As Frank Sinatra might say, if Darnold can’t make it here, he can’t make it anywhere.

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