Do 49ers bench Brock Purdy if Jimmy Garoppolo returns?

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

If an injured Jimmy Garoppolo returns for the playoffs, would the 49ers actually consider benching Brock Purdy if he continues to play well?

The San Francisco 49ers either could or could not have veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back at some point in the middle of the playoffs, a trip they earned after clinching the NFC West with a Week 15 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Garoppolo could feasibly return in time for the divisional round of the playoffs after having suffered a foot injury against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13.

However, according to a subsequent report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Garoppolo indeed won’t be healthy enough to assist with whatever postseason campaign San Francisco enjoys this January and February.

If the latter is true, the point is moot. However, if Garoppolo is healthy enough to return, it prompts a very serious question for head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Would the 49ers bench their newfound hero, rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, if Garoppolo is healthy enough to return this postseason?

Has Brock Purdy played well enough to secure 49ers’ starting job?

Some may argue the real discussion about Purdy’s future won’t hit until 2023 when he’ll likely enter an all-out competition for the starting job alongside the Niners’ top pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, quarterback Trey Lance.

Perhaps, but Shanahan and Co. aren’t there yet. They’re worried about the playoffs.

Purdy has already come out on the right side of a win against future Hall of Famer Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, emerging as the first quarterback to win a first-ever NFL start against the GOAT whereas the previous six signal-callers all lost. And despite dealing with rib and oblique injuries, Purdy played a vital role in San Francisco clinching the division on the road in Seattle in a short week.

Over his two starts, Purdy has gone 34-of-47 for 402 yards and four touchdowns against zero interceptions. For the most part, he’s limiting mistakes and making the kind of plays his predecessor, Garoppolo, likely wouldn’t have.

Such as rushing for a first down on a play-action bootleg:

Or a double-fake deep pass down the middle of the field:

Neither play is something Garoppolo would typically engineer. Regardless, Purdy has played well. The fact he has gone from Mr. Irrelevant, the final pick of the NFL Draft, to something of a national household name in a mere two starts is a testament to his level of play.

Would that be enough to bump Garoppolo from the starting job, though, should the veteran return?

Would 49ers go back to Jimmy Garoppolo over Brock Purdy?

Granted, a two-game stretch of starts is hardly the information necessary to accurately determine if Purdy would be equipped to handle a deep 49ers playoff run. But the Bucs defense is good, and Seattle’s Lumen Field has been a hostile environment for the Niners for well over a decade.

Purdy did fine under both circumstances. More than fine, honestly.

If Garoppolo is cleared to play in the playoffs, though, would he get his job back?

Typically, starters (or, in Garoppolo’s case, the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart behind Lance) don’t lose starting jobs because of injuries. But that’s not always automatic, as San Francisco fans might recall how a concussed quarterback, Alex Smith, lost his starting job to an up-and-coming Colin Kaepernick in 2012.

Related Story: Deep-dive scouting report on Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy

There are a couple of X-factors here in the Purdy-versus-Garoppolo case, though. And a big one is Shanahan.

If Shanahan handles whatever situation there is under center this postseason in a similar fashion as he had previously handled running back competition, then the hot hand will get the call.

Right now, the hot hand is Purdy. And that’ll likely point to Garoppolo serving as the rookie’s backup.

Should he return for the playoffs, of course.

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