49ers QB dilemma is still fascinating (even if we're sick of it)

The 49ers seem to love quarterback controversy, and the latest drama between Brock Purdy, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold could easily turn into a soap opera.
San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Trey Lance (L) and Sam Darnold (R)
San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Trey Lance (L) and Sam Darnold (R) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

It doesn't appear as if the 49ers' quarterback drama entering the 2023 season is going away anytime soon, and we're still here for it (even if we don't want to be).

In some ways, the San Francisco 49ers' situation at quarterback this offseason is a lot like a bad television drama that you still just can't turn away from despite the fact you want to.

When looking around the web about all things Niners, you might stumble across some obscure depth chart battle for training camp, a prediction about San Francisco's record for 2023 or where the team ranks in terms of contenders. But those are small stories.

Especially when contrasted against the 49ers' quarterbacking controversy between Brock Purdy, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold.

You're probably sick of hearing about it, too. But you'll still read the articles and listen to the takes.

Because, despite the fact it's the proverbial "beating of a dead horse," it's still quite fascinating.

49ers quarterback dilemma is drama by default

Few NFL topics trigger as much reaction as quarterback controversies, and the Niners certainly have had their share. That said, the 2023 controversy between Purdy, Lance and Darnold is something new, and it no longer involves now-Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

No, instead, you have two former third-overall NFL Draft picks in Lance (2021) and Darnold (2018) trying to take away the presumed starter's job from Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft who appears to be the favorite to start anyway.

But Purdy is hurt, still recovering from offseason surgery in the wake of tearing his UCL back in the NFC Championship game last January.

Hurt quarterbacks almost always invite quarterback controversy anyway simply by the nature of needing to backfill the most important position in the game.

San Francisco has been subjected to that discussion all offseason while Purdy's recovery continues.

Brock Purdy vs. Trey Lance is a classic underdog vs. favorite storyline

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book without conflict? Chances are if you did, it was pretty boring.

One of the reasons we can't escape the drama between Lance, Purdy and Darnold is that there's conflict. Each of those three has something to prove. For Lance, it's the desire to stave off being labeled a high-profile draft bust, one which will never justify what the 49ers invested to get him two years ago. For Darnold, it's to save an already ruined reputation after being selected No. 3 overall but flaming out with two different teams, previously.

For Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 draft, it's the desire to prove last year's success was no fluke.

And in some ways, that the whole entire draft evaluation process is flawed.

Darnold is a wild card, yes, but the true battle is between Purdy and Lance. It's a classic tale of favorite versus the underdog, at least in terms of NFL Draft pedigree. Lance, the No. 3 overall pick to whom the Niners were willing to hand the keys to the franchise, versus Purdy, pretty much an afterthought until he shocked the NFL world by going 5-0 to close out the 2022 regular season when called upon.

Patrick Holloway at Niners Nation put things rather eloquently:

"On the surface it’s just another QB battle the world has seen, but if you look at the cast of characters, it makes it all the more fascinating. The 49ers hand picked Trey Lance (no, not Mac Jones) to be the quarterback of the future and made a big swing. For what it’s worth, Lance was always going to be a project and raw his first couple seasons. Then Brock Purdy walked in and stole the show. If it was one or the other (last pick in the draft showing up the anointed future or a guy two firsts were traded for now competing for their job) it wouldn’t be as huge."

Holloway compares a similar situation the New England Patriots had some time ago between one quarterback whom everyone knows, Tom Brady, and another who only the more dedicated fans would, Drew Bledsoe.

While probably not as extreme, Purdy and Brady are both examples of why the NFL Draft process is such a random craps shoot despite what the experts and scouts may say otherwise.

And that only adds another fascinating layer to all of this.

Even if we're tired of hearing about it.

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