The 49ers' revolving quarterback door has left the team with two options entering 2023: Trey Lance and Brock Purdy.
Both are returning from injuries, and one (Purdy) has yet to undergo surgery to repair his medical issue, leaving room for uncertainty as San Francisco ventures into the offseason. The 49ers have plenty of time, though, to let the surgery and rehab process play out with Purdy's elbow while expecting Lance to return in time from his ankle injury for offseason activities.
"It sounds like we'll at least have one guy for it," coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday.
What's clear is one signal-caller, Jimmy Garoppolo, will not be back. When asked if there was a scenario in which Garoppolo, who's recovering from his own foot injury, would return for another year with San Francisco, Shanahan answered bluntly.
"No, I don't see any scenario of that," he said.
San Francisco no longer has an obligation to find a trade partner to move the veteran Garoppolo, meaning the 49ers can let the quarterback walk to free agency and find his next employer while thanking him for his contributions and keeping their focus on the future.
What that might look like remains to be determined. Shanahan expressed confidence in both Purdy and Lance, resisting the notion San Francisco might need to sign a starter-level veteran for 2023.
"I know we have two starters on our team right now that I believe we can win with," Shanahan said. "So when you have that situation, you're not that eager to go looking around."
Purdy's emergence as a quality quarterback was among the most surprising developments in the NFL in 2022. As the last pick of the 2022 draft, few, if any, expected Purdy to be little more than a third quarterback who occupied a roster spot, but rarely dressed for games.
Then the 49ers lost Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in 2021, for the season, forcing Purdy to suit up for afternoons spent on the sideline. When Garoppolo suffered his season-ending injury, Purdy was suddenly all the 49ers had left -- and they soon realized he could be their best option.
Purdy's rise -- and undefeated run to the NFC Championship Game, where it all fell apart under center for the 49ers -- saddled San Francisco with a conundrum, but a good one to have: Which of the two young signal-callers would be their guy in 2023?
Shanahan told reporters Wednesday he hasn't taken the time to consider answering this question. Instead, the 49ers are currently focused on finalizing their coaching staff for 2023, especially after defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans left to take over as head coach of the Houston Texans, and allowing both Lance and Purdy to continue on their roads back to the field.
As it pertains to Purdy, he is still seeking additional opinions on how to proceed with his torn UCL suffered in Sunday's NFC title game loss. It sounds as if surgery will end up being the best option, charting a six-month course about which both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are optimistic, primarily because Purdy shouldn't face the difficulties of returning to form that are more common with ACL injuries.
"That was the coolest thing for me to hear about. That once three months is over, they start the rehab of just building the arm back slowly, and by six months, it's built back," Shanahan said. "That's when I started to ask questions, 'so does that mean ease him in and stuff like that, like you would think of ACLs and things like that?' They said no, the build-ups been from three to six, and at six months, he is the same dude and full go. That was the most encouraging part that I heard.
"The good thing about Brock is (gradual wear-and-tear) wasn't an issue. It was a freak accident that I think everyone saw what happened. When you talk to the doctors, it takes three months to really get back to repairing it and building it up the right way, and in six months, he'll be the same guy."
When the time comes to determine the order of their depth chart, Shanahan seemed as if he'll be confident in his decision. The luxury of time is on his side.