Although the San Francisco 49ers have a 94.5% chance of making the playoffs, per Football Outsiders, they face a difficult path to their first Super Bowl title since the 1994 season.
With Jimmy Garoppolo out for at least the regular season with a foot injury, rookie Brock Purdy must lead the 49ers’ offense. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Garoppolo might return for the playoffs if he rehab goes smoothly.
If Purdy leads the 49ers into the playoffs, he won’t have history on his side. No team has won a Super Bowl with a rookie starting quarterback.
After a statement victory against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the 49ers didn’t celebrate with the usual postgame merriment. Once the team learned Garoppolo was lost for the regular season, players and coaches were quick to share how devastating the injury was to team morale.
“I saw (Jimmy) at halftime, and it was pretty emotional,” defensive end Nick Bosa told reporters after his three-sack performance in the 33-17 win over Miami. “He’s always been a great leader.”
Purdy also reflected during his postgame news conference on how much his relationship with the injured 49ers’ starter means to him: “I love Jimmy. What he’s done in terms of taking me in…my heart feels for him. He’s a brother of mine.”
It was Garoppolo who led the team to Super Bowl LIV in February 2020 and a conference championship appearance last season. His 38-17 regular-season record as the 49ers’ starter cannot be ignored, and his career-low interception rate and career-high quarterback rating this season were signs that he was peaking.
While San Francisco’s staunch defense and stable of elite skill players can carry some of the load, the team’s Super Bowl aspirations largely rest on the shoulders of Purdy, who was selected with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Iowa State University product seemed up for the challenge on Sunday against an average Dolphins defense, throwing for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 37 pass attempts.
Purdy gained experience in practice as the scout team QB against the Niners’ formidable defense.
“He’s played against the best defense in the league for the past 13 weeks,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said of the rookie QB. “He’s going to be fine.”
With the support of the locker room, Purdy has five regular-season games to prove his worth before the 49ers may need him to deliver in January and potentially February.