2021 49ers Roster Preview: Quarterback

The starting quarterback job belongs to Garoppolo, for now.
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With the start of training camp about three weeks away, now would be the perfect time to take a look at every player on the San Francisco 49ers roster and how they fit with the team heading into training camp.

The majority of the news around the 49ers has been about the quarterbacks, so let’s start there.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Garoppolo’s 22-8 regular season record during his time in San Francisco is impressive. Over his last 14 regular season starts however, the 49ers are only 8-6. Garoppolo also has missed 23 of the 49ers 53 regular season games since making his debut late in 2017.

Outside of the injuries, the biggest issue with Garoppolo is that there has been no improvement in his play during his time in San Francisco.

Losing most of two seasons and the lack of improvement has led the 49ers front office to look for a replacement. Despite publicly expressing their belief in Garoppolo, the 49ers flirted with the idea of trading for Matthew Stafford before losing out to the Los Angeles Rams, and made plays in free agency for Andy Dalton, Mitchell Trubisky, and Joe Flacco before ultimately deciding to utilize three first round draft picks and a third-round pick to acquire a new quarterback.

Trey Lance

During the 49ers pre-draft press conference, Kyle Shanahan stated a number of times that he was looking for a rookie quarterback who could start.

Enter Trey Lance.

Lance operated one of the most diverse offenses in college football during his time at North Dakota State, and all signs are pointing to Lance being much further along at this point than many originally assumed. In fact, Shanahan has gone from stating shortly after drafting Lance that he would not be competing for the starting job this season, to stating that if he feels Lance proves during training camp that he is ready to go he wouldn’t hesitate to name him the starter.

Reports from the 49ers OTA practices were very positive about Lance’s performance, and the rookie has since spent time working out with a number of 49ers receivers including, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.

Josh Rosen

San Francisco signed the former first-round draft pick off of the Tampa Bay practice squad following the injury to Mullens. While Rosen’s time with the team was limited to only a couple practices at the end of the season, his college career was enough to earn being the 10th player taken in the 2018 draft by the Arizona Cardinals.

Rosen’s NFL career has been rough, and that’s putting it mildly. He’s started a total of 16 games, winning only three, and his completion percentage is under 55.

Nate Sudfeld

Sudfeld was originally drafted by Washington in 2016. After spending his rookie season in Washington, Sudfeld was released and subsequently signed by the Philadelphia Eagles where he spent the next four seasons.

Overall, Sudfeld has played in only four games throughout his career with no starts. His best performance came in Week 17 of the 2018 season against the Dallas Cowboys when he replaced Nick Foles. Sudfeld would complete 19 of 23 pass attempts for 134 yards.

The next extended action of Sudfeld’s career was his inauspicious performance on national television in the Eagles 2020 season finale against Washington. Despite trailing by only three points entering the final quarter, Sudfeld was sent in to replace Jalen Hurts at quarterback. Sudfeld would look completely overmatched, completing only 5 of 12 pass attempts for 32 yards and an interception while also losing a fumble.

2021 outlook

The starting quarterback job belongs to Garoppolo, for now. As soon as Lance shows he is close to the same level as Garoppolo he should be moved into the starting role. This will be a bit of a balancing act for Shanahan because once he names Lance the starter, he can’t go back. Playing musical chairs with the quarterback position almost never ends up with a good result, and the 49ers have a lot invested in Lance for the long term.

While all eyes will be focused on Garoppolo and Lance, the battle for the third spot between Rosen and Sudfeld could be very important as well. There’s a possibility that whoever wins this battle will eventually become the backup quarterback at some point during the season. It should also be noted that San Francisco guaranteed $252,000 of Sudfeld’s contract. Expect for him to be with the 49ers throughout the season.