Could Darnold lead 49ers into 2023 schedule?

Mike Florio and Chris Simms preview the San Francisco 49ers' 2023 NFL schedule and discuss if Sam Darnold could be under center when Kyle Shanahan's squad begins the new season.

Video Transcript

MIKE FLORIO: Here's Kyle Shanahan, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, on being very happy that he doesn't have to take his team to the other side of Pennsylvania for week one. He'll be in Pittsburgh not Philly. He's happy about that. Here he is.

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KYLE SHANAHAN: I am glad we're not playing Philly week one. I want to play them at a better time. I want to make sure our whole team's right there. And I don't like going back to Philly again. My wife's bitter about it a little bit. She didn't like her fan experience in the stands. So she's not going this time. But we felt like we didn't get to do it last time. And I'm ready to go back again.


MIKE FLORIO: Kyle, were you surprised?

CHRIS SIMMS: I was going to say--


MIKE FLORIO: Did you just come to the NFL last year?

CHRIS SIMMS: Seriously, call your friend whose dad played in Philadelphia for 15 years straight. He'd tell you there's a reason he never let us go there either. Yeah, I did not aware-- I was not aware that that happened there. So that was interesting to hear.


MIKE FLORIO: Well, look, it really isn't a surprise. And it is-- I guess I'll measure my words carefully in the event we have to go back to Philadelphia for a game at some point. I mean, we could be back there week one next year. But it is a little over the top. It is a little much. But you know that going in.


MIKE FLORIO: You're not going to change it. You're not going to change it just showing up in your 49ers gear and say, you people should be more friendly. It's just not-- it's what it is, and it ain't changing. Act accordingly.

I remember when my son-- last year, when the Vikings were good, and he was hoping for a chance for the Vikings to go to Philadelphia. And he said, and I'm going. And I'm wearing a jersey. And I said, no, no you're not, no, you're not. It sounds good for now. you're. Not doing it.



MIKE FLORIO: Just, you're not. We will concede that territory to the Eagles. And we'll just stay anywhere but there on game day. Why would you want to put yourself through that?

CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, that's right. That's right.


CHRIS SIMMS: But I am-- I'm glad Mike Shanahan, they don't have to open the season there. That's another one where it's like, I don't want to see that right off the bat. I don't. I want to see those teams get going and get their feet underneath them. And certainly don't want to see the 49ers go back to Philadelphia and play without Brock Purdy, right?


So what? We can go, wait, what would it look like one more time if he actually played? So I'm really happy the NFL didn't do that.

Now, these are two of the most talented teams in football. Let them get at their full strength. And let's see them match up when that has a possibility. And I think a week 13 is the perfect sweet spot there where it could be for the number one seed and then setting up your football team like that for the playoff run.

MIKE FLORIO: And listen, while we're in the neighborhood, it's not on the rundown for today. But since we saw Shanahan there and he was being interviewed by, I noticed Matt Maiocco of NBC Bay Area.



MIKE FLORIO: But last week, Matt made a stir last week by saying that Sam Darnold may be the most talented thrower of the football the 49ers have ever had. Now, I knew that came straight from Kyle Shanahan. He's not just pulling that out of the air.


MIKE FLORIO: That's coming straight from Shanahan. Shanahan has since said the same thing


MIKE FLORIO: He said the same damn thing.


MIKE FLORIO: They're getting the idea out there, Chris, that Darnold could be the guy. If Brock's not ready, it ain't Trey Lance. It's going to be Sam Darnold.

CHRIS SIMMS: Well, listen, I don't get into the nitty-gritty with my pal there in San Francisco about his whole team very much, right? I don't want to know some things. I don't want to speak out of turn. So we talk about football a lot.


One thing I can tell you for sure though is, yes, Sam Darnold, the respect for, I think, the player and what he could be, I think it's always been there from Shanahan. When he came out in the draft, I think he was very intrigued by him. I think he's always kept his eye on him, right? And I think he's got some of the attributes and things that Shanahan looks at and goes, wait, no, this makes sense for my offense.

Quick release, good feet, moves in the pocket, play action pass, boom, come up, Deebo Samuel, on the move bootlegs-- he can do that. There's a reason he was the number three pick in the draft. That's for sure. So I don't know.

Listen, as much as I know he likes Sam Darnold I know. He loves Brock Purdy and thinks he's the man too. And I still think Brock Purdy is the guy that's in the leader house there. I think he's more setting it up with those comments and Matt Maiocco saying that-- Matt Maiocco, excuse me.



CHRIS SIMMS: Maiocco. 0-3-- but I think he's setting that up too get the fan base to realize, wait, there's a good chance-- there's a very good chance Sam Darnold's going to beat out Trey Lance. So start to digest that a little bit. I think that's also part of that conversation.



MIKE FLORIO: That's what I said. If it's not Brock Purdy, it's going to be Darnold not Lance.


MIKE FLORIO: That's what I said.

CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, no, no, I know. I know. I heard you say that. I just think it's still a shock factor of people thinking it's Lance and all those type of things.


MIKE FLORIO: That's why it's--


MIKE FLORIO: But I texted you last week. And you didn't respond to me because you were in your haze already. When I saw that Maiocco was saying that, that's coming from Shanahan.

CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, yeah, you did. You did text me. That's right.

MIKE FLORIO: He follows the 49ers, not the Jets or the Panthers. He doesn't know anything about Sam Darnold. What he knows about Darnold he's getting from Shanahan. And then Shanahan says it, then it just underscores the facts, folks, that Lance is the odd man out there right now.

CHRIS SIMMS: Yes, no doubt about that.


MIKE FLORIO: And they're trying to get people aware of the fact that it goes Purdy, Darnold, Lance.

CHRIS SIMMS: Right, that's right, that's exactly-- I was trying to convey the same thing. I know that too. And yes, with Lance, I mean, listen, there's a reason there was rumors about the trades and everything like that. Where there's smoke, there's fire, right?

And I think, in a lot of ways, it looks like, hey, maybe that ship has sailed. But we'll see where he goes from here. But Sam Darnold, again, like Brock Purdy or like Mac Jones, it's that type of skill set, even a Kirk Cousins. It's that kind of realm, smart guy, can process it quick. He can get it out of his hand really quick.

And he's a good athlete to bounce around the pocket and make throws that way. I think that's what Shanahan looks for at the quarterback position. And Sam Darnold has a lot of that and just has been in two of the tougher situations in football to start his career. And that hasn't been easy for his development.

MIKE FLORIO: The 49ers schedule, we had it up there.

CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, let's look at it.

MIKE FLORIO: --deep dive into it. I mean, there's some-- look, there's games that should be clear, easy victories early on.

CHRIS SIMMS: They could go 4-0, right?

MIKE FLORIO: They got some tough ones too. Right, but they got some-- they could go 4-0. They could be 2-2. I don't know what the Giants are going to bring out there for "Thursday Night Football" on a short week. And they could go to Pittsburgh and lose to the Steelers week one. But they could be 4-0 going into that week five game against the Cowboys on "Sunday Night Football," which is-- obviously, it's always a great matchup. They met in the playoffs each of the last two years.

But yeah, they could be 4-0 going into that game. And between them and the Eagles, they continue to be the best two teams in the conference until somebody else rises up and proves otherwise. It's 49ers, and it's Eagles.

CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, almost a similar feeling, where it's like the Eagles, you just go wait, it's a favorable schedule before their bye. And there's a little bit of a gauntlet, maybe not quite to the Eagles extent on the back half, but it's tough nonetheless.

But I think just for the purpose of playing this game and what we talk about here, you look at the first eight weeks, Steelers, Rams, Giants, Cardinals, those first four games, to your point on what you're saying, I mean, on paper, there's no doubt that the 49ers are better than all four of those teams. There's no doubt.

As you said, it's the Eagles and the 49ers. They have the best rosters in the game. Cowboys, toss-up. Browns we know are good. And they got some talent there. But certainly, the 49ers are still the better team on paper. And then you get into the Vikings. I give them the edge there. And the Bengals is a toss-up. So they're a team that, yeah, they could be sitting there 7-1, 6-2, depending on that quarterback situation and Sam Darnold, how he plays, Brock Purdy's health. But it sets up nice for them to get a little cushion for their early season.

MIKE FLORIO: We'll see them Thanksgiving night at Seattle. Those two teams played once upon a time in San Francisco on a Thanksgiving night. Seahawks won that game. This year, NBC and Peacock will have 49ers at Seahawks on Thanksgiving.

And then Christmas night, it's the 49ers and the Ravens.


MIKE FLORIO: So both holidays for the San Francisco 49ers, and look, they have become the cream of the crop. They just can't manage to punch through to the Super Bowl and win it. Maybe this is the year they pull it off.