Lynch, 49ers ‘unbelievably impressed' with Darnold this season

Lynch, 49ers ‘unbelievably impressed' with Darnold this season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers have decided to take no chances with Pro Bowl quarterback Brock Purdy in the regular-season finale.

And that opens the door for backup quarterback Sam Darnold to show if his practice-field prowess carries over into games while running the 49ers’ offense.

“As an organization, we’re just thrilled with him,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said of Darnold while appearing Friday morning on KNBR’s “Murph & Markus.”

“And I think everyone is excited he has an opportunity to go play this week and see what he can go get done against the Rams.”

Darnold is set to make his first start with the 49ers on Sunday in their Week 18 game against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers clinched the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed, prompting the team to keep Purdy on the sideline for the game.

Darnold, 26, signed a one-year contract with the 49ers in the offseason at a time when it was uncertain how Purdy would respond after surgery in March to repair a torn ligament in his throwing elbow.

He clearly beat out Trey Lance for the backup job, prompting the 49ers to trade Lance to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The 49ers traded up to select Lance at No. 3 overall in 2021.

Darnold entered the NFL in 2018 as the No. 3 pick of the New York Jets, where he mostly struggled in 38 starts over three seasons.

Then, as part of an equally inept Carolina organization the past two seasons, Darnold started 17 games with the Panthers, going 8-9 in those appearances.

Darnold signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the 49ers in the offseason.

“I was unbelievably impressed because Sam could’ve done a lot of things this offseason,” Lynch said. “I think he could’ve made more money elsewhere, but Sam wanted to be part of what we had. He wanted to be part of going into the lab with Kyle Shanahan and his offensive coaches.

“And he knew that might mean backing Brock Purdy up. We were clear, ‘Hey, if Brock’s healthy, he’s our guy.’”

In limited playing time this season, Darnold has completed 12 of 20 pass attempts for 108 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

There is little question as to why Darnold entered the NFL as such a coveted draft pick. He is a gifted thrower who, apparently, continues to look the part this week while sharing practice snaps with Purdy.

“He’s earned everybody’s respect and, my goodness, is he a talented thrower,” Lynch said of Darnold. "Again, yesterday out at practice, he can do some things. You talk (about) arm talent — it’s a buzzword that’s thrown around — but if you want to see what arm talent is, just watch Sam Darnold.

“He can do some special things with the ball.”

Darnold's contract expires at the end of this season, and it is clear the 49ers want him back. The only question is whether there will be better opportunities for him elsewhere in the NFL.

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