Kyle Shanahan 49ers Oct 3, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan walks on the field before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan raised eyebrows with his comments at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series in San Jose, contending that he’s plenty comfortable with the team’s quarterback room, endorsing all three of his signal-callers as potential franchise building blocks.

That includes newcomer Sam Darnold, former first-round pick Trey Lance and incumbent Brock Purdy, the latter recovering from elbow surgery following an injury that rendered him unable to throw in last year’s NFC Championship loss to Philadelphia.

Anchored by Pro Bowlers Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more talented group than the skill corps the Niners have meticulously assembled in San Francisco. Despite their overwhelming offensive weaponry, detractors would say the Niners’ ceiling is capped by their lack of a star quarterback, leaving them with less margin for error than teams like Kansas City (Patrick Mahomes), Cincinnati (Joe Burrow), and Buffalo (Josh Allen).

Purdy may have the strongest case based on his overall body of work, though his claim to the 49ers’ QB throne is complicated by his relative lack of pedigree (he was famously taken with the very last pick in last year’s draft) and lingering injury concerns. Lance, meanwhile, remains something of a blank canvas, an elite athlete who looks the part but is running out of time to prove himself, at risk of squandering an ocean of untapped potential. A turnover-prone draft bust who flamed out of New York, only to experience the same outcome in Carolina, many would dismiss Darnold as a journeyman veteran fighting for his NFL life. But if the 25-year-old were to reinvent himself a la Geno Smith, this would be the place to do it, armed with a potent offense and a brilliant coach who was able to mask most of Jimmy Garoppolo’s shortcomings.

An out-of-context quote like this, especially at this early juncture in the offseason, means next to nothing, though that didn’t stop the Twitter peanut gallery from piling on, raking Shanahan over the coals for his characterization of what many would consider the Niners’ Achilles’ heel.

Whether it’s Purdy, Darnold, Lance, or a late entrant we might not know about yet, where there’s a will, the Niners will find a way, just as they did last season, riding a third-string quarterback all the way to the NFC title game.

[David Lombardi]

About Jesse Pantuosco

Jesse Pantuosco joined Awful Announcing as a contributing writer in May 2023. He’s also written for Audacy and NBC Sports. A graduate of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in creative writing from Fairfield University, Pantuosco has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and never misses a Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots game.