Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady faces the San Francisco 49ers. Dec 11, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Brock Purdy injury was a bummer for many reasons. It turned Sunday’s highly anticipated NFC Championship showdown into a snoozer. It ended one of the most unlikely stories of the season. And now, Purdy may be at risk of being bigfooted by Tom Brady.

Let the rumors officially commence. The San Francisco 49ers have cornered the market on quarterback speculation because there are so many questions they will deal with this off-season. The news that Purdy could miss six months due to a torn UCL adds a sense of urgency. While NFL training camps start in July, no one knows how and if this setback will affect his playing ability.

If Purdy had not been hurt, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan might have been content to roll with Mr. Irrelevant as the starter for the 2023 season. Purdy, 23, is young, cheap and under contract for three more years. In a salary-cap sport, that’s the biggest advantage a team can have. If the 49ers are convinced that Purdy will pick up right where he left off, he might be their best option.

But what if San Francisco is not convinced? What if Brady, a San Mateo native, decides that he would like to play for his hometown team? It has long been speculated that Brady might want to finish his Hall of Fame career there. Of course, no one knows for certain if Brady wants to play in 2023 after missing the playoffs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, if he doesn’t retire, the 49ers would be the ideal landing spot.

Shanahan has reached back-to-back NFC Championship games with a quarterback he wanted to get rid of (Jimmy Garoppolo) and a quarterback who was the last pick of the 2022 draft (Purdy). Brady would immediately make San Francisco the Super Bowl favorite for next season. The 49ers have a quarterback-friendly system with three unstoppable weapons: Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle. They have an elite defense that allowed the fewest points in the league (17.2).

Brady could be the missing piece that delivers the franchise its first Vince Lombardi Trophy since the 1994 season.

What would this mean for Purdy? Mike Sando of The Athletic speculated that the rookie could still be part of the organization’s long-term plan. He could sit as a backup and eventually be Brady’s successor. Brady, 45, might only play one or two more seasons before (finally) retiring. 

Another veteran quarterback with Northern California roots could be available. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers appear to be on their way to a divorce. Rodgers has long held a grudge against San Francisco for not drafting him. But they would offer him his best chance of returning to the Super Bowl. However, Rodgers has $60 million in salary owed to him for 2023, so there would have to be a lot of maneuvering. Also, the Packers reportedly prefer to trade Rodgers to the AFC (the New York Jets?).

The quarterback speculation doesn’t end there. We’re all wondering what’s going to happen to the other quarterbacks who played for the 49ers this season. Trey Lance was supposed to have the season Purdy enjoyed. Shanahan traded up for him in the 2021 draft, and Lance was the starter for the first two games of 2022 until he suffered a season-ending leg injury. Now he appears to be the odd man out. 

Lance, 22, is younger than Purdy with impressive physical skills. But he has started only four games and his 54.9 career completion percentage doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s difficult to say what kind of trade market there is for Lance. Quarterback-needy teams might be more inclined to take a flyer on Garoppolo who at the very least is a proven starter. As a free agent, Garoppolo will have suitors. If the Jets can’t trade for Rodgers or land Derek Carr, Garoppolo seems like a natural fit in New York. 

The quarterback carousel is fascinating, and San Francisco may be the epicenter of intrigue.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.