The San Francisco 49ers entered the 2022 season with high expectations. However, injuries resulted in the use of three different starting quarterbacks, and the team that was once a Super Bowl favorite could not advance pass the NFC Championship game.
Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy took over starting duties down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, but suffered a torn UCL in the first quarter of the NFC title game. The injury forced veteran Josh Johnson into action, but he would soon exit with a concussion.
Some Niners players felt as though they did not have a fair chance at winning the championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of the quarterback injuries.
Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez agrees, saying he believes Purdy’s injury hampered the team’s chances of making it to the big game.
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“I thought, honestly, they would be playing in [the Super Bowl],” Gonzalez told NBC Sports last week at Super Bowl Radio Row. “I still think they would have if Purdy didn’t get hurt.”
Despite being the final pick in last year’s NFL draft and not being expected to contribute this season, Purdy won every regular-season game he started. He also led the 49ers to two playoff victories.
San Francisco’s front office built one of the most complete rosters in the league, which featured star tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, All-Pro tackle Trent Williams, and star running back Christian McCaffrey.
The Niners also had the league’s top-ranked defense this past season.
Even with all of those pieces in place, the quarterback position is still one of the most — if not the most — important position on the field.
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Purdy was hit behind the line of scrimmage by an Eagles pass rusher as he attempted to throw a pass. The strip sack and fumble recovery virtually ended the game, because Johnson was largely ineffective once he entered the contest as Purdy was forced to re-enter, but without the ability to throw a forward pass.
“I think [the 49ers] had the most complete roster towards the end of the season. Philly’s roster was incredible as well,” Gonzalez noted. “It’s just sad that Purdy didn’t really get a chance to play in that football game. I think the game obviously would have been way, way closer than it was, and I still think San Francisco might have had a chance because their team was just loaded from top to bottom with incredibly talented players.”
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49ers players, including McCaffrey, have also made comments about how the NFC title game played out.
“It’s tough to win a football game in the NFL without a quarterback, let alone the NFC championship game,” McCaffrey told “PFT Live” earlier this week. “I wish they had changed the rule where you’re allowed to carry three. … I think they should change that. It’s not good for us, obviously. It’s not good for fans watching to not have a quarterback. I hope there’s something they do with that moving forward so that you can stay in the fight.”
Samuel echoed similar sentiments during a sit down with Adam Schein of “Mad Dog Sports Radio,” saying the outcome of the NFC title game would have been different if Purdy was able to play the entire contest.
“Our defense was doing what they were supposed to, and I feel like if Brock was in at quarterback and how our offense moves, I don’t think it would have been close, if that makes sense,” Samuel told Schein at Radio Row. “It’s not sour grapes at all, it’s just what I see every day. I’m not salty at all, I just speak facts.”
Seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady shared his thoughts on the Niners prospects in the NFC title game, saying the quarterback injuries left the team with “no chance to compete.”
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“Injuries play a role in every game, and your margin of error changes quite a bit,” he said during this week’s episode of the “Let’s Go!” podcast. “Obviously San Fran had, you know, really no chance to compete yesterday. That was tough just to see that happen, but at the same time, it’s the reality of the sport.
The injury-riddled season started early in the Bay Area, with second-year quarterback Trey Lance suffering a season ending ankle injury in Week 2, while veteran Jimmy Garoppolo eventually suffered a broken foot in Week 13.