Shanahan details what drew 49ers to sign veteran Darnold


PHOENIX — While most of the 49ers quarterback discussions at the NFL Annual Meeting revolved around Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, Kyle Shanahan has another quarterback he will be working with once the team reconvenes on April 17. 

The club signed Sam Darnold to a one-year $2.45 million contract during free agency that adds the sixth-year play caller to the 49ers' quarterbacks room for the 2023 NFL season. 

“Sam has as good of a skill set as there is,” Shanahan said. “That’s why he went as the third pick in the draft, and when you study his play you can see it too. I don’t think he’s always been in the best situations, which is tough for a quarterback.

"It’s tough for all players, but it’s one position, and there’s another 10 players around you too.”  

The former No. 3 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft spent his first three seasons with the New York Jets before being traded to the Carolina Panthers, where he spent the last two years. Darnold has appeared in 56 games with a 21-34 record as a starter. 

Maybe Darnold’s least attractive statistic is his touchdown to interception ratio. Over five seasons in the league, the 25-year-old has thrown 61 touchdowns and 55 interceptions, but that doesn’t keep Shanahan from believing in the young quarterback. 

“I think Sam has played and done some really good things in this league,” Shanahan said. “He hasn’t won a ton of games, and has been thrown into some situations where you’re going to keep both teams in the game because you got to keep slinging that ball to give your team a chance to win. 

“So he doesn’t always have the best stats, but you see the ability. He’s always had that ability since his first year in college when we started watching him, and there’s no reason he can’t do it.”

Darnold will be sharing team reps during OTAs and training camp with Lance while Purdy recovers from surgery to his ulnar collateral ligament. The club likely will add a fourth quarterback to the 90-man roster until Purdy is cleared to participate, which will be in early September if the Iowa State product’s recovery goes to plan.

RELATED: Darnold focused on learning system, not place on depth chart 

Until then, expect to see Darnold learning Shanahan’s offense while working with quarterbacks coach Brian Griese, who is largely responsible for the lack in drop-off in production as the team worked through multiple personnel changes under center in 2022. 

“I’m excited to get to know him as a person,” Shanahan said. “I’ve always liked him as an athlete and I’ve always liked him as a prospect. I like how he throws, I like his athletic ability. We’re excited to get him with us, get to work, and see how he plays in our offense.”  

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