Sam Darnold

Simms: Darnold could experience Geno-like resurgence with 49ers

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Sam Darnold enters his first training camp in Santa Clara expected to be the 49ers' backup quarterback behind Brock Purdy. But if he sees an opportunity to start, one NFL pundit believes he could be in line for a storybook season.

NBC Sports' Chris Simms was asked by a fan if Darnold could see a resurgent season like Geno Smith experienced with the Seattle Seahawks last year. His response? Never say never.

"I don’t know if it’s to Geno’s capabilities," Simms said on Monday's episode of the "PFT Live" show. "As you heard me say last year, Geno’s talent is star-ish. It really is. 

"... Geno was pretty damn good last year. I think something like that -- I don’t think it’s crazy at all. Can I see the 49ers starting the year out 4-0 with Sam Darnold as their starting quarterback, and then we’re hearing Brock Purdy is healthy and it’s like, ‘Oh, s--t, we’re really going to bench Sam Darnold and put Brock Purdy back in?’ Do I think that could maybe happen? No doubt, I do."

Smith, a second-round pick by the New York Jets in 2013, started at quarterback for his first two seasons in the league before serving as a backup for the next six seasons for the Jets, New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers and Seahawks.

Once Russell Wilson departed Seattle last offseason, Smith won Seahawks' starting quarterback job over Drew Lock in training camp and made the most of his opportunity. In 17 games, Smith set career highs by passing for 4,282 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions -- adding up to a 100.9 passer rating. He led the NFL in completion percentage (69.8) and steered Seattle into a surprising nine-win season, which ended in a wild-card weekend loss to the 49ers.

Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick by the Jets in 2018, struggled to a 13-25 record over his first three seasons and was traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2021. He endured many coaching and front-office changes in both organizations, and he signed a one-year deal with the 49ers this offseason to get his career on track.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan pronounced Purdy the leader in the clubhouse to win the team's starting quarterback job if he recovers in time from offseason elbow surgery.

But if Darnold receives a chance to start, don't be surprised if he thrives in Red and Gold.

"I do know Shanahan has always liked Darnold," Simms said. "He likes everything about him -- the physical skills, what he’s made up of, all of that to where I certainly think Shanahan thinks he can have a Sam Darnold resurgence of like, ‘Hey, look, this guy’s good. He can be a starting quarterback, and he can win you a lot of games.’ "

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