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3 numbers to know about Sam Darnold: Clarifying Darnold’s role on the 49ers

And no, it’s not QB1.

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 49ers followed the signing of Javon Hargrave with a surprising one by signing former Jets and Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold to a one-year deal. The move comes a couple of years after there were rumors of the 49ers’ interest in trading for Darnold back in 2021 before Carolina acquired him from the Jets.

It’s been a career of ups and downs for Darnold, but the 49ers elected to bring in a veteran to play behind Trey Lance and Brock Purdy. Here are three numbers to know about the 49ers' newest quarterback.


The number of teams Darnold has played for since being drafted in 2018. It’s also the selection in the draft he was. While the Jets and Panthers brought Darnold in to start, the 49ers are bringing him in as a backup, which is an important distinction.

There will be talk in the next few months about a potential competition between Trey Lance and Darnold, but that shouldn’t be a concern for Lance.

The 49ers know time is running out on finding out what Lance is. The Purdy injury will likely give the 49ers that time, with Lance entering training camp and the regular season as QB1. Darnold’s signing might give the appearance of competition, but there probably won’t be one.

Darnold was brought in as a security blanket in case something happens to Lance – knock on wood – to give the 49ers a viable option until Purdy’s return. His contract and incentives reflect as much.


Number of starts by Darnold over his first five seasons. After Jimmy Garoppolo broke his foot last season, the 49ers had two quarterbacks on their roster with a combined nine starts after signing Josh Johnson to back Purdy up.

The 49ers signed Darnold to have that experience from their backup, a trait the 49ers haven’t had in a backup quarterback under Kyle Shanahan. From CJ Beathard and Nick Mullens, to Nate Sudfeld and Josh Johnson, 49ers backup quarterbacks haven’t had much starting experience.

Ideally, the 49ers don’t have to worry about using a backup, but Darnold’s experience would leave Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ offense in a comfortable spot if it gets to that. Darnold’s signing should be viewed as a peace of mind.


Darnold’s interception percentage over six games in 2022, a new career-high. Admittedly, a small sample size, but an improvement over his previous seasons. In his four seasons before 2022, Darnold’s career interception percentage was 3.2 percent. He was on injured reserve for the Panthers’ first nine games last season with an ankle injury before getting his first start in Week 12.

The 1.1 percent decrease in his interception percentage from 2021 to 2022 was the biggest single-year decrease in his career.

Interceptions have been a problem for Darnold throughout his career so far, throwing for double-digit interceptions in each of his first four seasons. Small sample size or not, the improvement was a welcome sight for Darnold.