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Brock Purdy was always going to be the 49ers starter this season...unless

A certain retired quarterback came available

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

This season has flown by. Six months ago, we were under the impression that the San Francisco 49ers may not have the services of starting quarterback Brock Purdy to begin the year. There was a potential quarterback competition set to take place between Sam Darnold and Trey Lance if Purdy couldn’t play Week 1.

Oh, training camp. Where quotes like, “Sam Darnold has the best deep ball since Joe Montana” happen. Where you use one practice or throw to convince yourself that Lance has what it takes to lead the Niners to the No. 1 seed.

All along, it was never a competition. The 49ers knew Purdy was healthy, and the only time he didn’t receive reps with the first team was when the Niners held Purdy out as part of the maintenance plan they put together back in the spring of 2023.

ESPN’s Nick Wagoner wrote a terrific piece highlighting Purdy’s journey from a backup to a starter. In the article, Nick points out that there was one quarterback Kyle Shanahan said could take Purdy’s spot:

Early in the offseason, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan sat down with Purdy and assured him that if he was healthy he would be the starter unless Brady wanted to play one more season for his hometown Niners.

An ecstatic Purdy understood the logic, but the competitor in him also bubbled under the surface.

“That meant so much to me,” Purdy said. “I remember him saying, if we can get Tom Brady, we’re going to try to get him. And I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s the GOAT. I get it.’ But something deep down inside me was sort of like, ‘Dude, I just showed you that I can play well in this system. And we were one game away from the Super Bowl.’ ... More than anything, I was like, ‘OK, now let’s go.’”

It’s that competitive spirit Shanahan and the Niners have quickly grown to love. Yes, they say Purdy is humble and down to earth, but he carries an edge on the field that manifests in many ways.

Given his success in the second half last season, Purdy had every right to be flustered when hearing about Brady.

It’s not a surprise that an offensive mind like Shanahan would entertain the idea of Brady when there was doubt about his quarterback being 100 percent healthy for the regular season. But the last version of Brady we saw was far from the one many view as the best quarterback ever to play.

It would have been a Hollywood script for Brady to return to his childhood team and lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl. Long-term, the decision to roll with Purdy in 2023 was correct. In his first full season as a starter, Purdy received two first-team All-Pro votes.

The locker room loves him, and I’d argue that Purdy’s ability to make plays out of structure has proven and will continue to be the reason the 49ers hoist the Lombardi trophy this season.