Joe Montana has his pick for the next 49ers quarterback, and it's not the one the San Francisco brass appear to be choosing.
When asked who he'd throw his support behind -- Brock Purdy or Trey Lance -- the Pro Football Hall Of Fame quarterback told Michael Silver on the “Open Mike” podcast that he'd throw his support behind Door No. 3: Jimmy Garoppolo.
"I start Jimmy," Montana told Silver, via knbr.com. "How many games has Jimmy won? For the longest time, questions were out with Jimmy for a while. But the one thing he has been able to do is win games for those guys. He'll make a mistake here and there, but some of those things I don't just put on Jimmy."
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have said that they don’t see a situation where Garoppolo returns, leaving Purdy and Lance to battle for starting duties in 2023.
"No, I don't see any scenario of that," Shanahan said of Garoppolo returning. Garoppolo suffered what ended up being a season-ending foot injury in Week 13, which opened the door for Purdy to break out unexpectedly.
Of course, Lance is recovering from ankle surgery after his season-ending injury, and Purdy has not even undergone surgery for his elbow injury suffered in the NFC Championship Game. Garoppolo appeared to be out of the picture in San Francisco prior to last season before a surprise return, delivering a very respectable 10-start showing in 2022 before Purdy took over.
And if there's anyone who knows about the 49ers making a quarterback change following an injury to their starter, it's Montana. He missed nearly two full seasons in 1991 and 1992 following a serious elbow injury and eventually was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, giving way to Steve Young. Tension between the two remained for years.
Now the 49ers have a different kind of decision to make for the future of the franchise. Even though Garoppolo has been ruled out -- much like Montana was decades ago -- Montana wouldn't move on so quickly if the decision was left to him.
"(Garoppolo) still won a lot of games before he got hurt," Montana told Silver. "He put them in that position to go on that run to begin with. So you handed a guy a team -- sort of like somebody else I know got handed a team -- so you gotta go with the guy that's been winning games and gets the offense and go from there."
Montana acknowledges that Garoppolo isn't perfect but appears concerned about the readiness of Lance, whom the team traded three first-round picks for but who has been inconsistent in his four career starts.
"Yeah, (Garoppolo) made a crazy throw and mistake in the playoff game a couple of years ago," Montana said. "But he has won a lot of games. I can't say the same from Trey. You don't know that from him… So, I think you start the guy who has won all the games for you.
"You've got to figure out the backup situation with Trey. Does Trey know the offense well enough? Is he meant for that offense?"
The questions about Lance might be fair ones, and there's concern about the timetable for Purdy's recovery. But that isn't stopping Montana from supporting the quarterback the 49ers appear to be moving on from -- for a second time.