Complete List Of San Francisco 49ers Quarterbacks In Order

List Of San Francisco 49ers Quarterbacks

Feature Photo: Arnie Papp, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our Complete List Of San Francisco 49ers Quarterbacks In Order presents a list of all San Francisco 49ers starting and backup quarterbacks from the team’s inception to the present day.

Frankie Albert (1946-1952)

Frankie Albert, a Stanford University alumnus, was the first quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers when they were part of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and then the NFL. Albert played for the 49ers from 1946 to 1952. Known for his innovative play and excellent game management, he was an essential part of the team’s early years. He led the team to the AAFC Championship game in 1949. After retiring, Albert transitioned to coaching, including a stint as the 49ers’ head coach.

Y.A. Tittle (1951-1960)

Yelberton Abraham Tittle, better known as Y.A. Tittle, joined the 49ers in 1951 after playing for the Baltimore Colts. Tittle, a product of Louisiana State University (LSU), quickly became a standout quarterback. During his tenure with the 49ers, he was known for his passing ability and leadership on the field. Tittle threw for over 16,000 yards and 108 touchdowns with the 49ers, earning several Pro Bowl selections. His time with the team solidified his status as one of the top quarterbacks of his era.

John Brodie (1957-1973)

John Brodie, drafted from Stanford University, began his career with the 49ers in 1957. He spent his entire 17-year career with the team, becoming one of the most notable quarterbacks in franchise history. Brodie led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns on multiple occasions. He passed for a total of 31,548 yards and 214 touchdowns with the 49ers. Brodie’s leadership and impressive play earned him the NFL MVP award in 1970 and made him a beloved figure among 49ers fans.

Steve Spurrier (1967-1975)

Steve Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida, joined the 49ers in 1967. Serving primarily as a backup quarterback and punter during his time with the team, Spurrier had moments where he stepped into the starting role. He played a part in the team’s development during the late 1960s and early 1970s, contributing both on and off the field. Spurrier later became more renowned for his coaching career in college football.

Joe Reed (1972-1974)

Joe Reed, hailing from Mississippi State University, played for the 49ers from 1972 to 1974. Reed’s tenure with the team was primarily as a backup quarterback. While his time as a starter was limited, he provided depth to the quarterback position and was ready to step in when called upon.

Norm Snead (1974-1975)

Norm Snead, a seasoned NFL quarterback, joined the 49ers towards the end of his career in 1974. Snead, who played for several teams including the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants, brought experience and depth to the 49ers’ quarterback room. His role included mentoring younger quarterbacks and providing a steady hand when needed.

Steve DeBerg (1978-1980)

Steve DeBerg started his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys but made a name for himself after joining the 49ers in 1978. A product of San Jose State University, DeBerg was known for his strong arm and football intelligence. He played a critical role during a transitional period for the team, passing for over 7,000 yards during his tenure with the 49ers. DeBerg later played for teams like the Denver Broncos and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Joe Montana (1979-1992)

Joseph Clifford Montana Jr., born on June 11, 1956, in New Eagle, Pennsylvania, is a former NFL quarterback renowned as one of the greatest in the sport’s history. Nicknamed “Joe Cool” and “the Comeback Kid,” Montana’s career spanned 16 seasons, primarily with the San Francisco 49ers. He rose to prominence after a national championship win at Notre Dame and began his NFL journey with the 49ers in 1979. Over 14 seasons, Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories, earning three Super Bowl MVP titles and setting records for most passes without an interception in the Super Bowl (122 across four games) and the highest Super Bowl passer rating (127.8). In 1993, he joined the Kansas City Chiefs, leading them to their first AFC Championship Game and concluding a storied career.

Montana’s accolades include two NFL MVP titles (1989, 1990), the 1986 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, and eight Pro Bowl selections. His ability to maintain high performance under pressure was legendary, highlighted in moments like “The Catch” against Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship Game and a 92-yard drive in Super Bowl XXIII against Cincinnati. The 49ers retired his jersey number 16, and he was honored on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, and ranked third on The Sporting News’ list of Football’s 100 Greatest Players in 1999.

Montana’s early life in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, was marked by a keen interest in sports. His father introduced him to football, and by age eight, he was playing youth football. He also excelled in basketball and baseball, with basketball being his favorite sport. Montana’s high school years at Ringgold High School saw him shine in football, basketball, and baseball. He led Ringgold to the 1973 WPIAL Class AAA boys’ basketball championship and was an all-state basketball player. Despite a basketball scholarship offer from North Carolina State, Montana chose Notre Dame for its football and basketball programs.

At Notre Dame, Montana’s career began under coach Ara Parseghian. Despite a challenging start, he quickly became known for his clutch performances, most famously in the “Chicken Soup Game” against Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Graduating with a degree in business administration and marketing, Montana entered the 1979 NFL Draft and was selected by the 49ers as the 82nd overall pick.

Montana’s career with the 49ers is a chronicle of remarkable achievements. His tenure saw the team’s transformation into a dominant force in the NFL. The 1981 season was a breakthrough, culminating in “The Catch” and a Super Bowl victory. In the 1984 season, Montana led the 49ers to a 15–1 record, a milestone in NFL history, and another Super Bowl win. He continued to excel through the late 1980s, despite a quarterback controversy with Steve Young.

His time with the Kansas City Chiefs was also notable. Montana’s arrival revitalized the team, leading them to significant victories and playoff appearances. He retired in 1995, leaving a legacy marked by his calm demeanor, precision passing, and remarkable come-from-behind victories.

Montana’s records and accolades speak to his extraordinary career. He was known for his ability to perform in high-pressure situations, leading his teams to numerous come-from-behind victories. His record for most Super Bowl MVPs, his unrivaled Super Bowl passer rating, and his place in NFL history as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever are testaments to his skill and impact on the game. His number 16 jersey is a symbol of excellence in San Francisco, and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 was a fitting tribute to a remarkable career.

Steve Young (1987-1999)

Jon Steven Young, born on October 11, 1961, in Salt Lake City, Utah, is an American former football quarterback who had a 15-season career in the National Football League (NFL), primarily with the San Francisco 49ers. Young, known for his exceptional passing efficiency, was initially drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but gained fame with the 49ers. He played college football for the BYU Cougars, where he set school and NCAA records and was the runner-up for the 1983 Heisman Trophy.

Young earned the AP’s NFL Most Valuable Player award in 1992 and 1994 and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX. His performance in the 1994 MVP campaign set a new NFL record for passer rating at 112.8. He was inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, reflecting his outstanding career.

In the NFL, Young led the league in passer rating six times and in completion percentage and yards per attempt five times. At the time of his retirement, he held the highest passer rating among NFL quarterbacks with at least 1,500 passing attempts (96.8). His rushing abilities were also notable, with 43 career rushing touchdowns, ranking third among quarterbacks, and his 4,239 rushing yards ranked sixth all-time.

Early Life and College Career

Born in Salt Lake City and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, Young played quarterback for Greenwich High School. He was of English descent and a direct descendant of Puritan Joseph Young, who arrived in Massachusetts from England in 1635. Young excelled in football during his junior and senior years and was also a standout in basketball and baseball. He chose to play college football at BYU over the University of North Carolina, despite initial struggles with passing.

At BYU, Young succeeded Jim McMahon as the starting quarterback. He set an NCAA single-season record with a 71.3% completion percentage, adding 544 yards rushing. Young led BYU to an impressive 11–1 record and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1983. His college career culminated in a victory at the 1983 Holiday Bowl, where he famously scored the game-winning touchdown. Young was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

Professional Football Career

Los Angeles Express

Young began his professional career with the Los Angeles Express in the United States Football League (USFL), signing a record 10-year contract in 1984. He showed promise despite the team’s struggles, including a standout performance as the first player to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in a single game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After the USFL, Young joined the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had drafted him in a supplemental draft. His time with the Buccaneers was challenging, with the team struggling significantly during his tenure.

San Francisco 49ers

In 1987, Young was traded to the San Francisco 49ers to back up Joe Montana. Under coach Bill Walsh, Young’s potential was recognized, and he gradually transitioned from backup to starting quarterback. Despite initial competition with Montana, Young emerged as a leading NFL quarterback, known for his efficient passing and mobility.

1994 Super Bowl and MVP Seasons

Young’s career highlight came in the 1994 season, where he led the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XXIX and was named the Super Bowl MVP. He set a Super Bowl record with six touchdown passes in the game. Young was also named the NFL’s MVP in 1992 and 1994, showcasing his dominance in the league.

Later Years and Retirement

Young’s later career was marred by injuries, particularly concussions, which led to his retirement in 1999. He left the sport with numerous records and accolades, including the highest career passer rating at the time and significant rushing achievements for a quarterback.

Legacy and Honors

Steve Young’s NFL career is marked by his efficiency as a passer and skill as a runner. His ability to maintain a high passer rating, combined with his rushing achievements, places him among the best quarterbacks in NFL history. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, the first left-handed quarterback to receive this honor.

Young’s No. 8 jersey was retired by the San Francisco 49ers, and he has been honored with numerous awards and recognitions, including multiple Pro Bowl selections and league MVP awards. His legacy as a quarterback who could both pass and run effectively has influenced the evolution of the position in modern football.

Steve Bono (1989-1993)

Steve Bono backed up both Joe Montana and Steve Young during his time with the 49ers. Coming from UCLA, Bono was a reliable second-string quarterback who stepped up when needed. In 1991, when Montana was injured, Bono played a more prominent role, showcasing his ability to lead the team effectively.

Elvis Grbac (1994-1996)

Elvis Grbac, a University of Michigan product, joined the 49ers in 1994. Serving primarily as a backup to Steve Young, Grbac had opportunities to start during Young’s injuries. In his starts, he demonstrated strong passing abilities and helped the team maintain competitiveness.

Jeff Garcia (1999-2003)

Jeff Garcia, after a successful stint in the Canadian Football League, joined the 49ers in 1999. From San Jose State University, Garcia quickly made an impact. He became known for his mobility and accurate passing, leading the team to multiple playoff appearances. Garcia threw for over 16,000 yards and 113 touchdowns during his time with the 49ers, earning three Pro Bowl selections.

Tim Rattay (2000-2005)

Tim Rattay, drafted from Louisiana Tech University, spent several years with the 49ers primarily as a backup quarterback. He had opportunities to start in place of injured quarterbacks and showed potential with his passing skills. Rattay’s tenure with the team was marked by periods of productive play interspersed with injuries.

Ken Dorsey (2003-2005)

Ken Dorsey, a standout quarterback from the University of Miami, joined the 49ers in 2003. Dorsey played mostly in a backup role but started some games during his tenure. Known for his intelligence and leadership in college, Dorsey’s time in the NFL was more about providing depth and support at the quarterback position.

Alex Smith (2005-2012)

Alex Smith, the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft from the University of Utah, had a tenure with the 49ers that was a tale of perseverance. Early in his career, Smith struggled with consistency and injuries. However, under the guidance of coach Jim Harbaugh, Smith’s performance improved significantly, leading the team to the NFC Championship game in the 2011 season. He passed for over 14,000 yards with the 49ers before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Colin Kaepernick (2011-2016)

Colin Kaepernick, drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft from the University of Nevada, Reno, became a prominent figure for the 49ers both on and off the field. Initially serving as a backup to Alex Smith, Kaepernick took over as the starting quarterback in the 2012 season and led the team to Super Bowl XLVII, showcasing his dynamic play style that combined strong arm strength with exceptional running ability. He threw for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns during his tenure with the 49ers. Kaepernick’s career with the 49ers was also marked by his political activism, particularly his protests during the national anthem to highlight racial injustice and police brutality.

Blaine Gabbert (2014-2016)

Blaine Gabbert, a former first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, joined the 49ers in 2014 after a stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The University of Missouri graduate started several games for the 49ers, initially as a backup to Kaepernick. Gabbert’s time with the 49ers was marked by moderate success, as he tried to revitalize his career with mixed results.

C.J. Beathard (2017-Present)

Drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft from the University of Iowa, C.J. Beathard became part of the 49ers’ quarterback lineup. Beathard has played both as a starter and a backup during his time with the team, showing resilience and a competitive spirit. His tenure has been characterized by periods of promising play, though consistency has been a challenge.

Jimmy Garoppolo (2017-2022)

Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots in 2017, quickly became the starting quarterback for the 49ers. A product of Eastern Illinois University, Garoppolo’s impact was immediate, as he led the team to several victories following his debut. His tenure with the team includes leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl LIV. Garoppolo’s tenure has been marked by efficient play and leadership, though injuries have been a significant factor in his time with the team.

Nick Mullens (2018-2020)

Nick Mullens, an undrafted free agent from Southern Mississippi University, joined the 49ers in 2018. Mullens started several games for the 49ers, primarily as a backup to Garoppolo. He showed potential as a reliable passer, particularly in 2018, when he had to step in due to injuries. Mullens’ time with the team highlighted his ability to manage games effectively and keep the offense moving.

Trey Lance (2021-2023)

Trey Lance, selected with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft from North Dakota State University, is one of the newest additions to the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback lineage. Known for his remarkable athleticism and arm strength, Lance brought a new dimension to the 49ers’ offense. His rookie year was primarily spent as a backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, but he showed potential in his limited starts. He has since been traded to the Dallas Cowboys.

Brock Purdy (2022 – present)

Brock Purdy, the final pick (262nd overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft, was selected by the San Francisco 49ers, earning him the title of “Mr. Irrelevant.” Despite this moniker, his performance in the NFL soon proved anything but irrelevant. Coming out of Iowa State University, Purdy entered the league with a record of collegiate success, although some scouts had concerns about his athleticism and arm strength. However, Purdy quickly dispelled these doubts with his agility and mental acuity, especially fitting well into the 49ers’ offensive scheme.

His debut season in 2022 was marked by a rapid ascension. Initially the third-string quarterback behind Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy was thrust into the spotlight following injuries to both. He made his regular-season debut in October 2022, and after Garoppolo’s injury in December, Purdy stepped in as the starter. His first few games were notable, especially a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making him the only quarterback in his first start to beat a team led by Tom Brady. Purdy’s performances were characterized by his calm demeanor under pressure, a trait likened to that of Patrick Mahomes by Hall of Famer Steve Young.

Purdy continued to impress throughout the remainder of the season, leading the 49ers to multiple victories and clinching the NFC West division. His total quarterback rating in his first two starts was among the highest in NFL history, drawing comparisons to greats like Aaron Rodgers. By the end of the regular season, Purdy had thrown for 1,374 yards, thirteen touchdowns, and only four interceptions, boasting the highest passer rating for a quarterback in his first five starts since Kurt Warner in 1999.

In the 2022 playoffs, Purdy became the first 49ers rookie quarterback to start and win a playoff game. He showcased exceptional performance in the Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks, setting multiple records for a rookie quarterback in a playoff game. However, his season ended on a sour note with an injury in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Entering the 2023 season fully recovered, Purdy was named the starting quarterback for the 49ers. He continued his impressive form, setting records for completion rate and leading the team to high-scoring victories. His performances in the 2023 season further established him as a rising star and a key player for the 49ers. Despite a loss against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6, his achievements throughout the season, including surpassing 4,000 passing yards, showcased his significant impact on the team. His selection as the NFC’s starting quarterback for the 2024 Pro Bowl Games was a testament to his remarkable growth and skill as a quarterback in the NFL.

Sam Darnold (2023)

Sam Darnold joined the San Francisco 49ers in 2023, bringing with him experience from his previous stints with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. A former first-round pick from the University of Southern California, Darnold’s career had been a mix of high expectations and challenging moments. With the 49ers, he aimed to leverage his experience and talent to contribute to the team, whether as a starter or in a supporting role, offering a blend of youth and experience to the quarterback room.

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