Former 49ers QB Has Blunt Assessment of Brock Purdy

What kind of quarterback is Brock Purdy?

The San Francisco 49ers signal-caller has been described as many things during his almost two full seasons in the NFL – some are positive, while others are negative. Purdy began his career as Mr. Irrelevant in 2022 before he proved himself very relevant when he led the 49ers to the NFC title game as a rookie that season. He was even considered an MVP favorite at one point in 2023 before a stretch of poor performances in the middle of the season.

Another term some – including former NFL quarterback Cam Newton – used to describe Purdy this season was “game manager.” What this effectively means is that Purdy merely runs the 49ers’ offense rather than elevates the play on the field with his skillset.

Former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who began his career in San Francisco before spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Commanders, didn’t like that assessment of Purdy.

“I can tell you, as the unofficial president of the Game Manager’s Club, [Purdy’s] not allowed in,” Smith said Sunday. “… Again, all these narratives that we’ve heard, they couldn’t be more wrong. I think it’s lazy analysis, and again, it doesn’t make sense when a guy who’s as young as he is, he’s 6-foot-nothing, all his measurables don’t jump off the screen, and it doesn’t make sense to people. So, they revert to these narratives that, again, couldn’t be more untrue.”

As the unofficial president of the “Game Manager’s Club,” Alex Smith not only took issue with giving Brock Purdy that label, but said he’s not allowed in.

— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 28, 2024

Smith went on to explain why Purdy is more than a game manager. He noted the Purdy showed his ability to make plays in the face of pressure rather than throw the ball way, check the ball down to a running back or take a sack. Smith added that Purdy’s throws have made the 49ers’ impressive collection of offensive players better as well.

“That kid is the best player on the playground right there, right?” Smith said. “But he’s just running a system? What system is that?”

Why is Purdy Called a ‘Game Manager?’

The biggest reasons for the moniker around Purdy is the system he plays in and the talent around him in San Francisco.

The offense deployed by 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has consistently bred career-high production quarterbacks. Matt Ryan won NFL MVP with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 during his second season with Shanahan at offensive coordinator, while Jimmy Garoppolo took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2019. Both quarterbacks are good, but they looked elite in Shanahan’s offense.

San Francisco’s collection of skill position players are among the best in the NFL. Running back Christian McCaffrey led the league in rushing yards, scrimmage yards and total touchdowns, while wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk both finished with more than 1,000 scrimmage yards each. Tight end George Kittle is also one of the best at his position. This unit tied for the fewest dropped passes this year with 16, too, per Pro Football Focus.

With all of this at his disposal, Purdy finished the year with 4,280 passing yards, 31 passing touchdowns with a 69.4% completion rate and just 11 interceptions. Those numbers ranked fifth, third and fourth in the regular season, respectively.

Despite that production, Newton believes Purdy is simply a product of the system around him and the 49ers aren’t winning outright because of his play on the field.

“They’re not winning because of him,” Newton said the 4th-and-1 podcast in December. “He’s managing the game. …  They’re not difference makers.”

Purdy refused to answer questions about Newton’s comment when asked a few days later, but added that “we’ll see at the end of all of it.” And now, as Purdy sits a game away from a Super Bowl appearance, the rest of the NFL is about to see where he story will go in just his second season.

Purdy Proved to be Himself vs. Packers

The second-year quarterback stepped up in a big way in the NFC divisional round against the Green Bay Packers this past week.

While his stats weren’t jaw-dropping – Purdy completed 23-of-39 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown – he led the 49ers to a a game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter. Purdy completed 6-of-7 passes for 47 yards and scrambled twice for 11 yards before McCaffrey scored a touchdown with 1:07 left in the game.

Earlier in the contest, Purdy hit Kittle for a 32-yard score for his seventh touchdown while scrambling. That scored tied him with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, according to NextGen Stats.

“Brock, he made some big plays in this game,” Shanahan said after the game. “Missed a couple, [too]. But leading us down on that last drive and getting the win, that’s all you can ask for.”

Purdy played like a quarterback who had complete command of the offense. Pundits will still see a game manager in the second-year passer, but Purdy will get another chance to prove he isn’t one against the Detroit Lions in the NFC title game.

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