The San Francisco 49ers just picked up a win over the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It wasn’t with their first string quarterback, it wasn’t even with their second string quarterback, it was with their third string in Brock Purdy. After coming in to help the 49ers win last week against the Miami Dolphins, Purdy put together another great performance against the Buccaneers. This leaves the thought, he could end up being the long-term solution for the 49ers.
Purdy was at Iowa State for four years, and the start of his college career is very similar to his professional career. In the first game of the 2018 season, the Cyclones starting quarterback, Kyle Kempt, went down with an injury in the first game. But Iowa State went with Zeb Noland until they won only one-of-four games with him. It was then time for the Purdy era to begin after being the third string quarterback. Purdy went on to finish his freshman year winning seven of the last eight games he played in, finishing with 2,250 yards, 16 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
He finished with 12,170 yards, 81 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions while completing 67.7% of his passes, becoming the most productive quarterback in school history. He always showed he was an above-average athlete with the ability to escape the pocket, throw on the run, or pick up yardage himself in chunks. Purdy also showed he had the arm strength to fit the ball into tight windows and the ability to reach all levels of the field as well. There were a few negatives that dropped him to be “Mr. Irrelevant” though. The first being in contested situations, he didn’t exactly place the ball in spots for his receivers to gain yards after the catch. The Iowa State offense was also very reliant on the quick-game passes, which led to him needing to work on his progressions. Yet, that is exactly the offense of the 49ers.
It is no secret the goal of the 49ers offense is to get the ball out quickly and into your playmakers hands, don’t make mistakes, and rely on the run game. Going from Jimmy Garoppolo to Purdy, there wasn’t the need for a major adjustment in the playbook. Head coach Kyle Shanahan touched on this leading up to the Buccaneers game by saying “I think it [the difference in game plan] was a bit bigger from Trey [Lance] to Jimmy just in terms of the running element that Trey had. Just how we looked at a game plan, how we positioned all the formations to kind of keep him always as a threat as a runner. Jimmy and Brock aren’t necessarily running threats, so you don’t sit there and design stuff like that, but they’re definitely both mobile enough to make plays with their legs.”
This allowed for the offensive consistency, but Purdy still brings another element to the offense. Garoppolo can run here and there, but that isn’t exactly his specialty. Lance brings the rushing ability, but struggled with consistency throwing the ball as he adjusted to the NFL pace after playing at North Dakota State. Over the eight games Lance has played in he completed 56-of-102 passes for 797 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions, with 15-of-31 completions, 194 yards, and one interception coming from the two games he played this season. Lance has potential, but still needs time to develop. Purdy, on the other hand, combines the style of both Lance and Garoppolo to elevate the offense.
Brock out here ballin'
📺 #TBvsSF on FOX
📱 NFL+ // https://t.co/d2FDeaE8pp pic.twitter.com/1zjsUaH2IO
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 11, 2022
With how Purdy can create on the run, it allows the 49ers to utilize more rollouts on play-action passes to elevate the offense. This not only simplifies the offense for the rookie, but puts more stress on the defenses to account for the off-schedule plays. That has been shown in both games against the Buccaneers and Dolphins. Over the two games, Purdy has completed 41-of-58 passes for 395 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception while also rushing for a touchdown. Going even further, what Purdy did in the first half against the Buccaneers was impressive. He had a 146.5 passer rating, 185 yards, and three total touchdowns to become the first quarterback since 1991 when these stats were tracked to do so in his first start.
Brock Purdy's first half was… unprecedented
146.5 Pass Rating
185 Pass Yards
3 Total TD
No QB since 1991* has exceeded these totals in the first half of their first career start
*when stats per half were tracked pic.twitter.com/ytIqoDriLk
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) December 11, 2022
The experience Purdy had going up against Big 12 defenses and the top ranked 49ers defense in practice has helped prepare him for this moment. He has improved against pressure, is being precise with his throws, reading defenses while holding safeties, and getting the ball out quick to his playmakers in Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. Purdy is doing so while remaining confident, and that confidence on the field has shown with how the offense has played with him under center.
The 49ers spent a lot of draft capital to get Lance, which will play a huge factor in their decisions going forward. It is still early in his career, but with what Purdy has shown so far, he at least deserves to be in the discussion to be a long-term starter. Whether that is the primary starter to give Lance time to develop, or even in a split role with Lance to keep defenses guessing. Either way, it is an impressive start for the Purdy era in San Francisco, whatever the future may look like.