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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Purdy on pace to be 49ers’ first 4,000-yard passer since Jeff Garcia

Sep 22, 2023 at 12:00 PM--

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Since the turn of the century, there have been 179 single-season quarterback performances of at least 4,000 yards. The 49ers, as fans well know, have but one—Jeff Garcia's impressive but futile 4,278 yard effort in a 2000 season that saw SF go just 6-10. Since then, that franchise high-water mark has gone untouched. There have been a few other contenders to rally around in that span—Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and Jimmy Garoppolo, but each have fallen short of that historic mark.

Brock Purdy, though, will at least threaten to meet that lofty expectation. With his latest 310-yard, two-touchdown performance, Purdy finds himself on pace for a 4,171-yard season in 2023. His key trait has been his efficiency; so far this year, he's completed 67.0% of his passes, and has yet to record an interception.

While the lucky bounces with the 49ers this year will eventually break the other way, the foundation of San Francisco's quarterback play is solid. Purdy takes care of the ball in a way that Garoppolo largely could not, and he's just as comfortable distributing the ball to his playmakers as he is scrambling and hitting a big play.

Perhaps it seems fluky that Purdy racked up so many yards on Thursday despite throwing short; after all, 197 of his 310 yards came after the catch. But this illustrates why Purdy is, at the very least, set up better than anyone since Garcia to top the 4K mark. The New York Giants brought a historic amount of pressure, blitzing on 85% of Purdy's dropbacks, and the combined might of San Francisco's blockers and playmakers made them pay for overcommitting.

We've already seen Purdy dice up defenses that give head coach Kyle Shanahan space to scheme up intermediate routes over the middle of the field, and the back-shoulder touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel is just another example in a growing pile of evidence that Purdy is fully willing to trust his receivers to win 1-on-1 outside.

If Purdy stays healthy over the course of this season, it's hard to imagine that he can't at least come very close. He might end up falling short, but in the modern, 17-game NFL landscape, the 4,000-yard milestone is easier than ever to hit. Arguably, the "new" milestone should be 4,250 yards, which Purdy is a little behind at this point. But Niners fans, who have been waiting for this level of quarterback excellence for over two decades now, understand that these things happen one step at a time.

That's why the 4,000 yard mark is no less important to the 49ers than it was a decade ago—not because the number means anything by itself, but in the cache that it represents. You don't just waltz into a 4,000 yard season, especially not on a team this willing to play strong, complementary football in every phase of the game. It takes a degree of leadership and talent that you can't simply replace over the offseason. It takes a franchise quarterback, the kind of player you can rally around for a Super Bowl run and expect to win.

Brock Purdy might just be that guy.

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