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The (Not So) Curious Case of MVP Brock Purdy

Brian Renick
Dec 5, 2023 at 9:00 AM--


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The 49ers traveled to Philadelphia on Sunday to take on the Eagles, the team with the best record in the NFL and the team with whom many believe (believed?) to be the MVP front-runner in QB Jalen Hurts.

The 49ers left Philadelphia with a resounding 42-19 victory in which QB Brock Purdy completed 70% of his passes for 314 yards, 4 TDs, and more importantly, 0 INTs or turnover-worthy plays.

On the other hand, Jalen Hurts put up what looks like decent stats: 26/45 for 298 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs. However, if you watched the game, it was evident that the Eagles were not in the same class as the 49ers, and their 19 points weren't anywhere near enough against a 49ers squad that scored touchdowns on six straight drives (after an admittedly slow start in the first quarter that ended with -6 total yards for the offense).

There is simply no reason at this point that Brock Purdy should not be the frontrunner for the MVP award, especially after outduelling the perceived frontrunner heading into the game.

The Background


Let's get this out of the way—you could make the argument that Brock Purdy isn't even the most valuable player on his own team. That honor would probably go to RB Christian McCaffrey (though an argument could be made for Trent Williams or Deebo Samuel based on how the offense performed when those two were injured and out of the lineup).

Let's also get this out of the way—the MVP award has largely become a QOTBT (Quarterback on the Best Team) award.

Since 2001, only three non-quarterbacks have won the award: RB Adrian Peterson in 2012, RB LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006, and RB Shaun Alexander in 2005.

Since 2010, the award has gone to the QB of the 1 or 2 seed in their given conference every season except 2012.

MVP is a QB award now.

The Numbers


Brock Purdy's Yards per Attempt (Y/A) this season hasn't just been good, it has been historically good.

Purdy currently boasts the highest Y/A (min 300 attempts) through twelve games in NFL History:
  1. 2023 Brock Purdy (9.59)
  2. 2011 Aaron Roders (9.42)
  3. 2004 Peyton Manning (9.41)
  4. 1988 Boomer Esiason (9.37)
  5. 1984 Dan Marino (9.31)

What do those four QBs on the list behind Purdy have in common? You guessed it! They all won the MVP award that season

Brock Purdy currently leads all QBs in the following statistics:

Passer Rating
  1. Brock Purdy - 116.1
  2. Dak Prescott - 108.3

Yards per Attempt Y/A
  1. Brock Purdy - 9.6
  2. Tua Tagovailoa - 8.6 (!)

Yards per Pass Completed
  1. Brock Purdy - 13.7
  2. C.J. Stroud - 13.4

Adjusted Yards per Attempt AY/A (A metric that measures the average yardage of a QBs passing attempts while accounting for TDs and INTs. Placing weight on those makes AY/A more impactful than Y/A)
  1. Brock Purdy - 10.17
  2. C.J. Stroud - 8.89 (!)

Net Yards per Attempt
  1. Brock Purdy - 8.6
  2. Tua Tagovailoa - 8.03

Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (Same as AY/A, but takes into account sacks as well)
  1. Brock Purdy - 9.14
  2. Tua Tagovailoa - 8.11

Completion %
  1. Brock Purdy - 70.2%
  2. Dak Prescott and Tua Tagovailoa - 70.1 %

Touchdown %
  1. Brock Purdy - 6.9%
  2. Dak Prescott - 6.3%

QBR
  1. Brock Purdy and Dak Prescott - 75.6

Passing Success Rate
  1. Brock Purdy - 54.9
  2. Tua Tagovailoa - 51.9

Expected Points Added (EPA) per Dropback
  1. Brock Purdy - .34
  2. Dak Prescott - .25 (!)

Total EPA
  1. Brock Purdy - 125
  2. Josh Allen - 114

The only meaningful statistics that Brock Purdy does not currently rank first in are:

Passing Yards
C.J. Stroud currently leads the league with 3540 yards. Purdy is 7th with 3185 yards.

Passing Touchdowns
Dak Prescott currently leads the league with 26 passing touchdowns. Purdy is 4th with 23 passing touchdowns.



Whichever metric you like to look at to rate quarterback success, there are only two that Brock Purdy isn't the current leader. The stats are there to back it all up.

Nobody is playing quarterback better in the NFL right now than Brock Purdy.

Narrative


Despite the overwhelming numbers listed above, there are still many who don't believe Purdy even warrants a discussion when it comes to the award.

Let's take a look at the majority of the talking points when it comes to discrediting Purdy's candidacy

The YAC Detractors


Many believe that the majority of Purdy's numbers reflect the skill of the 49ers' skill position players racking up yards after the catch (YAC).

However, when you examine the role that YAC has played for previous award winners, you can see that argument is more myth than anything, as Kyle Posey of Niners Nation pointed out:


Oops! Looks like that argument doesn't really hold water.

In fact, Brock Purdy leads the NFL in Air Yards per Attempt (how far passes traveled before being caught by the receiver) at 5.4 yards. C.J. Stroud is second at 5.3 yards.

Just a Product of the System


This argument likes to discredit Purdy because the offense he plays in is coordinated by a world-class playcaller in Kyle Shanahan and a stable of excellent playmakers surrounding him. While that is true, I would like anybody to point to any MVP of the last decade-plus who hasn't also benefitted from the same environment:

Patrick Mahomes had Andy Reid, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce

Aaron Rodgers had Matt LaFleur and Davante Adams

Tom Brady had Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski in Tampa Bay, and a number of incredible pass catchers in New England, including Randy Moss, the aforementioned Rob Gronkowski, and arguably the greatest coach in NFL history in Bill Belichick.

Matt Ryan had the same playcaller as Brock Purdy, along with Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, and Austin Hooper.

Do the same people discredit those QBs? Do they discredit Joe Montana for having Bill Walsh, Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig? How about Dan Marino for having Don Shula as a coach and the receiving duo of Mark Clayton and Mark Duper? Or Peyton Manning for having Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne?

Every QB is a product of their surroundings, as evidenced by the down year Patrick Mahomes is having in KC without anybody other than Travis Kelce as a reliable receiving target, Tom Brady in his final season in New England and Tampa Bay, or Aaron Rodgers in the waning seasons of the Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay.

However, the great QBs, the MVP-caliber players, elevate the system they are in, which is what Brock Purdy has done in 2023.



I believe it is difficult for analysts, fans, and talking heads to give Purdy the flowers he deserves because he shouldn't be this good. He was the last pick in the draft after all. To admit that his is good is to admit that everybody missed on his evaluation. That's a blow to the ego and something that most analysts and talking heads can't handle. They don't like being wrong.

But Brock Purdy has proved them all wrong.

Brock Purdy should be the frontrunner for the MVP.

If you don't agree, go argue with a wall.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.



1 Comment

  • Jason
    Beautifully written.
    Dec 5, 2023 at 11:18 AM
    1
    Response: Thanks for reading, Jason!

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