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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers tidbits: How old was Brock Purdy the last time SF had a Pro Bowl QB?

Marc Adams
Jan 6, 2024 at 8:00 AM--

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This week is a little different for the NFC West Champion San Francisco 49ers. With the number-one seed already clinched, there's nothing to play for on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. It's essentially a "get through the game with no injuries" day.

Starting quarterback Brock Purdy has already been declared "out." Sam Darnold will start in his place. Injuries are keeping the 49ers from sitting some other non-injured players. So far, Purdy is the only one we've heard won't play (other than players dealing with injuries).

Head coach Kyle Shanahan voiced concern over the starters sitting out two weeks in a row, so that's another reason we won't see as many players resting as we might have initially thought. That means guys like Trent Williams, Fred Warner, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel may very well play.

Here are some 49ers tidbits—a few odds and ends—as we close out the regular season.

Baby Brock

How long has it been since the 49ers had a Pro Bowl quarterback? Well, Purdy was only three years old the last time it happened. That's a long drought for a franchise that boasts back-to-back Hall of Famers at the position.

The year was 2002, and Jeff Garcia was the 49ers' Pro Bowl quarterback. It was Steve Mariucci's final season as head coach of the 49ers. It was also the last time the 49ers would make the playoffs until Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2011.

Purdy also broke Garcia's record for most passing yards in a season by a 49ers quarterback. Garcia set that record in 2000.

Rest versus rust

The debate has raged all week long—should Shanahan rest his players to protect them from injury? Or should he play them to prevent them from being rusty once his team hits the postseason? Shanahan chose to rest Purdy, but it sounds like everyone else (other than injured players) will play at least some.

As you can imagine, Shanahan is not the first 49ers coach who has had to make this decision. It's the first time Shanahan has had to make it, though. None of his previous seasons as head coach included a number-one seed that was clinched before the final game. In 2019, the 49ers had the top seed, but they didn't clinch it until the final game of the season, on a Sunday night in Seattle.

Here are the 49ers coaches who played their starters in the final game with the top seed already clinched and how their team fared that postseason:

  • 1984: Bill Walsh. Won the Super Bowl.
  • 1987: Walsh. Lost in the divisional round.
  • 1989: George Seifert. Won the Super Bowl.
  • 1994: Seifert. Won the Super Bowl.
  • 1997: Steve Mariucci. Lost in the NFC Championship Game.

What does this mean? Probably nothing. Every team is different. Every season is different. Kyle Shanahan is doing what he believes is best for his team. How it affects them in the postseason remains to be seen.

Steve Young was a guest on KNBR this week and expressed a little concern for the team, specifically Purdy, to be off for so long between starts. Although the coaches listed above played their starters in those games, there were also some seasons when the 49ers rested some players. So Young has seen both sides of it.

Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Chris Foerster doesn't seem concerned about it, though. He says practice will make up for it.

"Yeah, the thing is that these practices become important," Forrester said. "You need to practice. Everybody needs to practice. Everybody needs to practice hard because you can't just take weeks off. Nobody can. It's any sport, you just don't take weeks off and jump back and play at the level – we've been playing pretty solid football through the season. You want guys to stay at that level."

Shannahan will use the practice week to keep his players sharp.

Does Purdy have any concerns about not playing a meaningful snap for three weeks?

Purdy spoke to the media this week and addressed the rest versus rust issue, saying, "That's something that I brought up to Kyle, and then he brought up some really good points just in terms of like the preseason not getting a whole lot of reps and snaps and then going into Pittsburgh and playing well enough to win. Same with the Bye Week, coming back and having a good performance against Jacksonville. I think I've done it this year, in terms of having some rest and then coming in and playing."

It sounds like Purdy may have had some concerns, but Shanahan persuaded him on why rest is more important. (Actually, it's not so much rest for Purdy as it is protection against possible injury.)

Clelin Ferrell, the runner?

Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said some good things about edge rusher Clelin Ferrell. Wilks said, "He runs, if you look at his GPS, he probably runs more than some of the other skill players, to be quite honest, the way he chases the ball and runs down the field. I think he does a lot for setting the tone early in the game."

That's impressive for a big guy, and Ferrell has had a good season. He has a few sacks, but he made most of his impact on early downs, dealing with the run game.

For those who declared Sam Darnold would be the 49ers starting QB…

You're finally getting your wish. Darnold isn't just coming in for Purdy, he's actually starting the game. And his teammates appear to have plenty of confidence in him.

Linebacker Fred Warner said of Darnold, "I'm really excited for Sam to have this opportunity. I've seen great things from him since the day he's gotten here, and also, too, him being a veteran in this league, playing against him. He has insane arm talent, making the sorts of throws out on the practice field that I haven't seen anybody make.

"He's a really talented quarterback. It's going to be good for him to go out there and get some [playing time]."

While Young may be concerned about Purdy having to go a few weeks between starts, this is a good opportunity for Darnold to work with the offense just in case he has to play. Hopefully, that doesn't happen, but if it does, it will benefit the 49ers by having a quarterback who has played more than garbage time in a few blowouts.

Purdy breaks another 49ers QB record

It turns out that the passing yardage record isn't the only one Purdy will break this season. He will also break the record for the highest passer rating by a 49ers quarterback. Purdy will finish 2023 with a passer rating of 113.0, breaking Young's record of 112.8 in 1994. Young was named NFL MVP that season. Oh, and he also won the Super Bowl and was named Super Bowl MVP.

That's how good of a season Purdy has had. He's probably out of the running for NFL MVP, but winning Super Bowl MVP is much more important. Win your franchise's sixth Lombardi trophy, and you'll be a Bay Area legend. Fail to win it, and the records won't mean as much. That said, what Purdy has done, as the last pick of the draft, in only his second season, is impressive.

2,000-yard man

Christian McCaffrey surpassed 2,000 scrimmage yards on the season. He's the first 49ers player since Frank Gore to do so. Gore did it in 2006, his second season in the league.

Roger Craig, of course, first did it in 1985, his third season in the NFL. That's when he became the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. McCaffrey would later do that himself when he was in Carolina.

Craig also surpassed 2,000 yards in 1988. Garrison Hearst did it for the 49ers in 1998, ten years after Craig did it for the second time.

Brandon Aiyuk soaring

How impressive has Brandon Aiyuk's 2023 season been? His 1,317 receiving yards are the 11th best in 49ers history. Of course, Jerry Rice has six seasons of more than 1,300 yards. He was pretty decent.

The only 49ers pass catchers to top Aiyuk since the 2000 season are:

  • Terrell Owens (2000): 1,451
  • Owens (2001): 1,412
  • Samuel (2021): 1,405
  • Kittle (2018): 1,377

Aiyuk deserved to be named to the Pro Bowl. While he is an alternate, he deserved better. But that's ok. This 49ers team has no intentions of being involved in the Pro Bowl activities. They have much bigger fish (or birds) to fry.
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.

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