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49ers QB Brock Purdy Will (Eventually) Shut You Up

May 29, 2024 at 2:12 PM

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I stayed quiet. For the better part of two long years, I just quietly held my peace.

Oh, it certainly wasn't easy, not when I had this platform available. But I just let the "experts" go; I just let them have their say. Why even try to argue with them? There's no reason in these debates anymore. There's just shouting, usually in defense of preconceived judgments—or, dare I say, "narratives"—that only seem to get more entrenched, even as they get soundly debunked.

And, let's be honest, I knew better than to overreact to a few early starts. We'd been through this so many times already. Five years earlier, Jimmy Garoppolo took over and rattled off five straight wins. Five years before that, Colin Kaepernick took over and got all the way to the Super Bowl. Hell, remember Tim Rattay's first two starts?

Sure, there was something disgusting about the mainstream media's snobbish refusal to even consider the possibility that they were witnessing one of the greatest underdog stories ever. (Wasn't this the kind of thing, in less cynical times, we used to love?) But I just hadn't seen enough, and ultimately it didn't matter anyway.

Brock Purdy's elbow was destroyed. Whatever this was—whatever it could've been—it was over.

And yet, it only got better from there.

His recovery from the injury, in time for week one, was miraculous enough. But then he just picked up where he had left off. After finishing '22 with seven straight wins—Philly doesn't count—he started '23 with another five. Twelve straight wins, with 23 touchdowns, two interceptions, and nine ratings over 110. But the stats, as gaudy as they clearly were, didn't come close to doing justice to how he looked, with his immediate command, his unflappable cool, and his uncanny knack for throwing not to where the receivers were but to where those receivers would eventually be. No quarterback—never mind a last pick in the draft—had ever started his career any better, and no quarterback ever will.

And yet, the "experts" wouldn't stop trying to denigrate him.

And boy, did they try everything. As the wins kept coming—amid a few inevitable losses, which you can bet they savored with bizarre glee—they swerved wildly from one outlandish theory to the next, desperately grasping for some explanation, some proof that this was just smoke and mirrors. Their first theory was that Purdy was merely a "checkdown merchant," throwing short to receivers who beefed up his stats with yards after the catch. By the end of the season, this theory would die a gruesome death, as Purdy led all starters in air yards per attempt while less than half his yardage came after the catch. So then they decided that Purdy was merely a product of Kyle Shanahan's system, which was known for scheming receivers open. But they never explained why no one else who'd played in that system, particularly Garoppolo, could produce the way that Purdy did.

So the "experts" just kept moving the goalposts, until their arguments were completely unhinged. As Purdy orchestrated one blowout after another, they had the gall to complain that he hadn't shown he could lead late comebacks—as if the blowouts were his fault or something—until, of course, he led one in the playoffs. Next, they merely assumed that Purdy couldn't deliver without a clean pocket, blithely ignoring his top-five rating when under pressure. They even resorted to the logical fallacy of the "counterfactual conditional": just look at how many interceptions he could've thrown!

It was astonishing how far they'd go to deny what was right in front of their eyes. And it was frankly depressing to realize why: they were prejudiced against Brock Purdy. He simply didn't look the part. He didn't have the hulking frame. He didn't have the cannon arm. And to one particular high-profile "expert," he didn't even have the name. " 'Brock Purdy' is just kind of a weird name," he said. " 'Purdy' is a little too close to 'Turdy.' I just think people have a hard time looking at that name and saying, 'That's a franchise quarterback.' "

That's the stuff we're dealing with here. Mr. Irrelevant overcomes impossible odds (and a career-threatening injury) to put up one of the greatest statistical seasons ever and go toe to toe with the media's lord and savior during a Super Bowl where he never leaves the field trailing. And instead of celebrating him, instead of giving him his due, they taunt him with insults worthy of a fourth-grader. That's the stuff we're dealing with here.

And these "experts" really should know better, because we've been through this already too. Joe Montana was clearly not an unknown like Purdy—he'd won a national title at Notre Dame, after all—but he was dismissed for the very same things. He was too small, too skinny, and his arm was too weak. And when he immediately took off in Bill Walsh's system, which was known for scheming receivers open, his success was dismissed as a product of the system. These "experts" today won't hesitate to tell you that Montana is one of the all-time greats, and then in the next breath, they'll denigrate Purdy. They literally don't know what they're talking about.

And to some extent, they'll even admit it. Usually around draft time, in part to protect their jobs (and egos), they'll tell you how tough it is to evaluate quarterbacks. This year, the case in point was the already infamous '21 draft, when a record eight QBs were taken in the first three rounds. Beyond the decidedly underwhelming Trevor Lawrence—though, oh my word, does he look the part!—it's a list of one bust after another. And from this, they'll say, "See? It's not our fault. We might get millions to make these decisions, but in the end it's just a crapshoot!"

That's certainly a strange way to justify their salaries. But it's also indisputably wrong.

These "experts" are just looking for the wrong things. Befitting our comic-book-obsessed culture, they're looking for superheroes. They're looking for crazy highlights of athletic freaks making plays "out of structure." (Though Purdy's made plenty of those plays too.) But what they've forgotten is that the great QBs are actually the ones who make plays in structure.

Leave it to Montana to explain what makes a great QB (and, indeed, he was talking about Purdy): "He processes quickly, ball comes out of his hand quickly, he makes good decisions and he throws accurately." That's it. That's all there is to it. You'll note he said nothing about "arm talent" or "scrambling ability," and yet that's all the "experts" see. Is it any surprise that they waste pick after pick?

That's not to say that what Montana suggests is easy to do. Indeed, it's infinitely harder than the heroball that the "experts" revere. Just ask Steve Young, who had all the "arm talent" and "scrambling ability" in the universe, and made all kinds of crazy plays, but never became a great QB until he finally learned how to process and throw. Or better yet, just pay attention when you watch QBs. How often do you see them do what Purdy does so casually: drop back, scan the field, execute a hitch, and make an accurate throw on time and in rhythm? As opposed to dropping back, taking one look, and going into panic mode? No question, these athletic freaks can do incredible things in panic mode; they might heave a bomb that finds a receiver whom the defense lost track of during the scramble drill, or they might escape a collapsing pocket and sprint untouched for a 40-yard touchdown. The crowd will roar, the highlight will be played on an endless loop, and the "experts" will go nuts over the QB's "arm talent" or "scrambling ability." But that really isn't great quarterback play. It's just a flashy distraction from the fact that the QB doesn't know what he's doing—and the "experts" don't even know what they're watching.

And now, here we go again. The lists of this season's top QBs are just now coming out, with Purdy usually in the middle of the pack. One representative example has him 13th, firmly average, behind the likes of Dak Prescott (whose next big-game moment will be his first), Aaron Rodgers (who's old, coming off a major injury, and quite possibly insane), Jalen Hurts (give me a break), and even Lawrence. After the season that Purdy just had, the entrenched disrespect is almost literally unbelievable.

And I'm done staying quiet about it. Brock Purdy is an "elite" QB, and he won't stop proving it until even the "experts" can finally see it.

And hopefully, then, they'll go quiet themselves.
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  • Gary
    Best synopsis on Purdy detractors I've read so far. Great job!
    Jun 5, 2024 at 8:55 AM
  • Chanto
    Good to have you back Jeff.
    May 30, 2024 at 8:35 PM
  • Joseph Pearlman
    There is one thing you avoided. If he had been any other than a white QB, it would have been hands off by the media with no bad press and they would have been calling him the next phenom.
    May 29, 2024 at 4:28 PM
  • RamItOn
    correction: 2) should read: consult Youtube for videos where athlete concerned can do things (50 yard touchdown run, 70 yard bomb) that Purdy can't or hasn't done.
    May 29, 2024 at 4:14 PM
  • RamItOn
    Mr. Kaplan, In no particular order: 1) I heard of that quote by Florio, and was not certain if he was being sarcastic or not (and don't care for his opinions enough to actually listen to interview). He has written some pretty ridiculous stuff that can't be considered tongue-in-cheek (particularly the 2011 labor dispute and lockout) so I am forced to take him at his word on this--and consequently think he's an idiot. 2) The Stat-Whore dance is amusing: pundits live by statistics (the obvious: passing yards, touchdown passes, third down conversions, etc) until the conclusion those stats yield doesn't fit their narrative, then they resort to more obscure arguments, which you described perfectly: the "off-schedule" play that gets ratings and Youtube commentary featuring the host's mouth perpetually open in ABSOLUTE AWE OF THE SICK ABILITY OF [insert athlete's name here], or the derogatory "game manager" designation, or one of its many synonyms. 3) to the critics of Purdy's credit, I too was slow to jump on the bandwagon, namely because I lived through the Drought of the Mid-Aughts, where every loss was deemed a lesson to build on, and yes, the Rattay/Dorsey/Ponder Decade of Perpetual Unfulfilled Promises. After 2023's mid-season slump and recovery, I became a believer, and Purdy's playoff and Super Bowl performances (like you said, he tied that game up multiple times--he can't play defense, too) further inspired confidence. Now, he gets the benefit of the doubt. 4) I read draft evaluations purely for the entertainment value, not to learn anything. Like listening to NPR, I do it probably for the wrong reasons. 5) finally, I'd like to see you and Marc Adams team up for some content. Both excellent, thoughtful writers. Any chance of a Q&A between you two, even highlighting areas where you agree. Good stuff. Thank you.
    May 29, 2024 at 4:07 PM


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