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Brock Purdy isn’t just 49ers QB1, he’s become the team’s leader

Marc Adams
Jun 22, 2024 at 12:24 PM

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Two years ago, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was just a rookie. At the onset of 49ers training camp, Purdy, who was barely drafted, was the team's fourth-string QB. Sitting behind starter Trey Lance, backup Jimmy Garoppolo, and third-stringer Nate Sudfeld, not much was expected from Purdy.

But Purdy beat out Sudfeld by the end of training camp and became the number three QB on the roster. That is until Lance and Garoppolo both sustained season-ending injuries. What Purdy did the rest of his rookie year was improbable and impressive, winning every game he started and finished.

This time last year, Purdy was recovering from a torn UCL. No one expected him to have the season he ended up having in 2023, passing for more yards in a single season than any 49ers quarterback ever has. And though the 49ers ended their season with a loss in the Super Bowl, Purdy proved himself to be more than capable as a QB1.

But now the team's QB1 is emerging as its most prominent leader. By all accounts, Purdy has been much more vocal this offseason. We should have seen it coming. From the time he first entered the huddle and scolded star tight end George Kittle, who was talking when he should have been listening, Purdy hasn't appeared to lack any confidence.

Nick Wagoner covers the 49ers for ESPN, and he wrote on Saturday, "During organized team activities and minicamp practices, Purdy was clearly in command. In meeting rooms and the locker room, teammates say Purdy was more vocal. It was a far cry from the 2023 offseason when Purdy was recovering from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and unable to take any of the work he was doing in the classroom out onto the field."

The fact that his teammates are mentioning it says a lot. Garoppolo was well-loved, and well-respected among his teammates. But he wasn't always the vocal leader. In fact, during the offseason, coaches and teammates couldn't even get the quarterback to return their calls or texts.

Additionally, Garoppolo never seemed to get any better. Some still believe he was at his best in 2017, when he started the final five games of the season for the 49ers. Purdy, on the other hand, has continued to get better. In some ways, he has been the anti-Garoppolo.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has seen a difference, as well. "He is definitely ahead of where he was last year this time. It's been awesome for him to lead us through the whole offseason, just drillwise and everything. It's been great to have [him] for a first full offseason."

As Wagoner points out, "As the unquestioned QB1, Purdy's offseason has been all about taking the next step as a team leader, either by making his voice louder among teammates or putting in the work in the weight room to get bigger, faster and stronger." Purdy has taken those steps. He will show up to training camp in better shape physically and as a leader. And that's exactly what his team needs from him.

Purdy has been working with his QB coach, Brian Griese, not only on the football side of the game but on the leadership side of the game. "That's what we talk about," Griese said. "Situational awareness on top of all the progressions and then growing as a leader off the field and in the locker room and what that entails and what that looks like. And as you gain more experience and status on the team and the league within the organization, what opportunities that presents for you to take a little bit bigger voice and setting accountability and expectations."

Will Purdy be better in 2024 than he was in 2023? Perhaps. One thing is for sure, though. Those who are watching are noticing a more vocal leader, and that is a good thing. Purdy was already the 49ers starting quarterback. Now he's growing into the team's leader.
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