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That’s Exactly Why Brock Purdy Drives People Insane

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass during the first half against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at Levi's Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Santa Clara, California.
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

If Saturday night's divisional round game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers was your first time checking in on 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy this season, you should be pretty well caught up on how he's gone about tormenting anyone who has previously attempted to form an opinion on his abilities.

On the 49ers' final drive, the most important one, the one that won them the game, you saw the version of Brock Purdy who, at various points this season, has caused pundits and observers to declare him an MVP candidate. Down 21-17 with just over six minutes left to play, Purdy led his offense on a 12-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. He completed six of his seven pass attempts, converted a game-deciding third down with an inch-perfect pass to a slanting Brandon Aiyuk, and went on a heady nine-yard scramble to set up Christian McCaffrey's game-winning touchdown run. There was the Brock Purdy, the second-year QB who went 12-4 in the 16 regular-season games he started for San Francisco, threw for 4,280 yards, cashed 31 touchdowns, and was only intercepted 11 times.

Before that final drive, though, you saw a different version of Brock Purdy. You saw the version who, at various points this season, has caused pundits and observers to declare him nothing more than a feckless system QB who doesn't really do anything but sit back and let himself be carried along by the efforts of McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Kyle Shanahan's play-calling, and the suffocating force that is the 49ers' defense. Purdy spent almost the entire game fluttering interceptable balls, two of which hit a Packers defender directly in the hands before being dropped, all over the field. He overthrew receivers on medium routes, underthrew receivers on short routes, and generally looked like the kind of quarterback who doesn't belong in a playoff game. He was, until that final drive, thoroughly outplayed by Jordan Love, who was brave and effective in all the areas where Purdy was meek and lacking. There was Brock Purdy, the guy who threw four picks against the Ravens on Christmas and threw five interceptions across three consecutive losses in October.

How can Brock Purdy be both of these players—the clutch, steel-willed winner and the overwhelmed check-down artist—at the same time? It's a question that has fueled hours and hours of televised sports debate over the last few months, and will continue to do so until the 49ers' season ends. One thing that urges this question on, and works against Purdy, is aesthetics. For as underwhelming as Purdy's numbers were through the first three quarters of Saturday's game, it was how he looked while compiling them that stuck in the mind.

There was no confidence to be found on any of Purdy's passes. He spent the game fixated on the rainy weather's effect on his grip, starting the game with a glove, then taking it off, and at one point wiping his hand on his pant leg in the middle of a drop-back. He looked hesitant and diminutive whenever the pocket collapsed around him, and every drive seemed to end with him ruefully shaking his head or punctuating yet another badly thrown ball with a frustrated clap. That's just not how you want your starting quarterback to look in a playoff game, particularly when the QB on the other team is busy striding across the grass and uncorking bare-handed, back-foot completions to receivers down the field. Perhaps a slightly different version of Purdy, one who was three inches taller, threw his bad passes with a little more velocity, and bravely tried to stiff-arm his way out of every sack, wouldn't invite so much intense questioning of his abilities. There's a difference between being a bad quarterback and looking like a bad quarterback, after all.

None of this is a problem for Purdy and the 49ers, but rather the people who have to make a living talking about them. The 49ers aren't Purdy's team. Their fate ultimately rests with McCaffrey, Aiyuk, Samuels, Kittle, Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and all the other high-level players stuffed onto the roster. They aren't the first great team to become Super Bowl contenders with a goofy, sometimes underwhelming quarterback (Eli Manning's Giants say hello) and they won't be the last.

Anyway, is Brock Purdy a championship-caliber quarterback? What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

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