By Kai Esser
It came as a shock to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13 of the current NFL season.
Jimmy Garoppolo was able to throw just four passes before he had to go out injured. The diagnosis: a broken foot. The legitimate hopes of 49ers fans that this star-studded and All-Pros squad could reach, let alone win, the Super Bowl seemed dashed at first.
Around two months later, the euphoria at the Golden Gate Bridge was fully rekindled. The reason has a name: Brock Purdy. The very last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft breathed new life into the Super Bowl dreams of Bay Area fans. It’s a fairy tale written by the Iowa State rookie. It’s already one for the NFL history books.
Rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl? Purdy would be a novelty
The 23-year-old has won seven games in a row, something no rookie quarterback has ever done before. Overall, the 49ers’ winning streak now stands at twelve games. So he already has an entry in the 103-year history of the NFL. And he already gives interviews like an experienced QB. “Playoff football is never easy. We’re just glad we won,” Purdy said after the narrow win over the Dallas Cowboys.
However, he could still go one better: Because no quarterback has ever led his team through the playoffs to the Super Bowl in the first year. The last attempt by a rookie in 2021 failed abruptly in the Wild Card Round: Mac Jones and the New England Patriots were eliminated without a chance against the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round.
Purdy could have big shoes to fill if he makes it to the Super Bowl. The playmaker selected in place of 262 was literally the last player drafted in the NFL Draft, so only the undrafted free agents went later. Of those, only two ever made it into the Vince Lombardi Trophy final: Kurt Warner with the St. Louis Rams (2) and Arizona Cardinals, and Jake Delhomme with the Carolina Panthers.
While the latter is just one of many names in NFL history, as a Hall of Famer, Warner is a sporting force that Purdy could face if he wins the Super Bowl.
Away with the Eagles: The hardest test so far
However, in between is an AFC team and before that the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. Not only will it be Purdy’s first away game in the playoffs, but the toughest test of all for the young quarterback.
“It’s extraordinary that he brought us here,” said tight end George Kittle after beating Dallas. Now Purdy has to prove that he wasn’t just worn by his team.
Not only do the 49ers have to fly across the USA and through three different time zones into a completely different climate, but they are faced with none other than the best NFC team of the past regular season. The Eagles’ inimitable and also historic pass rush will put Purdy under multiple pressures. But not only that, but also the dynamic offense around Jalen Hurts will force the offense of the 49ers to leave the field with points at the end of most drives.
By the way, Purdy knows the feeling that the opponent always scores with hurts as a quarterback, because back in 2019 in college, both teams met in a classic for the years. Hurts’ Oklahoma State Sooners beat Purdy’s Iowa State Cyclones 42-41. Purdy’s stats? 337 total yards, six total touchdowns.
However, on the two-point conversion at the end, today’s 49er threw an interception and they lost the game. “This loss is my fault,” said a sad Purdy after the game. So he showed adult admission of mistakes by the age of 20 in college. A quality not every quarterback has, looking at the New York Jets and Zach Wilson.
Brock Purdy: The room for error is shrinking
That’s probably why the 23-year-old remains so relaxed when people talk about him and his success. The statistics finally back it up: 16 touchdowns, only three interceptions, around two-thirds of his balls arrive with a passer rating of around 108.
However, as in any sport and especially in American football, statistics are only half the truth. Brock Purdy, like any rookie quarterback, is not exempt from questionable mistakes. The playmaker actually did this at regular intervals, but the opposing defenses have not been able to take advantage of it so far.
At 19:12 against the Cowboys, star cornerback Trevon Diggs had two chances for an interception. “If he takes one of the two balls, then the game goes in a completely different direction,” predicted “FOX” expert Chris Broussard.
Everyone in the 49ers knows about these dropouts, but they’re both understandable and forgivable. “It’s not about always being right,” says head coach Kyle Shanahan. “It’s about wanting to get better. That’s what coaching is about. That’s why coaching Brock is so much fun because he wants to get better every day.”
However, the margin for such errors becomes smaller with each game. Against the Eagles, that margin is probably narrower than it has been in Purdy’s entire career. “You also grow with your tasks,” Shanahan added with a wink.
Brock Purdy or Jimmy Garoppolo? Shanahan is spoiled for choice
In the same round of media, the 49ers’ chief trainer also announced that Jimmy Garoppolo, mentioned at the beginning, would probably be fit for a possible Super Bowl.
This undoubtedly begs the question: if both players are fit, who would start? With Brock Purdy the player who would take the team to a Super Bowl or in Garoppolo the player who is not 100 percent fit but has already played one Super Bowl and was represented in several?
Shanahan would be spoiled for choice. Exactly as he would have them after the season, regardless of the outcome of this season. Because then Trey Lance, the actually designated starter, will be healthy again. Whether this status as a starter is still so unchallenged remains to be seen.
Purdy of his character should hide all that. Any quarterback questions his coaches will ask after the season, for him only the game against the Philadelphia Eagles counts.
In addition to another entry in NFL history, there is much more at stake: entry into the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.