49ers quarterback, Brock Purdy has been tremendously criticized by the media after his playoff performance.
It’s safe to say that Purdy did not have the best game of his career in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers, although his team ultimately came out on top in a 24-21 contest.
In fact, you could even say that up until the last six minutes of the game, Packers first-year quarterback Jordan Love was outplaying Purdy, as Green Bay seemed in control for much of the game.
However, Purdy delivered when his team needed him most in the clutch and the 49ers are moving onto the NFC Championship Game, where they’ll face the Detroit Lions on Sunday evening at Levi’s Stadium.
Following the game, Purdy has been the subject of criticism from the national media across the nation for his poor playoff performance, with many attempting to make clear distinctions between him and the NFL’s top quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson.
In our latest podcast episode, we discussed the 49ers’ divisional-round matchup with the Packers, breaking down Purdy’s performance and why the discourse is getting out of hand about the San Francisco quarterback.
Throughout his short NFL career, Purdy has been praised, but also with hesitancy due to the elite supporting cast that the 49ers have placed around their quarterback, which causes many to bring down the signal-caller’s achievements.
Despite having an MVP-caliber year for much of the season, some viewed Purdy outside of the upper-echelon of quarterbacks heading into the playoffs, instead pointing to his tough game against the Ravens and his supporting cast as reasons for doubt against the second-year quarterback.
But, as Purdy has shown time and time again this season, he is also responsible for the 49ers’ evolution into one of the NFL’s premier offenses, which has taken a step up since he took over as the starting quarterback.
Now, the 49ers have seen success on the offensive side of the ball for a few seasons, hence their hefty playoff resume, but the offense truly started to take a huge leap forward when Purdy and his aggressive manner took over at quarterback, which opened up the offense to cover all depths of the field.
Now, Purdy did face some initial struggles, sometimes placing the ball in harm’s way too much as a young rookie, but saw a significant jump between Year 1 and Year 2, which firmly placed him into the “franchise quarterback” tier of NFL quarterbacks, consisting of the Top 13-14 signal-callers in the league.
As a result, the 49ers showcased their most prolific passing attack under Shanahan, propelling Brandon Aiyuk to a 1,300-yard season and a second-team All-Pro appearance, while George Kittle had his first 1,000-yard year since 2018 and Deebo Samuel also had 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
This all happened while the 49ers still remained extremely balanced, running the football at the second-highest rate in the NFL, only behind the Baltimore Ravens, who coincidentally have the league’s probable MVP this season, Lamar Jackson.
The key to San Francisco’s offense in 2023 has been efficiency. In the pass game, Purdy leads the league in yards per pass attempt, while ranking among the top five in several other categories.
Brandon Aiyuk is one of the most efficient receivers per route run, while Christian McCaffrey is the league’s leading rusher (5.4 yards per carry) and touchdown scorer (21).
Now, the biggest issue with the discourse around Purdy, especially as the playoffs have arrived, is the comparisons between him and the league’s top quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson.
Many national analysts have looked to drag down Purdy’s accomplishments by not placing him on the same level as those other elite quarterbacks, but that shouldn’t be the argument at all.
Purdy isn’t as good as those three top quarterbacks. He doesn’t have as extensive of a resume, while their traits that have translated to the NFL are better.
However, it doesn’t matter that he’s not them, and Purdy even acknowledged the matter.
“Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, those guys are great but I’m not them and they’re not me. I know who I am,” Purdy said in a recent press conference.
Entering the playoffs, I ranked Purdy as my sixth-best quarterback still in the hunt, placing him behind Mahomes, Allen, Jackson, Jordan Love, and C.J. Stroud, as the latter two were elite down the stretch of the season.
However, I did so with the caveat that all six quarterbacks were franchise-level quarterbacks, meaning they’re within that Top 13-14 range, and the bottom three could be interchangeable with one another, as they’re merely spots apart from each other.
The point being? With the right formula around them, each of these quarterbacks have the ability to win a Super Bowl, and Purdy’s chance may be the highest of the bunch.
While Purdy did have a poor outing for a majority of the Packers game, he also showed a different element of himself that hasn’t been seen much in the NFL: leading his team to a key victory with his back against the wall.
Down 21-17 with six minutes remaining, Purdy orchestrated a 12-play, 68-yard touchdown drive to give the 49ers the lead, brushing off his tough day to complete 6/7 passes for 44 yards, while scrambling for nine more in the red zone before Christian McCaffrey ultimately scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Time and time again, 49ers fans have seen Jimmy Garoppolo struggle in key moments under pressure, most notably in the 2019 Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs, which is why it was important to see how their new franchise quarterback would fare under similar circumstances.
And he passed the test on Saturday, outplaying Jordan Love in the clutch to move his team into an NFC Championship Game setting.
Yes, Purdy has an all-star cast around him which makes the 49ers more dangerous. But, he showcased on Saturday that he is a crucial part of their winning formula, even on a tough day, presenting a different element that San Francisco hasn’t had in their quarterback room during the Kyle Shanahan era.
No, he’s not on the level of a Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Lamar Jackson. But, he doesn’t need to be, as he’s shown all season long, to win key football games, which is the only objective on his mind as the 49ers look to finally win the Super Bowl they’ve been vying for since 1994.