The 49ers are riding high during their seven-game winning streak and have clinched a divisional championship on the road against the Seattle Seahawks. But, as with most division champions, the Niners have an overwhelming number of strengths.
But what about their weaknesses? The Ringers Steven Ruiz went through each Super Bowl contender, asking one big question about each. For Kyle Shanahan’s team, it was whether or not Brock Purdy’s effectiveness had an expiration date:
Everything else is in place. The offense has an endless supply of weapons. The defense is loaded at all three levels with a dominant pass rush, a swarming linebacker corps, and a physical, playmaking secondary. In Kyle Shanahan and DeMeco Ryans, the 49ers arguably have the best play-calling duo in the league. If the quarterback position wasn’t so important, San Francisco would be the runaway favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and this loaded team’s championship hopes rest on the shoulders of Brock Purdy. Through two starts, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. Purdy has executed Shanahan’s QB-friendly scheme efficiently and he’s even added a playmaking element the offense had lacked with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. But, so far, we’ve only really seen the good version of Purdy, and there’s another side lurking—the reckless Purdy we saw at Iowa State who’s a little too confident in his physical ability. While he’s thrown only one interception during this recent three-game stretch, the rookie quarterback has been dinged with four “turnover-worthy plays” by PFF. And if he had enough dropbacks to qualify for the statistical charts, his 4.5-percent turnover-worthy play rate would rank fourth-worst in the NFL, behind only Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and Taylor Heinicke. Eventually, his luck will turn, and he’ll get punished for a few more of those mistakes.
We’ve seen the ceiling for this 49ers offense with Purdy at the helm. We still haven’t seen the floor. And until we do, it’s hard to predict how far this team can go with a seventh-rounder starting at quarterback.
It’s fair to question whether or not Purdy’s turnover-worthy plays will haunt him, especially come playoff time. Purdy made a poor decision in the second quarter against Seattle that could’ve turned the game upside down.
I’d push back against Steven because we haven’t seen the ceiling with Purdy in this offense. They’ve performed well, and that’s due to Purdy’s playmaking ability as well as him becoming comfortable pushing the ball down the field.
Kyle Shanahan makes everything easy for you as a quarterback. Receivers are constantly running open down the field. And if you hit them in stride, there’s a good chance they’ll do the heavy lifting for you once the ball is in their hands.
So long as Purdy continues to play within himself, it isn’t easy to imagine San Francisco coming up short in the NFC. There’s a natural recklessness to his game that leads to decisions that could lead to turnovers. But that same style is how you get explosive plays down the field. And as long as the big plays keep coming, the 49ers will take the trade-off.