Alex Smith isn’t blaming the San Francisco 49ers’ issues on Brock Purdy.
The former starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers and 1st round pick of the 2005 NFL draft knows adversity. This is a person who came into an organization with ridiculous expectations at the quarterback position and a coaching staff/organization setting him up to fall far below those expectations with things like a revolving door of offensive coordinators.
Smith got things together when Jim Harbaugh, a competent coach at the very least, came in as coach of the 49ers and revitalized his career. And it bears repeating before Harbaugh, Smith played on some bad teams. After Harbaugh, Smith was seen as one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
Speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Smith made some comments on Brock Purdy’s play and recent uncharacteristic interceptions. Below is everything said:
“The talk of Brock Purdy being the problem is absolutely nonsense. As bad as he’s been in the last three weeks, which again, this is a guy that didn’t throw an interception in the first five weeks, yes he’s thrown five in the last three weeks. I know that some of them have been questionable with the concussion—there’s been some goofy things. He’s still second in the NFL in QBR, and more importantly, when you turn on the tape, this guy routinely makes ridiculous plays in the passing game...look routine. He does it week in and week out. There are multiple pass plays every single week that you look at that are like, “man, this guy’s a six year, seven-year veteran.” He’s playing at that level. I think sometimes we unfairly compare him to those guys. We unfairly compare him to where [Dallas Cowboys quarterback] Dak Prescott is, and [Philadelphia Eagles quarterback] Jalen Hurts and some of these guys he’s gonna have to play in the NFC. What’s he’s played? 13 games? His real comparisons are [Steelers quarterback Cody] Pickett and [Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond] Ridder and [Tennessee Titans backup quarterback]Malik Willis and [Free agent quarterback] Matt Corral and Sam Howell. These are the guys that he got drafted with. They were drafted ahead of him and he’s light years ahead of them.
He’s not the problem. They’re gonna get Deebo back. They’re gonna hopefully get Trent Williams back. That’s gonna help. For me, far more questions about this defense, but I still think they are going to get this figured out. They are too good. I love that they added Chase Young to solidify that defense up front. I think he’s going to add to it. I think they are going to get it dialed in. Problem is, they’ve kind of dug themselves a little hole certainly to try and go get that bye, the No. 1 seed in the bye. The Eagles, obviously a couple games out in front and it’s obviously such a big advantage come January. ”
Brock Purdy has had some issues lately and yes, I do wonder if he can hold up through a full NFL season based on him getting nicked up every other week. Now that said, the 49ers have way worse problems than him on film and if anyone can relate to Purdy’s struggles and scrutiny, it’s Smith.
In his final season (2012) with the 49ers, Smith was having a similar season to Purdy’s 2023 campaign. Going into December for that season, Smith was ranked third in passer rating (104.1), had a 70% completion percentage, and just came off a win over the Arizona Cardinals that had what many thought was a top-5 defense. In that game, Smith dismantled the Cardinals and put up what might have been his best game statistically to that point. Unfortunately he got knocked out of the game against the [then] St. Lous Rams due to a concussion and Colin Kaepernick came in. You know how that story ended.
“So,” you ask. “If he did so well and these stats matter, why did the 49ers go with Kaepernick anyways?” Well, as many may remember, Kaepernick had that cannon of an arm, the speed, and the dual threat thing was something everyone wanted. He also was drafted by Jim Harbaugh and had a season of being on the sidelines learning under his belt.
And let’s be fair, in that Bears game, he looked really, really good.
Eventually, Kaepernick was named the starter for good and the 49ers never looked back.
Also, while Smith had those impressive numbers, the 2012 season before the Bears (and even after) was weird when you think about it. The 49ers had this strange pattern through the season of win-win-disappointment that went through the entire regular season (all disappointments were losses or that tie against the Rams). Before being named the starter, Kaepernick was used in a package where they’d trot him out to run the read option and put Smith on the sidelines, not unlike the way the 49ers used Trey Lance his rookie season. It worked sometimes and other times just seemed jarring.
Regardless of circumstances in 2012, in 2023 there is no dynamic Colin Kaepernick on the sidelines coming in to replace Purdy should he get knocked out. They did have someone, his name was Trey Lance, and he got jettisoned to the Dallas Cowboys before the first snap of the regular season.
It’s going to take an awful, awful lot for the 49ers to make a decision to move off Purdy with Sam Darnold waiting as his backup, especially when he’s still putting up decent numbers. Yes, he’s had a few head scratching interceptions, and perhaps he is part of a problem if you really want to go there. But he’s not the problem. As Smith says, a defense that can’t get off on 3rd down is way more concerning down the stretch than a quarterback with high stats throwing a few bonehead plays.