The 49ers have spoiled us. The expectation has been either win or “fire everybody!” This is a team that had won 15 straight regular season games. Then, a trip to Cleveland happened. After slip ups to the Vikings and the Bengals, the 49ers have now lost three games in a row.
A dose of reality has led to several overreactions surrounding the 49ers quarterback.
The past few games in the fourth quarter have felt eerily similar to who San Francisco previously had under center. That’s led to the pendulum swinging in the direction of “Brock Purdy is a fraud!”
Most value fourth quarter turnovers more than the ones happen in any other quarter. So there’s more of an emphasis when a quarterback coughs the ball up when the game is on the line.
There’s no such thing as a “good” turnover. The Niners are a threat to score offensively from any portion of the field. It’s inexcusable whether Purdy turns the ball over at the five or the 35-yard line.
Whether it’s in the first or fourth quarter, at mid-field or the goal line, Purdy must do a better job of taking care of the ball. There’s a fine line between being aggressive and being reckless, and Purdy moon-walked on the line all October.
This is who Brock is
Let’s use the previous four games as examples. The 49ers played the Browns, Cowboys, Vikings, and the Bengals. That’s four teams who are competent and well-coached defensively.
While it may seem like a small-sample size, Purdy has been the same player from a tendency perspective dating back to his days at Iowa State.
It’s in Brock’s nature to be aggressive. It has always been that way. Now, he has arguably the best play-caller on his side with some of the most talented weapons in the NFL to throw it to.
To say Purdy has always been a bit...careless...with the football would be an understatement. He is a backyard football QB at heart. Purdy wants to run around and play that sandlot style. Turn on any highlight from his days as a Cyclone, and you’ll see that same player.
Purdy’s aggressive nature can turn reckless in a hurry. We saw it last season, during the first month, and again last month. During October, only one player had more turnover worthy plays than Purdy.
What makes that number troubling is that Purdy has the 12th-fewest dropbacks during that span. Purdy’s recent turnover spree has vaulted him into a tie for the most interceptions thrown in October.
A peek into what development looks like
Brock Purdy is 23. Welcome to what developing a quarterback looks like. This was going to happen with Trey Lance last year or the year prior. These are the growing pains teams go through when they’re forced to play a kid under center.
It was never fair to crown him as an MVP candidate, nor is it fair to crucify the 23-year-old for making boneheaded decisions. The next 23-year-old to play mistake-free football for a full season will be the first.
Credit the 49ers for insulating Purdy with a tremendous supporting cast. Since there was instant success, we’ve forgotten that Purdy still hasn’t started a full-season. Not having Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel in back-to-back games hasn’t helped, but every team in the NFL battles attrition.
Bringing more to the table
A better way to phrase Purdy’s turnovers is that they’ve accounted for six percent of his throws. The 49ers are counting on winning more often than not with Purdy’s style of play.
Per PFF, Purdy was second in “big-time throw” percentage before Week 9 — a metric that tracks passes with “excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window” — and has the third-most big time throws in the NFL from Week’s 5-8.
He also has the second-most completions over 20 yards during this span. Purdy’s willingness to not just look but push the ball down the field continues to make the 49ers offense more dangerous than ever.
There have been more broken plays resulting in explosive gains than I can remember by a 49ers quarterback during October. Purdy’s legs have brought a new, welcomed element to the offense. Purdy has 83 rushing yards since Week 5, with 80 of those coming via the scramble. That puts Purdy sixth since Week 5 among all QBs.
There have been a handful of times during each of the past few games when Purdy eluded a free rusher and turned a play that was destined to be a disaster into a positive outcome. I don’t think he’s getting enough credit for that.
There were other scrambles from the Bengals’ game when Purdy didn’t like what he saw, so he tucked the ball and gained eight yards. So, instead of 2nd & 10, it was 2nd & 2.
These are the types of “plus” plays Purdy must continue to produce. That’s what will put the 49ers offense over the top.
Look at the 49ers opponent this weekend. No, I’m not comparing Purdy to Trevor Lawrence, but the Jaguars signal-caller has a boneheaded throw a game. Four interceptions and two fumbles lost for a 24-year-old quarterback.
Lawrence, much like Purdy, brings enough play-making ability to the table to overcome his mistakes. You couldn’t say the same for the last 49ers quarterback.
The hope is that Brock learns from his mistakes, figures out what he can and can’t get away with, while maintaining that same aggressiveness that’s helped make the Niners offense one of the most potent units in the NFL. So far, he’s passed that test.