Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young has been a big Brock Purdy fan. For the last few weeks, and even months going back to the 2022 season, Young has heaped loads of praise on Purdy; what he does well, what he will need to improve and what he’ll never improve. To Young, Brock Purdy has “The Force.”
In his latest KNBR appearance, Young brought some more insight to Purdy’s success, but most notably why he slipped so far in the 2022 NFL Draft. Sure, we have had this conversation loads of times. There’s even a good article on The Athletic about why one particular team passed on Purdy. Steve Young brings a bit more context on why Purdy fell, but what he says mirrors the words of another great quarterback, possibly the greatest of all time. Most of his response is transcribed below:
“They drafted him on [his] measurables. And there’s nothing more frustrating as a player, especially a quarterback, when we talked about the force, we talked about this unknowable thing, this guile, this sense of spatial awareness, the abilitity to have 21 different people running around in a tight space and it doesn’t bother you. 80,000 people screaming? Doesn’t bother me. Bigger Games? Doesn’t bother me. When the adrenaline goes up, most human beings start to sweat and lose themselves. Their mind get smaller. And some people get calm down. Some people’s minds expand as things get crazier. And the thing that they didn’t know when they drafted him was that he had this special ability that is indescribable that he proved at college but it was at Iowa State so it just went under the radar because he was shorter, because he didn’t have the strongest arm. And because in the NFL today, that’s the only thing they can measure. They have such difficulty measuring the stuff that really matters. To understand how to get the ball in the right spot and to understand the spatial awareness and all the stress. And there’s very few humans that respond to adrenaline and their body starts to calm. The greatest players in the world all have this genetic ability: as things get crazier, their body calms down. It’s the opposite of most human beings. And most human beings kind of wonder.
That’s why most human beings can’t judge that quality because it’s counterintuitive, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What do you mean, his heart rate goes down when they are screaming into the two-minute drill?”
Yeah, that’s just how they respond. Based on the ability to quarterback, he’s a first-round draft choice on the ability to quarterback. The thing that he didn’t have was the strongest arm, the biggest body, the speed all this stuff that everyone is looking for in killers out in the world. We said this last week: it will be a limitation for Brock. It’s a limitation that’s not going to change; he’s not going to grow four inches, he’s not going to get faster, he’s got plenty of quickness, he’s not going to throw it 80 yards. It’s not going to happen. What did he tell you? “I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure out how to make up for those diffencencies don’t worry about it. I immediately said, ”Go on with your bad self bro,” because I truly believe that’s true. I believe he will figure it out.
So why bring up this lengthy explanation? Because it’s pretty much the exact same thing that led to Tom Brady falling during the 2000 NFL Draft. Yes, we’re bringing up the Tom Brady comparison one more time because everything Young explains mirrors what led to the late-round drafting of another one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. In the short film “The Brady Six”, there’s a scene detailing Brady’s combine and physical assessment—and it’s exactly as Young describes. Coaches and analysists in the video (linked above) mention Brady did nothing to “wow” you. Instead everything was on measurables, arm strength, size etc—just as Young outlined for Purdy. Brady himself (in the same clip) admits it wasn’t his skillset but also, says, “fortunately, that’s not what quarterbacking is about either.”
Brian Baldinger also made comparisons to Joe Montana. While Brock Purdy is not Joe Montana, and Baldinger admits this rather quickly, he makes the point of how Purdy just isn’t rattled easily—much like Montana. Montana was the master of psychology, how else did he get the name Joe Cool? He was another quarterback who didn’t let the bright lights or the crowd get to his head. The best example of this is in Super Bowl XXIII against the Cincinnati Bengals when the 49ers were down three points. In the huddle while everyone’s tempers were flaring, Montana pointed out actor John Candy.
While we may never see Brock Purdy point out Taylor Swift or something along those lines, that calmness is definitely something one of the best quarterbacks in history pointed out and was displayed by the two other quarterbacks mentioned above. Two that are the greatest to play the game.
At some point evaluations on quarterback prospects may need to change. Something more than a Wonderlic, but other psychological assessments to see what is going on between a quarterback’s ears rather than how much a physical specimen they are. Maybe we’ll go to VR or something. Until then, quarterbacks like Brady and Purdy will slip through the cracks and more will probably not get a chance for this very reason. When those rare prospects do get into a good situation, well you see what happens.