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ESPN debunks the biggest myth about Brock Purdy and the 49ers offense

There are still a fraction of NFL viewers who believe Purdy’s numbers are inflated.

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Under every innocuous post about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy leading the NFL in some category are a handful of comments saying something along the lines of his supporting cast props him up.

People have a hard time acknowledging two things can be true, to a degree, at once. Any quarterback would be blessed to play with the 49ers’ skill players and have Kyle Shanahan calling plays, not to mention the best left tackle in the sport blocking for them.

Maybe the Niners haven’t been televised enough this season because there are three or four times a game where Purdy makes a “wow” play and bails out the offensive line after eluding pressure or hits a receiver in stride 35+ yards down the field.

ESPN went through each playoff team to debunk the biggest myth about them heading into the playoffs, and the 49ers were about Purdy’s stats being padded with YAC:

The myth: Brock Purdy’s numbers are inflated by the Niners’ run-after-catch ability.

Why it’s a myth: Yes, the 49ers have great run-after-catch ability. And yes, Shanahan does a great job of scheming up plays that maximize it. But Purdy’s not considerably more reliant on that than other quarterbacks. The 49ers are sixth in the league in receiving yards (4,577) and fourth in yards after the catch (2,189). To translate, they get 47.8% of their receiving yards after the catch. For comparison’s sake, the Chiefs get 61.1% of their receiving yards after the catch. Is Patrick Mahomes a system quarterback?

QBR is a stat that directly measures a quarterback’s contribution to plays that help the team win, and Purdy’s 72.8 was the highest in the NFL this season. He also ranked seventh in air yards per pass attempt at 8.0. He might be well-suited for Shanahan’s offense, but to call Purdy a system quarterback underrates what he has accomplished.

I appreciate the extreme examples that include Mahomes, as sometimes that’s the only way to get the point across.

It may surprise the casual onlooker that Purdy has the third-highest percentage of his throws in the intermediate portion of the field. Purdy attempts over a quarter of his passes between 10 and 19 yards. If he were accumulating a bunch of yards after the catch on short dump-off throws, that’d be one thing. But he’s throwing the ball beyond the first down marker at a rate more than most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Conversely, Purdy is 22nd in the NFL in attempts between 0-9 yards and 32nd in the percentage of attempts that are behind the line of scrimmage. Brock goes out of his way to throw the ball down the field.

But you can’t tell that to somebody who has already made up their mind about Purdy because they can’t separate his play from the situation he’s in.