Brock Purdy reflects on ‘playing without fear’ after full season as 49ers starter

Nov 19, 2023, 6:00 AM

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a touchdown scored by Christian McCaffrey #23...

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

After 17 starts in the the NFL, Brock Purdy has a lot to be thankful this holiday season, and the 49ers vice versa.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has now played 17 games as the 49er starter, dating back to when he first suited up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last December. Since then, Purdy has established himself as an emerging franchise signal-caller.

And the stats can back it up.

The Arizona native has cumulated 4,138 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 73.07 completion percentage. He is also No.1 in quarterback rating (76.3) and passer rating (109.9) this season.

Simply put: Brock Purdy has been better than anyone, except maybe himself, expected to be in Year 1 of the NFL.

And yet, it wasn’t an easy road to get here. Battling through adversity throughout his football career, Purdy found himself as the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, labeled as Mr. Irrelevant.

But Purdy has been been the antithesis since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo, playing without fear despite the hurdles in front of him.

“Yeah, I mean it’s a mindset I’d say. Just playing without fear,” Brock Purdy said Thursday. “The fear of failure is something that I feel like I’ve learned over the years, especially in college. If you go out there and have that mentality of, I don’t want to mess up, then you start playing timid and then you’re obviously not playing like yourself, like you have growing up your whole life with that competitive edge. So that’s one thing that I’ve learned for sure is to try to take out fear, throw it out the window, and play clear-minded, play like a surgeon.”

That mentality was the key attribute 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had been looking for since taking over in San Francisco.

Arguably the best offensive mind in the game, Shanahan needed a QB that could execute his schemes at a proficient rate. And that Brock Purdy can do, a career 68.1% completion under center. But what separates the Iowa State alum from those before is his willingness to take risks, while also be wise with the football.

That comes from his own mentality as a leader, but also from listening to the guidance of Shanahan.

“Do what [head coach] Kyle is asking of me, but being smart with the ball at the same time, but also having the mentality of playing fearless and that doesn’t mean play reckless but be smart with the ball, play within the offense and scheme, if something happens where it’s off schedule, play ball. So, I’m still learning that honestly,” Purdy stated.

The 49ers’ young gun is accurate in that statement as well; he still has room for improvement.

But once again, adversity is something he’s accustom to.

Purdy entered Week 14 of the 2022 NFL season as a first-time rookie starter, responsible for maintaining the Super Bowl-Ready 49ers the rest of the way. But instead of crumbling, he was ready for the moment.

The Arizona native threw for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one rushing score in his debut against Tampa Bay. What was more impressive was his moxie on the field, conducting the offense like a five-year NFL veteran to a 35-7 win.

He had done what Shanahan had asked of him: Trust the play-calling and pick your spots.

Even still, Purdy reflects on that momentous moment with his family in attendance as an up-and-down ride, one that helps him improve almost a year later.

“Yes and no. You know, there are plays that I made in that game where everyone was like, ‘wow, this guy can play.’ So, it just felt good. But after you play for a while, you’re sort of expected to play at that standard,” Purdy explained. “I watched the film, there’s some stuff on the film, honestly, where I was like, ‘dude, that’s a little sloppy. I can clean it up.’ Just the operation, how I run the offense, those are all areas I feel like I’ve grown and can continue to be better at…

Aside from the perfectionist mindset, what was apparent with Purdy from the jump was his moxie under center. Not just when he started for the first time, but against the Green Bay Packers Week 1 of the 2022 preseason.

That chip has made him a fan favorite in Northern California, resilience that comes from years of overcoming the odds as only an underdog could.

“But you know, the spark, the energy, the chip on the shoulder that I played with in that game, I feel like in the sense is sort of the same, like still trying to prove to myself that I belong in this league and on this team,” he said.

The 49ers had to overcome some adversity recently as a team, losing three consecutive games to end the month of October. Coming out of the team’s bye week, San Francisco had their backs against the wall for the first time all year.

So how’d they respond? Putting up 34 points on the road against a scorching Jacksonville Jaguars squad.

Two things changed for the 49ers in Week 10. 1. The defense returned to their elected standards. 2. Brock Purdy had a hell of a game.

Purdy bounced back from five interceptions in three weeks to bring turnover free in Week 10. He also threw for 296 yards and three TDs, with his second being one of the best throws of his career.

Purdy’s first score was the most-talked about however, throwing from left to right into a crowded endzone. And while the pass ended up in wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s hands, it was still ill-advised, with both Shanahan and Purdy agreeing on that.

But after a full season as the team’s starter, the coach trusts Purdy in a way he hasn’t with a signal-caller since Matt Ryan in 2016.

Here’s what he said after the game about his young star QB:

“Brock sees football pretty well. No one’s going to be perfect. People, it’s really easy when you’re watching it from afar. You’ve got to react and play football in the pocket or outside the pocket. He knows when he makes a bad decision and that’s why he’s fun to talk to about it, [he’s] fun to coach.”

Brock Purdy has been like a sponge since stepping foot in Santa Clara. That’s partially why he won the third-string job over Nate Sudfeld last summer.

The other factors are the intangibles and the talent. Sure, other 49ers QBs had the latter at times, but the former was hard to come by for most. Purdy has both in spades, able to lead the team and take risks at a young age. Characteristics that were absent with other Shanahan QBs.

“I want a guy who gives us a chance to win the game, not a guy who is just hoping everyone else wins it for them,” the coach said on KNBR Thursday.

A direct shot at Jimmy Garoppolo and others? Maybe.

But after struggling to get his offense humming consistently for five years, Kyle Shanahan finally has the QB that can make it happen. And the 49ers brass knows they need to capitalize on the opportunity while the window is open.

But Purdy’s career is only beginning, instead starting out at Chapter 10: Lead this team to great things.

And so far, the 23-year-old is doing it at a high level, some might even say Top-10 in the NFL. That’s neither here nor there for Purdy, only focused on helping the team succeed anyway he can.

Like he’s said before, he has a long way to go still. But it’s that underdog determination that has driven to this far, again reminding himself that he succeeds best when counted out.

The drive that Purdy, his coach, and the entirety of the 49ers believe will lead them to another Super Bowl berth down the line.

For now, it’s Week 11, taking this ride one game at a time as he continues to prove he belongs in the NFL.

The laid-back Arizonan does that by playing with a chip on his shoulder each week, no fear whatsoever. Just like he did Week 14 of the 2022 NFL season against the Buccaneers.

“I’m still learning with all this,” Brock Purdy said. “My mindset and stuff throughout the season, it’s a long season, but even the three games where we lost, it’s sort of reminding myself, ‘dude, you got to play with that chip on your shoulder again and be hungry and prove to yourself that every single game you got to prove to yourself that you’re supposed to be there’…So, it’s always good to go back and sort of just remind myself of that mentality.”

Upcoming San Francisco 49ers Schedule

  • Sunday, Nov. 19th vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 1:05 p.m. PST
  • Thursday, Nov. 23rd @ Seattle Seahawks – 5:20 p.m. PST
  • Sunday, Dec. 3rd @ Philadelphia Eagles – 1:25 p.m. PST
  • Sunday, Dec. 10th vs. Seattle Seahawks – 1:05 p.m. PST
  • Sunday, Dec. 17th @ Arizona Cardinals – 1:05 p.m. PST

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