Christian McCaffrey, Brock Purdy both have case for NFL MVP

Dec 4, 2023, 12:20 PM | Updated: 1:13 pm

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers hands the ball off to Christian McCaffrey #23 in the gam...

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers took care of business in Week 13, stomping the Philadelphia Eagles, 42-19, in Philly to make their claim for the best in the NFL. Along with that comes individual accolades, as both Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey have a chance at being crowned the 2023 NFL MVP. 

The 49ers quarterback and running back were on one Sunday, combining for 416 of the team’s 456 net yards in Philadelphia. Of course, Purdy was helped by McCaffrey and other teammates in the passing game, but his ability to rebound from a poor first quarter has cemented him in the conversation. In fact, the Arizona native is now the odds-on favorite to win the award after the season.

But with five games remaining in the regular season, the race is wide open for both men to make a lasting claim for 2023

Here’s the case for both McCaffrey and Purdy.

The Case for Brock Purdy

It’s quite simple really: Brock Purdy is the quarterback leading the best team in football, the 49ers. 

The sportsbook odds reflect that, moving him from the sixth consensus to first on most platforms at +300. And after walking into Philadelphia and putting on that kind of performance in Week 13, he’s the hottest name in the QB carousel to date. And the stats prove that.

Brock Purdy is first in most statistical categories for gunslingers, with a whopping 9.6 yards per pass attempt this season. The next closest is Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa at 8.6. He’s also first in passer rating (116.1) and completion percentage (70.2). 

To be frank: He’s been one of the most efficient QBs the NFL has ever seen in the first two seasons of his career.

His play against the Eagles backs that, going 19/27 for 314 passing yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 49ers were also 8/11 on third downs Sunday, with Purdy converted throws to wideouts Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings that sprung scores. 

The 49ers as a whole debated how the 2022 NFC Championship game would have been different if their starting QB didn’t tear his UCL, and that appeared to be the case Sunday.

“I had full confidence that we would have this type of game from the jump,” left tackle Trent Williams said postgame. “We got a quarterback, so it made it a lot easier this time.”

The only argument against the second-year QB winning the award is his supporting cast, particularly WR Deebo Samuel.

Samuel was a man possessed Week 13, going for 138 total yards and three TDs on seven touches against the Eagles. The South Carolina native took a slant and screen pass to the house, with about 90 yards after the catch from both plays. That leads some pundits to question the true nature of Purdy’s performance on a statistical level, but no one can deny his ability in the pocket.

Since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13 of the 2022 season, Purdy is 17-4 as a starting QB. The proof is in the pudding for the 23-year-old, who is continuing to take steps forward in his development.

The Case for Christian McCaffrey

Here’s a fun fact: Despite the 49ers’ run-first approach under Kyle Shanahan, the Red & Gold hadn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since he took over in 2017. That changed Sunday with Christian McCaffrey crossing the barrier for the first time since 2014 for the 49ers. 

The 49ers are a combined 21-5 since trading for the running back from the Carolina Panthers. In those games, McCaffrey has 30 total TDs, an absurd mark for any player in the modern era. He also leads the NFL in rushing yards this season (1,032), almost 200 more yards than the next-best ball carrier. 

Week 13 solidified his value to the 49ers more so, finishing with 133 total yards and one TD. He also became the third RB to have 50 rushing scores and 25 receiving scores in a career, joining Lenny Moore and Marshall Faulk. But his value goes beyond the stats, with the weight of his presence felt throughout the contest.

For example:

His ability to be such a dual threat allows his teammates to get open, with the 49ers singing his praises every single day. 

“Yeah, I think without a doubt,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said about McCaffrey being in the MVP conversation last Friday. “I know it goes to quarterbacks the majority of the time, and there’s plenty of worthy quarterbacks, but you definitely can’t say that Christian’s behind anyone. He’s as valuable in this league as anyone.” 

Christian McCaffrey is currently on pace for close to 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2023. That would mark only the second time he has eclipsed that number, having last done it in 2019.

However, the NFL MVP award has primarily gone to quarterbacks, with all-time great Adrian Peterson last earning the award in 2012. And that was after coming back from a devastating ACL tear the year prior. 

While CMC is arguably the most important offensive player for the 49ers, his chances of winning the award are slim to none. Unless he breaks Eric Dickerson’s rushing record; But even that’s far-fetched.

Upcoming 49ers Schedule:

  • Sunday, Dec. 10th vs. Seattle Seahawks – 1:05 p.m. PST
  • Sunday, Dec. 17th @ Arizona Cardinals – 1:05 p.m. PST
  • Monday, Dec. 25th vs. Baltimore Ravens – 5:15 p.m. PST
  • Sunday, Dec. 31st @ Washington Commanders – 10:00 a.m. PST
  • Sunday, Jan. 7th vs. Los Angeles Rams – TBD

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