Is Brock Purdy a good quarterback or simply the product of a good system?
This question has begun floating around various social media platforms following the 49ers blowout win over Seattle. A game in which the rookie quarterback put together the best playoff performance by a San Francisco quarterback in nearly a decade. His 332 yards passing trail only Joe Montana for most in 49ers postseason history.
More than one analyst pointed out how San Francisco’s receivers are getting open, leading to few contested catches. According to CBS Sports, ten of Purdy’s 30 attempts went to receivers with more than five yards of separation. One analyst even went so far as to suggest Purdy has regressed since his first start.
Here’s the thing, having receivers running open through defenses isn’t anything new in San Francisco. It’s been commonplace since Kyle Shanahan took over.
The difference is now we are seeing a quarterback who can consistently hit those open receivers.
One example of this came on the opening play of the fourth quarter when Purdy hit Jauan Jennings deep down the left sideline for a gain of 33. It wasn’t a perfect throw, Purdy left it a little too far inside, but it was a big play. One that we had seen the two other quarterbacks miss this season.
As far as the suggestion Purdy has regressed, what are we doing here?
Despite having a few misses early in the game, the rookie quarterback bounced back to lead the 49ers offense to scores on eight of their nine possessions. He was nearly perfect in the second half, his only incompletions on 11 attempts coming when he threw the ball away to avoid a sack and a drop in the endzone after scrambling around to keep the play alive.
Purdy has proven himself at every turn. The next test will come when he takes on a Dallas Cowboys defense which has made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
Jimmy Garoppolo and Ambry Thomas did not practice on Wednesday as the 49ers held their first practice in preparation for Sunday’s game. Trent Williams also did not practice, taking a vet day as he usually does on the first day of practice during the season.
Jauan Jennings, Samson Ebukam and Javon Kinlaw were limited participants. Today marked the first time Kinlaw has participated in the first practice of the week following his return from injured reserve. The defensive tackle looked good during the open portion of practice.
Also of note, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance were both spotted in the 49ers locker room during media availability. Lance was walking with the help of a crutch and Garoppolo was moving around without his walking boot. The 49ers have yet to rule a potential return for Garoppolo during this postseason run.
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I think he is a really good QB that is in a great system that favors QB’s. As a fan I think it’s a combination of both and I think it’s great.
We will see even a better Purdy when he gets a chance to go through OTA’s camp and a full preseason. Yes, he will likely come in as the starter as Trey has not shown much improvement even before his injury. Trey will not be a successful running QB in the NFL as we now know. He will need to prove himself with his strong arm and intelligence. Hard to predict how this plays out next season but Purdy is likely to prevail.
Trey Lance should have flourished during his opportunities if it’s just the system doing all the work.
We can turn the question around. Does Trey Lance look like a deer in the headlights because of himself or is that just a product of the system?
Sure there is a system , but execution is the key, and there is Purdy.
I think it is a good system, but I’ve watched enough of Purdy to see he is making good decisions, making good throws, and handling pressure pretty well.
It isn’t all system…
All good/great QBs are both talented and play in a good/great system. So for Purdy its yes to talent and yes to the system and talent around him. His next big test is consistency over multiple seasons. There have been many QBs who looked good for one or two seasons who never reached the same heights again. We all are hoping that in the year (if i’m still around) 2035 we are celebrating the HOF career of one Brock Purdy the winner of 4 SBs.
“System QBs” have been around since Montana’s time and possibly even earlier. Virgil Carter could be considered the first West Coast Offense QB and “system QB” under Walsh. Don Coryell had his Air Coryell “system” but nobody ever accused Dan Fouts of being a system QB…nor any of that’ offense’s descendants: Joe Thiesman with Joe Gibb’s Redskins, Troy Aikman with Norv Turner’s Ground Coryell with the Cowboys in the 90’s or Kurt Warner with Mad Mike Martz’s “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams in the 00’s. Probably because those offenses tended to be more vertical like traditional NFL passing offenses. The truth is that these “systems” have been reduced to their passing concepts and restitched together in various offenses across the league. So there’s a lot of WCO passing concepts, vertical Air Coryell passing concepts and even some Run and Shoot passing concepts and elements (the Switch Concept with site adjustments is still run sometimes).
But it’s the WCO passers that mostly have been labeled “system QBs”. Instead of simply throwing the ball to the receiver that gets open or the best one on one match up with some simple reads (Sid Gillman’s basic passing concepts had been around for since the 60’s). The success of the play was heavily dependent on the QB not simply executing a pass but making the initial reads and finding the schemed open receiver. This was seen by some as the WCO QB “coloring by numbers”.
Well, it’s even simpler for Kyle Shanahan’s QBs much of the time. Shanahan marries some WCO passing concepts but heavily uses play action that is married to his run game (his father Mike and Alex Gibbs married the WCO and Play Action passing to the Wide Zone run game…in what could be considered a simpler precursor offensive system to Kyle’s scheme today (Kyle employs more gap blocking runs…pulling guards distract defenders even more than zone reach blocking linemen). With a heavier dependence on Play Action the QB usually has less receiving options to go through progressions and the receivers get open as much or more because defenders bite or hesitate due to the fake run action than being dependent on how well the receiver runs their route to get open. The QB often doesn’t have a full field of receiving options to go through as his options are almost predefined for him. That’s not to say there aren’t classic passing concept staples in Shanahan’s playbook. But I think Shanahan would prefer to stay on script and lead with the run and set up the play action. So Kyle’s system is even more “color by numbers” than Walsh’s. Does that make his QBs any less of a QB than other QBs? Well if we’re mixing and matching QBs maybe? But if we’re comparing what they do for their teams…it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what works.
Ultimately it’s about what works and who does what well enough to make it work. So yeah, if you had a QB that could start at their 25 and throw 75 yard bombs for TDs every play….sure that QB is the best. But if you have a guy dink and dunk easily down the field for TDs…that works too. That’s a great QB if he’s getting the job done. And if the QB has an even easier time getting the ball down the field….as long as he’s consistently getting the job done….that’s what counts.
As for Walsh’s offensive philosophy and Shanahan’s:
Thanks very much for all of this, affp.
What’s your take on the Dallas game?
It’s the Dallas run game that worries me. All that play action stuff applies to Dallas’ offense too. If they can establish their run game it makes Dak that much more dangerous because he’ll be in down and distances where he can threaten with the run or pass which helps to negate the pass rush and freeze the coverage. This of course is the 49er’s basic game plan too.
I think the 49ers will have to control the Dallas run game early in game and not let them score much or often. Hopefully the Niners can get up in the game and force Dallas into passing situations so the pass rush can cut loose. That’s when Dak makes mistakes. I’m not saying anything earth shatteringly profound….it’s pretty basic football strategy. But the 49ers either due to personnel or scheme, do not seem to be able to stop good run games very well lately. I wonder if they will stick to their wide defensive fronts or if they’ll close them up a bit to stop those inside runs that tend to gash them.
There is another way to take away the opponent’s run game – trade your TDs for their field goals.
What I mean is that you get aggressive on offense to take some shot plays (off play action) and get TDs. At the same time, your defense lives with the opponent grinding out a run game down to the red zone where things naturally get a tighter field (more compact defense). Now that more compact defense holds them to a field goal.
That seems to be the 49ers formula to me.
I notice you don’t mention Paul Brown in the evolution of the WCO. Do you believe that Walsh developed the WCO completely independently of Brown or did Brown play a part in the development of the WCO?
I’m no expert and I’m just spouting off stuff from the back of my head that I’ve read about as far as the history of the game goes.
To my knowledge Paul Brown’s play calling system is what Walsh used as the structure for his West Coast Offense System; the nomenclature; the named routes…numbering of run and pass plays and protections….that super thick playbook that Walsh stuffed with his offensive system?…..Paul Brown invented the actual football playbook! The West Coast passing concepts were variations and combinations of Sid Gillman’s passing concepts. Walsh, Al Davis, Don Coryell and others learned those passing concepts from Gillman. Walsh stitched those passing concepts together and combined them so certain routes and concepts attacked certain kinds of coverages….often combining stretched zone route concepts with man beater routes that formed a sort of passing triangle of spacing for QBs to look at. Walsh often gets credited with timing routes in the passing game. But Gillman had timed routes back in the 60’s. Walsh simply picked up on it and turned that footwork into a dance of timing for multiple reads and adjustments.
anyway…that’s my rambling answer
Well if you combine a QB friendly system like Kyle Shanahan’s with an intelligent and talented guy like Brock, I say it’s a combination of both. He is going to have to really apply that to the dangerous, talented Cowboys team wanting to get their revenge on us from last year. This is Brock Purdy’s real test against an aggressive defense. Fortunetly, we have great talented skill players around him that can take some of the pressure off of him.
If you are a head coach in the NFL, you had better be running a scheme that takes advantage of the attributes of your QB and entire offense. Duh. You don’t see Brady tucking it and taking off. Or be running RPO’s all the time. Go 49ers!!
As you stated, previous Niners QB’s couldn’t hit those wide open receivers that Purdy is hitting. Most of those analyst’s don’t watch the Niners much and don’t actually know what they are talking about.
I am mostly sold on Purdy at this point, but I still want to see what happens after an offseason in which DC’s will look very closely at what Purdy was doing and try to game plan against him. Purdy already has a major left-handed tendency that is going to be exploited by someone sooner or later. Purdy, like Garappolo in his 5 game debut, has also thrown a number of would-be interceptions that have not been picks. Hopefully he isn’t like Garappolo that did the same and very quickly started to have those balls get picked. Purdy looks really good so far, but it really takes a couple of seasons to know what you have. Unfortunately the fan base is tired of waiting for a good QB and lacks patience, as is shown by the unreasonable take on Trey Lance that many take. I hope Purdy is the real deal though.
Exactly, once the 49ers pay Purdy he will turn into a pumpkin just like Jimmy G. It’s sort of ironic. But until they have to pay him I think he plays at a high level and this team wins a good amount of games.
Gee James, that’s some wonderful inside scoop.
What else did Brock tell you when you talked to him…..
Brock is flourishing because he has quick feet and can extend plays. A huge plus in a great qb friendly system.
Its funny how the terms system QB and game manager have become criticisms of QBs. Steve Young said that being a great game manager is the number one most important trait a QB can possess.
Brady also has said something similar.
When you hear explanations on why Purdy wasn’t drafted earlier, you hear that he wasn’t tall enough and he doesn’t have a rocket for an arm. They look at the physical attributes and if they don’t see what they want physically then they give low grades. They never get to the most important attributes required of a quarterback and that is intelligence and personality. You can have all the physical tools required but lack in intelligence and personality attributes, and you might get drafted higher but won’t succeed at this level. I believe you see this all the time in the NFL. Look at the QBs that get drafted high but flop. Mostly they have great physical attributes but either lack intelligence and can’t proper.y read defenses or make quick decisions or they like personality traits like leadership and competitiveness.
I believe Purdy has good not great physical traits but has superior intelligence and competitiveness. Lance surely has the physical traits and hopefully the intelligence and personality to be a good QB. I’m pretty sure I know how Purdy will be in OTA and training camp next year. I’m most interested in how Lance will be.
You’re right about the “intangible traits” being a combination of things. I honestly don’t think intelligence is really that big of a deal for QBs. There are plenty of stupid successful QBs. Let’s be honest, football isn’t rocket science. It’s not that hard. What is hard is figuring all the football stuff out in seconds while being threatened to be driven into the ground by a 300 lb man. So then we get to the “flight, fight or freeze” response by the sympathetic nervous system. In truth if could measure anything, it would be a person’s parasympathetic nervous system response….it regulates the body’s ability to keep calm (to offset the flight or fight sympathetic nervous system). As they say some people have “ice in their veins”. Some flinch and some get frantic and some don’t even blink.
Personality can be measured to a degree. The most obvious trait for any kind of prediction of productivity is Conscientiousness (basically caring about doing a good job). That one is pretty obvious but it can also be measured.
bah…I’m rambling again…..
I think allforfunnplay’s description perfectly describes why playing NFL QB is so hard. A lot of guys can look at film and make the right read 100% of the time. Now try reading a defense in milliseconds while 300 pound guys are trying to wreck you and see the % of time the QB makes the right read. Malcolm Gladwell has a fantastic 2 part podcast on the LSAT. Law School Admissions tests don’t really test knowledge or readiness for law school. The LSAT tests how fast you can take a test. In my opinion, the Wonderlic does try to a certain degree to test intelligence and speed but it’s woefully outdated. Seems like NFL teams could partner with some experts to come up with a better test specifically for QBs. Something like blasting a guy intermittently with water cannons from multiple directions and a light system from 10, 20, 30 yards away and see how quickly he can recognize the “live” light and pass to that location. I realize thats a silly suggestion but the point remains, NFL QB talent evaluation is insanely inefficient and wrong at way too high a percentage.
Hey I think this man had the same bright idea!💡:
It all started in 1968 when they started closing the mental hospitals in California.
AFFP thank you for the description of the Shanahan system above. The discussion of pairing the run game with play action, and Kyle’s probable preference to do that more than dropback and full field reads is interesting. Colin Kaepernick thrived early on in Harbaugh and Roman’s version of run game +play action. Your post seems to lead to the implied conclusion that Colin could have played in that kind of offense and there was no need to try to turn him into a drop back passer in 2014 onward.
In light of your post above re run game/ PA passing, why did Colin not continue to be successful in 2014-16 playing just that system? It would seem theoretically he could have?
Are there other skills necessary to run the pure run/PA system year to year that Colin didn’t possess that ultimately doomed him?
Man…you guys are pushing my little brain tonight. Okay…I’ll give this a try.
Kaepernick’s problems weren’t the offensive system. Here’s the reality in terms of offensive philosophy the Harbaugh/Roman offense and Shanahan’s Offense aren’t that dissimilar. Put simply, they’re run to set up the pass. When Harbaugh was hired he was asked what kind of offense he was going to run….and he sort of coyly said “West Coast”…..because of course he was taking over the 49ers which was widely recognized birthplace of Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense (it was actually created in Cincinnati). Both Roman and Shanahan created run heavy that feed a play action passing game (mostly for chunk plays and to keep opponents guessing) and both grafted West Coast passing concepts onto their offenses. WHY because you’re not always going to be able to run the ball and set up play action….to stay ahead of the chains. Sometimes you have to pass the ball when they expect you to pass the ball….or when you have no choice but to pass the ball (down and distance or they’ve stuffed 12 men in the box to stuff the run). But…yeah…Harbaugh’s offense wasn’t even close to Walsh’s West Coast Offense. HOW Harbaugh/Roman and Shanahan go about implementing their run games are different both tactically and philosophically.
Originally the Harbaugh/Roman philosophy was to bludgeon their way through defenses with their power run game. I mean it was old school Power Football with some creative blocking angles created for the linemen; Gap blocking scheme, pulling guard and a fullback. The heavy run game creates play action opportunities which make for easier passing because of the limited routes/reads and because defenders tend to freeze or be out of place in coverage because they expect the run. As time went on Roman started implementing more wrinkles in his base power run game some zone blocking runs, zone read plays and RPOs. His offense with the Ravens has evolved but he started much of it with the 49ers. When you see Lamar Jackson executing passes and runs (when he’s not injured or possibly holding out)…think of what could have been with Kaepernick.
Shanahan’s offensive philosophy is about deception it wants to gain the advantage by tricking/confusing defenders. Rather than straight up pound your opponent, you get them to hesitate or freeze because they see one thing and then something else is happening. Originally the Shanahan scheme was MIKE Shanahan taking Dan Reeve’s ground and pound philosophy, with the West Coast Offense he learned with the 49ers and married it with Alex Gibb’s zone blocking scheme. Most of the offense was designed around ONE PLAY. The wide zone run. The play action passes from the pocket and even more often from bootlegs. Lineman blocking was the same for the run plays and the play action passes….all wide zone reach blocks….so defenses didn’t have anything to key on. Like Harbaugh/Roman the WCO was grafted on as an answer for defenses that forced the offense to pass the ball. As Roman’s offense evolved and incorporated more zone blocking and read concepts along with some misdirection….Shanahan’s offense started to incorporate more and more Gap blocking to go along with the base zone blocking scheme. Defenders like to watch back flow and uncovered linemen (pullers…often Guards) and Shanahan likes to bring them out to the edge or to get them to freeze and put defenders in the wrong place by moving backs or linemen in the opposite/counter direction.
I’m rambling again…where am I going with this….oh yeah….both philosophically the same; run to set up the pass. Both tactically different but sort of moving towards the other by introducing concepts of the other (zone read/blocking with Roman and gap blocking counters with Shanahan).
So…oh yeah….Kaepernick. IMO Kaepernick’s biggest football problems were:
1. He was slow at reading coverages and going through progressions. It’s not that he didn’t know what to do. It’s just that he was slow at it. If his first read was open…things were golden. If he had all day in the pocket…he’d make the right reads.
2. During the last days of the Harbaugh years and into the Tomsula year, Kaepernick started to become shell shocked. He was forced to sit in the pocket…which made him take sacks. He was rushing his slow reads and making mistakes.
3. But Kaepernick’s biggest problem was his timing in the pocket. Kaep had the problem that almost all mobile QBs have. Their sense of timing in the pocket is off. They lack footwork, timing and coordination with their receiver’s routes and their reads. Kaep’s internal clock was set to rabbit from the pocket. He had to force himself to stay in the pocket when he really wanted to run. Steve Young described the drop back footwork like a metronome for the QB for the timing of routes. He said that Mike Holmgren in practice had to chain his leg in to the pocket to force him to get a feel for and timing in the pocket. Young got to learn to preprogram his tendencies while being Joe Montana’s backup. Kaepernick tried to learn this stuff as the starting QB…tried to learn and reinvent himself on the fly. So Kaep crumbled under the pressure.
So yeah…if Kaep had just played in a play action system….it would have benefited him greatly because of the simplicity of it. But as I said, all offenses need to be able to pass when they’re being forced to pass (without the benefit of play action) and that’s where Kaepernick got into trouble. So I don’t think it would make much difference if Kaepernick played in Greg Roman’s offense or Kyle Shanahan’s.
To be fair I think that few noticed that Kaepernick was starting to come out of his shell in his last year with the 49ers. He started to take what the defense gave him and rushed and forced things less. He started to remind me of Alex Smith as he came out of the dark Nolan/Singletary years. Smith no longer cared what anyone expected of him and didn’t care if he checked down and took what the defense gave him. It made him a conservative but safe QB. Smith would later open up his game in his last few years with KC. Who knows…had Kaepernick’s career decisions not gone sideways…maybe Kaepernick would have become a more well rounded quarterback.
So there’s rambling answer number 3…..
Good assessment of Kaep. who I never thought was more than a running QB with little savvy. When he lost his speed he was done before he left the league.
I believe keap ultimately failed because of lack of intelligence and the personality traits he needed to be successful. He got off to a great start because of his unique skill set, but every QB has to be a good pocket passer to be successful and he just relied on his physical talent instead of investing the time and energy to learn to become a pocket passer.
what makes you believe it was lack of intelligence?
from what I recall, Harbaugh always thought Kaepernick was a good student in the film room. I never got the indication that Kaep didn’t know what he was doing. To me it seemed like was just doing the wrong things in the heat of the game (slow reads, bad pocket presence and footwork…etc…). I said in another post that from what I saw; if you gave Kaepernick a safe pocket with plenty of time, he could read a defense and go through his progressions just fine. So Kaep knew what he was doing. It’s not a question of intelligence. The issues to me were poor habits (a life time of being a mobile QB that would run from danger), poor situation (not having the opportunity to learn to be a pocket passer as anything other than a starter….all the while being asked to use your mobility at the same time as being forced to be a pocket passer….and I’m not sure if Roman was the right guy to be a coordinator to develop a fully capable pro QB. I suppose Harbaugh might have been able to…but he was busy being the head coach. And at Stanford, it was David Shaw and Pep Hamilton that were Luck’s most direct developmental coaches. But Kaep was stuck with run happy Roman to make him into a fully functonal pro QB.
Felix is spot-on. Kaep. was below average in intelligence and it showed. Walsh knew this all too well and he looked for it in his key position players.
You guys are using the word intelligence here too loosely. The guy graduated with good academic scores so certainly he is no below average intellectually. And we never heard from anyone (coaches and players) that Kaep did not know what he was doing or cannot understand what needs to be done. AFFP is correct, it was more of his slow read and feel of the situation that was lacking.
You nailed that one. A friend of a friend was one of CK’s teachers in HS. He said he was extremely bright and hard working. He took many AP courses and received A grades. Allforfun mentioned something in an earlier post. He said CK had become shell shocked. My theory of why CK failed is close to that. I believe that sometime early in the 2014 season Kaep got a case of the yips. He was so deep in his own head that he could no longer pull the trigger.
You can have all the physical tools required but lack in intelligence and personality attributes, and you might get drafted higher but won’t succeed at this level.
Purdy: Good or a product of the system?
I think this is a false dichotomy. Purdy can be both. To some degree, every QB is a product of the system. This is why coaches try to tailor their offense to match the strengths of their players. There are guys who can be great in almost any system. Current QBs who fit that description are Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. Even having said that, you wouldn’t put Patrick Mahomes in a 1978 Chiefs offense where they rushed 668 times and passed 370 times. It would totally negate Mahomes entire skill set. There are a bunch of QBs who are good QBs but they significantly benefit from the system they run where their strengths are magnified and their weaknesses are minimized. Guys like Jalen Hurts and Kirk Cousins come to mind in this category. So when you ask if Brock Purdy is Good OR is Brock Purdy a product of the system, the unquestionably correct answer is: Yes.
What came first? The chicken or the egg..which is, pretty much, what this conversation is in a nut shell….was Joe Montana great because of the Walsh offense, or was Walsh’s offense great because of Montana..? Drew Brees flourished to an HoF career under Sean Payton..Peyton or Brees? Would Mahomes, Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts shine in Kyle’s offense? Absolutely…it starts with talent and mentality…
The egg came first.
A bird that wasn’t a chicken had a mutation in its gamete. The resultant egg was a chicken-egg.
I hope everyone understands that in 2 more full seasons the 49ers will have to pay Purdy $40-$50 million per year to be their QB. Are you Al sure he’s that dude?
As several have already said here, two more full seasons of Purdy are needed before his true talent, capabilities as a QB can be accurately assessed. For now, just want to see how he fares this Sunday against Dallas and its D.
Actually the 49ers have Purdy 3 more seasons under his current contract he doesn’t become a FA until before the 2026 season. So lets just enjoy the rest of this season and the next 3 before we worry about Purdy becoming a FA.
It kind of sucks to be a desirable 7th round draft pick. Many priority Undrafted Free Agents actually get more money than lower draft picks and have the freedom to choose which team they go to. But I think there’s some sort of NFL financial balance bonus formula thing that provides some additional compensation for lower drafted players that play some significant number of snaps. It’s not a lot of money relative to the $20M+ that a starting QB makes. …something in the $100s of thousands of dollars…maybe a million? But it’s a lot for a player making close to the NFL minimum.
Only one way to avoid this, James. Seek out the shi!!iest quarterback you can find and sign him off the streets. Guaranteed way to avoid paying $40-50M annually.
A lot can happen between now and 4 years. I sure wouldn’t worry about his contract 4 years from now. Hopefully he’s worth $50 M. More interesting in my opinion is what’s going to happen with Lance. He started out as QB1 and only got to play 1 full game and now he’ll go into next year as QB2. I can’t imagine the Niners wanting to trade him because I’m sure they still feel he has the chance to be very good and besides he probably wouldn’t have much trade value this off-season coming off a broken ankle.
We’ll get to find out what kind of person he is. Does he ask to be traded? Does he work his ass off to compete with Purdy? Does he get progressively better or just plateaus? It’s all very interesting.
Same could be said for Lance…there seems to be more fans that believe Lance is ‘that dude’ as opposed to Brock Purdy…question is..Why?
They are invested in Lance succeeding. They were loud about him from the start and need to be proven right.
I believe that Shanahan will give Lance an opportunity in TC next summer to see if Trey can validate Shanahan’ original plan to have an 11 on 11 type offense.
But at this point, Purdy has to be viewed as the starter going into the 2023 season. Which means that Lance will need to wow everyone in TC.
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