One of the most covered NFL debates dating back to the end of last season is whether or not quarterback Brock Purdy is getting enough credit for how much he has contributed to the offensive success of the San Francisco 49ers. It is a topic that is familiar to a lot of Los Angeles Rams fans, as this is a lot like whether or not Jared Goff was responsible for the Super Bowl run in 2018 or just benefiting from good coaching and a great supporting cast.
So similar are the situations of the two quarterbacks that a tweet by The Ringer’s Austin Gayle highlights that they’re both in the top-5 for best EPA per dropback by a player through the first five weeks since 2010: Goff had 0.43 EPA per dropback in 2018 and Purdy is at 0.42 to start 2023.
Best EPA per dropback averages in Weeks 1-5 since 2010 (via TruMedia)— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) October 9, 2023
1. Peyton Manning, 2013 (0.52)
2. Aaron Rodgers, 2020 (0.45)
T-3. Jared Goff, 2018 (0.43)
T-3. Aaron Rodgers, 2011 (0.43)
5. Brock Purdy, 2023 (0.42)
As the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft and playing for a team that notably got a lot more out of Jimmy Garoppolo than most coaches and teams ever would have, Purdy has been the subject of a lot more doubt and skepticism than he would be if he had been a top-five pick last year. Judging the success or lack thereof by the only first rounder, Kenny Pickett, Purdy was definitely let down and misjudged by NFL teams in the 2022 draft.
We know that for certain.
But Purdy has had one of the best starts to a career in pro football history and he’s not the first quarterback to ever be dropped in an ideal situation. Tom Brady was dropped in an ideal situation, was also an afterthought as a draft prospect, and he wouldn’t have won three Super Bowls in his first four years as a starter if not for playing in a good organization with a great defense: The Patriots ranked sixth, first, and second in points allowed during Brady’s first three championship seasons.
Now we just think of him as Tom Brady, but there were a lot of skeptics and doubters and questions of whether he’s as good as predecessor Drew Bledsoe back in the early 2000s.
This is not to say that Purdy should be compared to Brady—though that was already happening as soon as the end of last season when he replaced an injured Garoppolo after starting the season as San Francisco’s third-string option—but maybe there is some fair comparison to be made to Goff’s situation in 2018.
The two quarterbacks could not be closer to polar opposites as draft prospects: Goff was literally the first pick in his draft and Purdy was literally the last.
But Goff was going into his second year in Sean McVay’s system in 2018. Purdy is in his second season in the NFL, second with Kyle Shanahan.
Goff was winning games and putting up efficient numbers, but many argued that he was made by running back Todd Gurley. It was Gurley who had led the NFL in touchdowns in 2017 and 2018, Gurley who won Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, Gurley who nearly won MVP. Purdy is putting up efficient numbers, but many will say that Christian McCaffrey should be ahead of him in any MVP conversation, as McCaffrey’s arrival is the true turning point between San Francisco’s 3-4 start to winning their last 15 regular season games in a row.
McCaffrey is on track to win Offensive Player of the Year so far, if it’s not Tyreek Hill. He leads the NFL in rushing yards, touchdowns, and yards from scrimmage.
Goff had weapons like Cooper Kupp (at least at the start of 2018), Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods. Purdy has Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. Goff had an offensive line anchored by Andrew Whitworth. Purdy’s is anchored by Trent Williams. Goff was called an elite “game manager” who owned the intermediate part of the field, even if he struggled on downfield throws and mastering the off-schedule plays. Purdy is mastering going through his progressions and the intermediate part of the field, less explosive and accurate on downfield throws, but arguably a little better off schedule.
Geno Smith, Tua Tagovailoa, Jared Goff and Brock Purdy are all Top 6 in PFF passing grade on throws between 10-20 yards downfield— Brad Spielberger, Esq. (@PFF_Brad) October 9, 2023
Winning at the intermediate level is how you sustain a good passing attack in 2023 against all the coverages preventing explosives https://t.co/kRFbAFzOZ4
Jared Goff has had a good career. He has spent the last seven seasons in the NFL as a starter—which is a lot harder than it sounds, even for a first overall pick, and you can ask so many other highly-drafted QBs about that (Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Mitchell Trubisky, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, etc.)—and teams have finished five of the last six years with winning records and having Goff as the starter: Four by the Rams, one by the Lions and so far Detroit is 4-1.
Therefore, it is not an insult to say that Purdy could be like Goff.
However, the Rams did ultimately choose to trade Goff and acquire Matthew Stafford because Sean McVay felt he couldn’t win a Super Bowl without a player who could improvise, work off-script, and had the arm talent to do some unique things with deep passes. McVay was proven right about Stafford in 2021, although we’ll never know if he could have gotten there with Goff.
The 49ers don’t know yet how Purdy will do in a playoff situation beyond San Francisco’s first two playoff games last year—Purdy dominated the Seahawks, but was kept in check a little bit by the Cowboys—and that too is similar to Goff. He did partake in two playoff wins in 2018, but didn’t have “the real Todd Gurley” or Kupp and the Patriots did what they did in that year’s Super Bowl.
Maybe with those players, Goff would have been a Super Bowl champion before any talk of him being traded.
Maybe Purdy will win a Super Bowl.
They have similarities to start their careers. Will they have similar middle and endings?