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Brock Purdy, game manager? How 49ers QB proved Cam Newton, other haters wrong in Super Bowl run | Sporting News

Cam Newton fires off hot takes regularly, but one of his most scorching from the 2023 NFL season was about 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.

Newton didn’t think that Purdy was worthy of MVP consideration despite Purdy’s strong performance during the 2023 NFL season. Newton opined that Purdy was among a group of NFL quarterbacks that he considered “game managers” in a December podcast appearance.

“Brock, they’re not winning because of him,” Newton said of Purdy and the 49ers. “He’s managing the game. And if we were to put that in its own right, as game managers — Brock Purdy, Tua Tagovailoa, Jared Goff, and really, Dak Prescott — these are game managers. They’re not difference-makers.”

What did Newton mean by that? The former Panthers quarterback outlined that it was all about what was being asked of Purdy game-in and game-out.

“You don’t have to score every time. You just don’t have to throw a pick every time, either,” Newton said. “If we’re really going to call a spade a spade, a game manager is different than a game changer.”

Newton’s point immediately divided NFL fans. Some agreed with the 2015 NFL MVP and point out that Purdy had an All-Pro-level supporting cast comprised of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. With those guys in tow, Purdy only had to worry about managing the game.

Others, however, argued that while Purdy received a lot of help during the 2023 NFL season, he also was a “game changer” because of his pinpoint accuracy. Sure, he might not make as many off-script plays as the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson — whom Newton classified as “game changers” — but Purdy’s contributions could not be ignored.

The full debate around Purdy’s greatness will likely rage on until he has a couple of seasons under his belt.

However, at a minimum, it appears that the 24-year-old QB has thrown some cold water on Newton’s theory after leading the 49ers to Super Bowl 58.

MORE: Why Chiefs will be among Brock Purdy’s toughest tests yet in Super Bowl 58

How Brock Purdy proved his haters wrong during Super Bowl run

Purdy enjoyed a terrific 2023 season. There were some bumps in the road, but the young, first-year starter mostly managed to get through the regular season without making too many mistakes.

Once the playoffs began, Purdy began showcasing a “clutch gene” that helped the 49ers to win even when he and the rest of the team’s offense weren’t at their best.

Brock Purdy stats 2023

Any discussion of Purdy’s merits must begin with his stats from this season. He was the NFL’s most efficient quarterback, leading the league in passer rating and yards per attempt by a wide margin while ranking top five in most of the other notable passing categories.

Below is a look at Purdy’s stats from the 2023 season and where they rank among quarterbacks.

Stat Total Rank
Comp. % 69.4 4th
Passing yards 4,280 5th
Pass TDs 31 3rd
INTs 11 T-10th
Yards/attempt 9.6 1st
Passer rating 113.0 1st
QBR 72.7 1st
PFF grade 87.0 6th

In addition to his solid stats, Purdy led the 49ers to a 12-4 record in his 16 regular-season starts. That was good enough to earn the team the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a key first-round bye.

Some will note that Purdy had a four-interception game in the 49ers’ loss to the Ravens. He also completed just 12-of-27 passes in a defeat against the Browns.

That said, those were just two blips on Purdy’s radar in an otherwise spectacular season. He had a passer rating of 111.3 or better in 10 of his 16 games and only saw the number dip below 81.5 on two occasions.

That’s the mark of consistent, high-level play, and that isn’t something often seen from a second-year starter.

So, while one could argue that Purdy’s stats were slightly inflated by his strong supporting cast, his pinpoint accuracy and great ball placement showcase that he should continue to be a top-level quarterback moving forward.

MORE: Kyle Shanahan admits 49ers wanted to sign Tom Brady for 2023 due to Brock Purdy injury

Brock Purdy stats, highlights vs. Packers

Purdy didn’t perform as well across his first two postseason games as he did during the regular season, but he came up big late in each of the 49ers’ two playoff wins to date.

Purdy had a rocky outing in San Francisco’s divisional-round matchup with the Packers. He struggled to throw the ball with consistent accuracy in rainy conditions, and that allowed Green Bay to lead for most of the evening.

However, Purdy put together a rock-solid drive when it counted most. The 49ers were trailing 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter when Purdy led them on a game-winning drive that lasted 5:11.

Purdy completed six-of-seven passes for 47 yards after completing just 53 percent of his passes over the rest of the outing. During the drive, Purdy routinely fit balls into tight windows, like his third-down throw to Brandon Aiyuk.

Purdy also read the field well and ripped off some chunk-yardage plays, like this one to wideout Chris Conley.

Indeed, Purdy’s willingness to take what the defense gave him played a major role in the 49ers’ methodical drive, which resulted in a go-ahead Christian McCaffrey touchdown with just over one minute left in regulation. The 49ers defense intercepted Jordan Love a few plays later to seal a win.

Shanahan acknowledged after the game that Purdy wasn’t at his best, but the veteran coach credited the 24-year-old with stepping up at the right time to deliver a clutch, game-winning drive.

“Brock, he made some big plays in this game,” Shanahan told reporters, per NFL.com. “Missed a couple, but leading us down on our last drive and getting the win, that’s all I can ask for.”

Before Purdy’s heroic drive, Shanahan-coached teams had been 0-31 when entering the fourth quarter trailing by five-plus points. Purdy helped erase that ignominious mark, and, despite a below-average performance by his standards (23-of-39 passing for 252 yards and one touchdown), he did just enough to will the 49ers to an NFC championship game appearance.

Brock Purdy stats, highlights vs. Lions

The best counter to any argument that Purdy is a game manager came in San Francisco’s 34-31 win over Detroit. Purdy put together a strong outing in that contest and showcased that his mobility is a stronger asset than most realize.

Purdy used his legs sparingly against Detroit, but he ripped off a big run on what ultimately proved to be his second game-winning drive in as many contests. The 49ers were up 27-24 but were facing a 3rd-and-4 when Purdy saw a lane open up while facing pressure in the pocket.

Purdy quickly turned on the jets and got to space, ripping off a 21-yard run that put the 49ers in scoring range and placed the Lions further behind the 8-ball with under five minutes left in the contest.

Again, Purdy’s passing stats were merely fine, as he completed 20-of-31 passes for 267 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. That said, his QBR — which is measured on a scale from 0 to 100 — checked in at 88.1, indicating that he consistently made good decisions and elevated his team with his scrambling choices (48 yards on five carries).

That led Purdy to once again be praised by his teammates, who threw shade at Newton’s comments about the 49ers quarterback being a game manager.

“Heck of a game manager, wow,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said when asked about Purdy’s performance. “Managed the heck out of that game. He’s the reason we’re gonna have us a chance to win a ring.”

Warner has a point. Purdy’s clutch play showed up in each of his postseason wins, and he played a big part in leading the 49ers back from a 17-point halftime deficit against the Lions.

Up next will be one of Purdy’s toughest tests yet, and the Chiefs are not taking him lightly as the two teams prepare to square off in the Super Bowl.

What the Chiefs have said about Brock Purdy

The Chiefs have been complimentary of Purdy in the lead-up to their Super Bowl matchup.

Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was particularly impressed with Purdy’s skill set while watching him on film. Spagnuolo even took a step to debunk the game manager narrative in his comments about the second-year quarterback.

“We’ve had some crossover film (on Purdy) throughout the year, but when you dive into it and you watch him, it’s not a quarterback that’s managing or all those tabs they put on him,” Spagnuolo told reporters in a news conference. “He’s for real. Makes all the throws; really really smart.”

Spagnuolo was also impressed by Purdy’s athleticism and referenced the key scramble he had against the Lions as something that could give the Chiefs’ stop unit trouble.

“What I didn’t know is how athletic he is,” Spagnuolo said. “I mean, this is another quarterback that when you cover everything back there, he finds a lane and can take off. He did it last week, he’s done it in every playoff game and gets positive yards. That puts a lot of strain on us defensively. Thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly impressed with him.”

Andy Reid offered a similar assessment of Purdy, saying that the 49ers starter is “a heck of a player.” The veteran coach also harkened back to Purdy’s college days, during which he helped turn Iowa State into a winning program.

“I remember specifically one of the Saturday afternoons watching him in college and I remember the head coach saying, ‘This guy has changed our program,'” Reid said. “Changing a program, you know, that’s … big. And that’s what he is. He’s doing that in the National Football League.”

Patrick Mahomes echoed Reid’s sentiments, saying that he watched a lot of Purdy in college and knew that he would find success.

“I’ve seen Brock play since college, I knew how good he was,” Mahomes said at Super Bowl Opening Night, per Pro Football Talk. “I watched him play — I watch the Big 12 a lot, so I watched him play a ton.

He was a winner and he made plays happen all through his college career. Usually when you can make it happen in college, no matter what your surroundings are, and turn around a program like he did at Iowa State, you’re going to make it happen when you get your opportunity in the NFL. So I wasn’t very surprised he’s had the success that he’s had because he’s a winner and he’s a guy that goes out there and competes.

“And I’ve always said, more than a football player, you’ve got to be someone who competes, and he’s always been one of those guys.”

Perhaps the Chiefs are just looking to avoid potential bulletin board material with Purdy ahead of the big game. But more likely, Kansas City’s top coaches and players understand that the 24-year-old quarterback has outplayed the game manager label with which he has been slapped at this early stage in his NFL career.

MORE: Sporting News experts make 49ers vs. Chiefs Super Bowl picks

Cam Newton’s latest Brock Purdy comments

Newton still isn’t backing down from his opinion despite the praise that Purdy is receiving from peers. The former NFL MVP said that he “ain’t recanting s—” in another recent podcast appearance while taking another shot at Purdy.

“If you really want to just be honest, if you add in the defensive talent, and you add in the offensive talent, Brock Purdy is the 10th-best player on this team (the 49ers),” Newton said. “Ok cool, did he have a great game? Yes! Has he been playing out of his mind? Yes! Is he a quarterback that’s hot? Yes! But he’s still the 10th-best player on his team.”

Newton’s assessment may not be entirely wrong. On offense, Trent Williams, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle would all be in the running for top-10 player status, as well. Defensively, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner would also enter the conversation.

Still, Newton using this argument in an effort to discredit Purdy seems like a step too far.

As Warner pointed out, Purdy’s prolific regular-season performance and clutch abilities are a big part of what allowed San Francisco to make the Super Bowl. Perhaps Purdy would struggle to achieve the same results with lesser weapons, but his accuracy and window-fitting abilities seem likely to make him a rock-solid starter for years to come.

Here’s one last endorsement for Purdy. McCaffrey was asked by Will Compton of “Bussin’ with the Boys” who he would take to lead a game-winning drive to end the fourth quarter: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Brock Purdy?

“Brock Purdy,” McCaffrey answered without hesitation.

Maybe McCaffrey was just trying to hype Purdy up, but it still seems as if the 49ers, like the Chiefs, believe that Purdy is capable of winning a Super Bowl.

If he can do that, he should put a good chunk of the game manager chatter to bed.

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