The San Francisco 49ers lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the season on Sunday thanks to a broken foot. The next man up was rookie Brock Purdy, far down on the depth chart to start the season but now the leader of San Francisco's offense.
Purdy, 22, was 2022's Mr. Irrelevant — the final pick of the NFL draft. After coming into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins for Garoppolo and leading the Niners to a 33–17 win, he's not irrelevant anymore. Since Purdy will likely be starting in Garoppolo's place against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week, let's get to know him and his journey to this unexpected moment.
Purdy can ball
Purdy started as quarterback for Perry High School in Arizona, and put up such great numbers in his senior year that recruiters couldn't help but pay attention. Over the 2017-2018 season, Purdy completed 238 of 368 passes for 4,410 yards and 57 touchdowns, and found success with his legs as well, rushing for 1,016 yards with 10 touchdowns. That performance earned him the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Purdy, a three-star recruit, received offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Illinois and UCF, but chose Iowa State. He was the Cyclones' starter for nearly all four years, and racked up an impressive number of school records (over 30), including winningest QB in program history, most passing yards, most completions, highest completion percent and most touchdowns. In 2022, he also won the Big 12 Sportsman of the Year award.
Kyle Shanahan says Purdy's 'got balls'
Before Sunday, Purdy had appeared in just three NFL games, all in garbage time. In two of the three, he was barely in the game for more than a few snaps, and he didn't attempt a pass. In the third game, a 44-23 Week 7 walloping at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, Purdy entered in the final minutes and completed four of nine passes for 66 yards.
Sunday's game was much different. Purdy wasn't playing in garbage time anymore. He came in extremely early as Garoppolo was hurt in the Niners' first offensive drive of the game. Purdy not only had to lead the offense, but had to handle a game plan that was constantly changing. And he managed to do both. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan was impressed with how Purdy performed under pressure — not just the pressure of coming into an NFL game at a moment's notice, but the constant defensive pressure he experienced on the field. He handled it all in stride.
“Brock came in and made some big plays,” Shanahan said via NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’s got some balls out there, forgive me for saying it that way. Just throwing him in there in the heat of battle like that, they had some good adjustments, taking away our hot throws.
“We were having to change a lot of stuff on the fly, which put a lot of pressure on him that way. I thought he did a hell of a job doing it.”
He could make Mr. Irrelevant history against Tom Brady, Bucs
Through the decades of the NFL draft, only six quarterbacks (including Purdy) have been chosen with the final pick. When Purdy completed his first of four passes in that Week 7 loss, he became the first Mr. Irrelevant to complete a forward pass in a regular-season game. When he connected with Kyle Juszczyk on a 3-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter on Sunday, he became the first Mr. Irrelevant quarterback to throw a TD pass.
Purdy is slated to make his first career start against the Bucs next week, and when he does, he'll be the first Mr. Irrelevant to start a regular-season game at quarterback. Tom Brady, who himself wasn't the highest of draft picks (199th overall), will be making his 330th career start. Following Sunday's game, Purdy told the media that he's thrilled to be facing the GOAT.
"Yeah, I think it's cool," Purdy said. "I think it's really cool. Dude has been playing football longer than I've been alive. So yeah, to have a first start against the GOAT, it's going to be pretty cool. But just any other game, man, it's got to be efficient, do my thing and play football."