Advertisement

Brock Purdy is the NFL's top-rated passer. His best likely is still yet to come.

Editor's note: Follow along for live updates and highlights from the Ravens-Titans game in London by clicking here.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Holding court in front of his stall in a near-empty San Francisco 49ers locker room, Trent Williams prompted his audience to ponder what Brock Purdy can become in time.

Imagine that. Purdy, 23, has never lost an NFL regular-season game, leads the league in pass efficiency and has a legitimate chance of leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl crown, but the young quarterback is still a baby in NFL terms. Make that an overgrown baby.

“Brock was a rookie last year,” Williams said. “Thrown into the fire. At the end of the year. The player you’re looking at now and the player you saw in early January, late ’22, it’s a different player. The mental bank has so much more in it.

“Obviously, you can’t buy experience. It’s the one thing that can help any player in any system.”

Williams knows. None of this is automatic. Stuff happens. Toiling in his 14th NFL season (Purdy was in elementary school when Williams broke into the league), the burly left tackle has experienced all sorts of drama and flash-in-pan circumstance on his journey. For instance, he was there (with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan) for the entire rise and fall of the Robert Griffin III phenomenon in Washington.

After Purdy fired four touchdown passes to slay the Dallas Cowboys 42-10 on Sunday night, though, the takeaway from Williams was as good of a warning as any for the NFL universe.

Said Williams: “He’s going to continue to grow. What we’re seeing now is not what he’s going to be.”

Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown by Jordan Mason #24 during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Santa Clara, California.
Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown by Jordan Mason #24 during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Santa Clara, California.

If that sounds like something you’ve heard in a horror movie, so be it. Purdy’s rise after being the last player picked in the 2022 NFL draft makes you wonder whether he’s really a monster created by Shanahan and GM John Lynch in some lab hidden below sea level at 4949 Centennial Boulevard.

It’s no wonder George Kittle said after hauling in three TDs from Purdy, “It’s like he’s a robot.”

What a compliment – and subliminal dig at the haters – which speaks to cold efficiency reflected with an NFL-best 123.1 passer rating.

The 49ers (5-0) can set a franchise record at Cleveland on Sunday by winning a 16th consecutive regular-season game, while Purdy can keep piling his cache of superlatives. In winning his first 10 NFL starts since he was thrust into the lineup in December after since-departed Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a foot injury, no player ever posted a higher passer rating than Purdy (121.1).  Only Chad Pennington (70.8%) topped Purdy’s 70.4% completion rate over that 10-game sample size. And just one quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger with 15 in a row, notched more consecutive wins to start a career.

Beneath the numbers are the elements that Kittle raves about.

“He throws some ridiculous passes in practice,” Kittle said.

Purdy is also the same player on Sunday than he is in practice on Wednesday, Kittle insists. That consistency matters when it comes to gaining trust as a quarterback, which goes hand in hand with his preparation and grasp of the details.

“I think really the best thing he does…is his ability to move in the pocket and keep his eyes up and see things develop,” Kittle said. “So, if he doesn’t hit you where he’s supposed to, he sees a second window. He’s very good at that.”

Shanahan said that other than an early incompletion over the middle that was behind Brandon Aiyuk, Purdy was “pretty flawless” against the Cowboys.

If the 49ers keep winning, in time it will be natural to ponder whether Purdy belongs in the conversation about the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. Having 10 regular-season starts and one playoff finish doesn’t provide the track record that declares “elite” but Purdy may be on his way to that level.

Purdy is undoubtedly a beneficiary of great fortune, landing with one of the deepest, most balanced teams in the NFL. If your job is to feed the football to weapons such as Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Aiyuk and Kittle, how hard can that be? Add to that the powerful front wall fortified by Williams and a stingy, star-studded defense that won’t leave you having to win shootouts (even though San Francisco is capable, scoring at least 30 points in each game), and a ton of pressure is relieved.

But those factors also overshadow how well Purdy has handled his role. It’s not automatic. Remember, the 49ers traded a bundle to move up and draft Trey Lance in 2021, and he’s gone now. They wanted Lance to become the franchise quarterback and that never materialized. And Garoppolo, who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth four years ago, has moved on, too.

Purdy has seized his moment – now and perhaps in the future – because he just doesn’t make the glaring mistakes that can derail young quarterbacks. The reps he had during four years as a starter at Iowa State surely provided a tremendous head start for his NFL career. His big passer rating this season, however, is enabled by the fact that he hasn’t thrown an interception while firing 9 TD passes.

Maybe you were waiting for Purdy to wet his pants in a big moment. Well, it still hasn’t happened. The NFC title game setback at Philadelphia was “incomplete” as he suffered an elbow injury in the first quarter that required surgery.

The latest case, against Dallas, wound up as an example of what Williams talked about regarding Purdy’s learning curve. Purdy had his worst game during the 19-12 NFC divisional playoff victory against the Cowboys in January, when the offense bogged down in the red zone. He learned from it, sensing that he had a better grasp of Dallas’ defensive schemes the second time around.

“Obviously, watching the film from last year, it’s like, ‘Man, I want to be better,’ “ Purdy said.

“Was that my only motivation and goal? No, man, I was just doing what I was asked. Knew the game would come to me over time. You’ve got to get into a rhythm, hit the open guys and do my part as a quarterback. Don’t try to be a superhero and that’s that. So, I learned from the game last year.”

Purdy was in such a rhythm that Shanahan had to remind himself not to call too many passes.

In any event, Purdy sees his flow as part of a bigger picture.

“It feels like everyone’s just on a mission,” he said. “Like the mindset is right where it needs to be. Everyone is so detailed in what they do. The play calls are great. So, it’s like all I have to do is go out there and do my job and that’s it, and just play ball.”

The prized pupil is ready for some more tests.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brock Purdy's best for San Francisco 49ers is likely still yet to come