Could Brock Purdy be the first rookie quarterback to win the Super Bowl?

There have been few stories in the 2022 NFL season quite as remarkable as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, who begins the postseason with the perfect opportunity to become the first rookie quarterback to lead the team to Super Bowl glory.

Purdy has been a revelation since he burst into the spotlight as first quarterback following a broken foot suffered by Jimmy Garoppolo in a Week 13 win over the Miami Dolphins.

This was supposed to be Trey Lance’s team in 2022, but with the third overall pick in 2021 removed from the equation due to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2, there are pertinent questions as to whether this is Purdy in the long run now, and they are deserved , given his remarkable performances early in his career.

Contrary to his status as last pick in the 2022 draft, Purdy confidently piloted one of the best offenses in football, with the 49ers averaging 33.6 points per game since becoming a full-time starter.

In addition to ensuring the 49ers beat the Dolphins after Garoppolo’s departure in the first quarter, Purdy has since won each of his first five starts, helping the NFC West champion Niners end the regular season on a 10-game winning streak.

With the 49ers’ win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 18, in which he scored three touchdowns, Purdy became the third rookie quarterback to win his first five starts, behind Ben Roethlisberger (won 13 first starts in 2004 in 1968).

He is the third player in NFL history to have at least two touchdown passes in each of his first five starts, joining Dan Marino and Billy Volk, while he is only the second rookie with at least two touchdown passes in six consecutive games. The second was Justin Herbert in 2020.

Purdy’s passer rating in his first five starts of 119.0 is second only to Kurt Warner’s (131.4) in 1999. Although not a rookie, Warner led the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl title, winning the Super Bowl MVP in the process.

The support system for Purdy when he wants to make league history is excellent. The San Francisco Offense is full of quarterbacks, and the addition of Christian McCaffrey to a group that already included Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle has the effect of transforming Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Plenty of guns in San Francisco is a significant reason why Purdy entered Week 18 as the fourth-ranked quarterback with at least 100 plays in expected passing situations in Efficiency Versus Expected (EVE). Prior to the Cardinals’ breakout, Purdy averaged 1.47 yards above expectations in anticipated passing situations.

With the defense led by Defensive Player of the Year leader Nick Bosa becoming the best in the NFL, the 49ers entered Week 18 taking first place overall in EVE.

In that regard, the 49ers are the best team in the NFL, but history speaks strongly against Purdy succeeding in his quest to lead them to their sixth Lombardi trophy in franchise history.

Nineteen rookies kicked off the Super Bowl era playoffs with a 9-19 record in 28 games.

While no rookie has lifted Lombardi, the performances of several of those who entered the heat of the postseason battle in season one offer a glimpse of what could lie ahead for Purdy as he prepares to kick off his career in the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.

Ben Roethlisberger (2004)

Roethlisberger may be the best parallel we can draw for Purdy, given their shared place in the NFL history books.

In 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a great time in a completely different draft mode, playing the role of a frustrated spectator until the 11th pick, when the famous Eli Manning-Philip Rivers saga unfolded.

Roethlisberger made the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants initially look foolish for not valuing him higher, helping the colossal Steelers to a 15-1 record and claim No. 1 in the AFC.

However, his first postseason proved difficult for Big Ben, with Roethlisberger completing only 57.4 percent of his passing for 407 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions, recording a passing rating of 61.3.

Three of his five picks came in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, whose opportunistic defensive performances inspired them to a third Super Bowl appearance – and eventually a third Super Bowl title – in four seasons.

Purdy has the advantage of having the best defense in the league on his side, and the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles appear to be the only 49ers-style team with the ability to cause him problems similar to those experienced by Roethlisberger in January 2005. .

The NFL has changed a lot since Bill Belichick’s defense robbed Roethlisberger of his chance to make history, but the Steelers Conference championship game mishap 18 years ago is a barely needed reminder of the value of protecting football.

Purdy, who has 13 touchdowns on four interceptions, has done an impressive job in that sense, and if he continues in the same way, the 49ers will be perfectly equipped for a deep run. If the Niners fail, Purdy may take heart from Roethlisberger’s second season, in which he led the Steelers to a Super Bowl XL victory against the Seattle Seahawks.

Joe Flacco (2008) and Mark Sanchez (2009)

Flacco and Sanchez are also decent examples to guide Purdy’s playoff journey.

Unlike Purdy, both were well-prepared quarterbacks, but are comparable in that they had the advantage of supporting a cast that was built for January success. Both made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

Flacco didn’t have to do much to get to this point with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. In his three post-season games, Flacco completed just 44 percent of his passing for 437 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions, giving him a passing rating of just 50.8.

However, the Ravens were able to succeed, building on a third place defense and a fourth running game, taking the pressure off Flacco. Indeed, Baltimore dropped just 19 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs. It wasn’t until the Ravens faced the top defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the title game that Flacco’s flaws as a rookie proved decisive.

A year later, Sanchez fared better against the New York Jets, hitting just over 60 percent of his passing yards for 539 yards, four touchdowns and a pair of pickaxes for a passing rating of 92.7.

While his numbers were better, the formula was the same, the Jets riding Rex Ryan’s dominant defense and ground attack that took the NFL in yards per game to a conference championship.

Flacco enjoyed one of his great postseason performances in the 2012 season, leading the Ravens to glory by defeating the 49ers in the Super Bowl, but Purdy will have plans to comfortably surpass Sanchez’s achievements after an electrifying start to his career.

He was good at throwing the ball in the middle of the field. On shots from 10 to 20 yards, Purdy had an accurate, well-thrown ball 83.7 percent of the time. This is second only to Andy Dalton (85.6) among quarterbacks with at least 20 such attempts.

But when McCaffrey, Samuel and Elijah Mitchell give the 49ers arguably the most comprehensive backfield in the NFL, with both McCaffrey and Samuel threatening to drive the ball, catch it from the backline or get in formation as receivers, San Francisco could greatly ease the pressure on Purdy, relying on ground play and short calling shots that always have the potential to turn into big plays.

Moreover, the defense, which finished the season with the league’s second-best success rate (35.9 percent), has consistently shown its ability to put the team on its back, despite some signs of vulnerability in recent weeks.

Purdy’s early success indicates that he had a better career than Flacco and Sanchez, but the 49ers may have managed him in much the same way they handled them in the playoffs in his first post-season experience.

Russell Wilson (2012)

One of the quarterback’s best rookie playoff performances came from a player who was previously a thorn in the Seahawks 49ers team.

Wilson only won the Super Bowl in his sophomore season, but the foundation for that run was laid during a brilliant rookie year.

The Seahawks star was excellent in his first postseason, completing 62.9 percent of his passing for 572 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He posted a passer rating of 102.4, leading the Seahawks to a victory over Washington at FedEx Field in the Wild Card round before losing to the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional round.

Wilson had completed the full regular season and was a better athlete than Purdy at this point in his career.

However, the 49ers will hope that the reps Purdy has under his belt, calmly guiding them through the stretch run, will be enough to keep him performing at a level close to Wilson’s, albeit with the expectation of much better performance.

Cautionary stories

As the overall balance shows, starting in the playoffs as a rookie quarterback usually ends badly. Matt Ryan intercepted twice in his 2008 post-season debut, and Dalton was eliminated three times as he and the Cincinnati Bengals suffered heartache during the 2011 Wild Card round. a pass rating of just 59.8.

Robert Griffin III’s only playoff appearance in 2012 ended with a knee injury as he was defeated by Wilson and the Seahawks in a rookie battle, while in 2018 Lamar Jackson was left confused by the Los Angeles Chargers’ defense, which often deployed seven defensive linemen to keep double threat in check and limit it to a completion percentage of 48.3.

Mac Jones was the last rookie to start a playoff game, having done so in January, but was stopped twice as he unsuccessfully tried to help the Patriots keep up with the Buffalo Bills, who thrashed them 47-17.

Even if Purdy maintains an excellent level of play, there is a chance that in the post-season lottery it may not be enough.

Indeed, Dak Prescott threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys in his playoff debut in the 2016 Divisional Round and still couldn’t beat Aaron Rodgers in a 34-31 thriller.

This game is a perfect illustration of why the playoffs are a different animal. The stakes go up and the standard can also go up to the point where the best player is often not good enough. In a wild card game against the Seahawks, which he had no problem beating in the regular season, it will soon become clear whether Purdy has what it takes to give quarterback Cinderella’s story a fairytale ending.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *