ADVERTISEMENT

How one roster move saved the 49ers season before it even started

ADVERTISEMENT

Just days before the NFL’s 53-man August cutoff deadline, the quarterback has now been hailed as San Francisco 49ersThe Savior wasn’t a sure bet to make their roster.

ADVERTISEMENT

Brooke Purdythe final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, had to beat a likable veteran that the 49ers had just paid handsomely to be their best backup.

On March 11, 2022, all 49 were erased Nate Sudfeld as the No. 2 quarterback by awarding him a fully guaranteed $2 million contract. At the time, the 49ers intended to trade existing starters Jimmy Garoppolo to provide room for a salary cap and pave the way for first-round selection for 2021 Tri Lance To take over.

The 49ers evaluated the 6-foot-6 Sudfeld for his typical size, diverse skill set, and apparent relationship with Lance. A 28-year-old reserve player, Sudfeld became a trusted friend and mentor to the raw and talented Lance while he spent most of the previous season on the 49ers practice squad.

With the April NFL Draft approaching, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch discussed the possibility of adding a third quarterback with one of the team’s final picks. in Interview with Bay Area radio station KNBR Earlier this month, Lynch recalled Shanahan telling him, “I’d like to bring in another young quarterback to add to the mix. Let’s try to get to know one later.”

Among the options was Purdy, a former three-star recruit who became Iowa’s starter during his freshman year and maintained a grip on the job until his graduation. By then, he had completed more than two-thirds of his 1,467 pass passes and had thrown 81 touchdown passes while helping carry a long-struggling Hurricanes program to four straight seasons.

The 49ers scouted Purdy extensively. They interviewed Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and others close to him. Quarterbacks coaches Brian Griese and Klay Kubiak then fed him questions during a series of Zoom calls. The 49ers originally planned to target Purdy as the most sought-after undrafted free agent, but changed their minds during the draft after they were able to fill more pronounced needs at cornerback and along the offensive line.

The NFL awarded the 49ers five league-high compensatory draft picks in 2022 for losing free agent players, coaches or executives to other teams. The last of those, the last pick in the draft that bestows the “Mr. irrelevant” moniker on one player each year, provided the perfect opportunity to brag on a quarterback whose accuracy and experience impressed the 49ers enough that they didn’t want to risk losing him to another team. .

ADVERTISEMENT
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 20: Brock Purdy #14, Nate Sudfeld #7 and Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers in the locker room prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at US Bank Stadium on August 20, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The 49ers defeated the Vikings 17-7.  (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

Heading into the 2022 season, Nate Sudfeld (7) has been selected as the backup QB for the San Francisco 49ers. That was until Brooke Purdy (14) hit him. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

“We got to Mr. Irrelevant, and I think we all looked at each other and said, ‘Why the chance of that?'” Lynch recalled. “

The 49ers were probably the only team that valued Purdy enough to use a draft pick on him, but even they had no idea what he’d become. On the night of the draw, Shanahan described Purdy as having “very similar qualities Nick Mullins. He envisioned Purdy developing in obscurity on the coaching staff behind Lance and Sudfeld this season, not starting the NFC game in Philadelphia on Sunday.

The 49ers’ perception of Purdy’s role began to change when he exceeded expectations during the OTAs and training camp. He initially only got a few reps a day behind Lance and Sudefeld, but confidently turned heads by squeezing throws into tight windows.

“Every time he got his rep or reps in practice, he was decisive and put the ball in the right place and did it hard,” Shanahan said Monday. “[He] He never seemed unsure about anything, and so he kept getting more delegates, and the more delegates we gave him, he just kept looking the same and never took any steps back.”

These qualities eventually manifested themselves in pre-season games as well. Wearing jersey number 14 instead of his now-familiar number 13, Purdy engineered a game-winning drive in his debut against Green Bay. He opened more eyes in the next two weeks by demonstrating more agility and physical fitness than the college movie suggested, by playing defenders to the face, enduring painful blows, and resurfacing.

By then, the 49ers had seen enough. Mr. Irrelevant has beaten Sudfeld to become Lance’s primary assistant.

“We’d go into public with [Purdy] As No. 2,” Shanahan said in August. “And we were good at it because that’s what he earned.”

Then, out of nowhere, came a surprising announcement: Garoppolo was restructuring his contract and returning to the 49ers. Unable to get any draft picks for Garoppolo via trade but unwilling to let him go for nothing, the 49ers coaxed him back for one year as a backup to Lance.

Garoppolo’s return left the 49ers with more decisions to make. Now it wasn’t just a choice between Purdy and Sudfeld to be the backup quarterback. The 49ers had to decide whether to use a roster of 53 valuable men. As for quarterback as the third baseman behind Lance and Garoppolo.

On August 30, the 49ers cut Sudfeld in hopes that another team would sign him and make up part of the $2 million he was owed. On the same day, they announced that Purdy had made the 53-man roster.

This show of faith in Purdy was an early sign that the 49ers believed they had unearthed a gem of late. They could have rostered two quarterbacks and cut Purdy with the intent of signing him to their practice squad, but they couldn’t afford to reveal a seventh-round pick for waivers and give the opposing team a chance to claim him.

“It was very easy to see how Brock would come,” Shanahan said Monday. “We knew we wanted to keep him on the list and not risk him going into the training squad, so it was a decision we had to make.”

Placing that early bet on Purdy is one of the unheralded and pivotal moves that propelled the 49ers to a one-time victory in Super Bowl LVII. It would have been easy for Shanahan and Lynch to be stubborn about keeping Sudfeld after spending $2 million on him. Or to prioritize retaining an extra linebacker or defensive back in the 53-man roster over a third-string rookie quarterback.

Purdy proved the 49ers’ faith in him by emerging as one of the NFL’s most feel-good stories. Since Lance suffered a season-ending right ankle injury in Week 2 and Garoppolo broke his left foot in Week 13, Mr. Irrelevant has not only stepped into the spotlight, but also occasionally performed as the 49ers’ quarterback of the future.

The 49ers are 8-0 since Purdy took over for Garoppolo early in a win over Miami Dolphin. On his best days, Purdy excelled at utilizing Shanahan’s innovative schemes and the 49ers array of dynamic offensive weapons. At his worst, Purdy avoided crippling errors and relied on the 49ers’ elite defense and solid running game.

Shanahan describes Birdie’s football sponsorship success as “the number one thing he’s done.” In six regular season games and two playoff victories, Purdy threw for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Shanahan added, “To be able to be as good with the ball as he did and still make as many plays as he has, that’s definitely what I liked the most.”

In early December, just two days after Garoppolo broke his foot, the 49ers had the opportunity to file a waiver claim. Baker Mayfield distance Carolina Panthers His cutter is loose. The 49ers passed Mayfield, another display of confidence in Purdy who is getting smarter by the day.

Just six months ago, Purdy wasn’t a sure bet to make the 49ers roster. Just a couple of months ago, his best case scenario seemed to be stepping in for Lance and Garoppolo and not spoiling a good thing. Now he’s starting in the NFC Championship game, the 49ers are hoping this wild ride can last two weeks longer.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
%d bloggers like this: