Long before the 2023 NFL season started, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan already knew he had a remarkable quarterback in Brock Purdy -- from his on-field play to the character he exhibits off the gridiron.
But in his first full campaign as San Francisco's starter, Purdy has found continued success -- along with plenty of doubters along the way. And handling the latter has impressed Shanahan just as much as Purdy's skills under center, the coach recently told NBC Sports' Peter King.
"Then I hear what people say. People down on him. It is comical," Shanahan told King. "Playing quarterback is how you play quarterback. What if Joe Montana was in there? Joe’s not going to run around like Lamar and Patrick. But he’s Joe Montana! I’m not trying to compare him and Brock. But you know, this is a big sport, with huge media. People have to realize in our profession about how the world works, too. Guys have to talk. We only play once a week, and the rest of the week, everybody talks.
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“This is what I love about Brock. Last pick in the draft. Takes us to the conference championship game twice and this Super Bowl in two years. Getting talked about for MVP. And the dude, he doesn’t have to work at not listening to it or trying to stay humble or trying to not get caught up in how life is changing. You know why? He doesn’t care. He really has a true foundation and knows who he is and who he wants to be. That is rare for any human. He’s a special player. But this stuff … he’s a special guy.”
Purdy never has been one to pay attention to the naysayers as the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. He has faced criticism at every turn, but one would think his play would quiet the outside noise. Despite leading the NFL in several key quarterback statistics this season, he still has been described as a "game manager" -- a label he finds comical.
"I think it's sort of funny, just because we're winning," Purdy told ESPN's Michelle Beisner-Buck on "NFL Countdown" this week. "I think over time I might get some respect, but more than anything it hasn't been about proving people wrong or any of that, it's just been about proving myself right.
"Over time I've told myself I'm good enough and worthy enough to be playing at this level, and over time I'll prove that to myself."
San Francisco 49ers
Purdy's unwavering confidence -- which he often attributes to his faith -- is something not all players are born with, especially in the face of such widespread, national opinions on his play. Shanahan believes part of it also comes from his humble nature, he told King, which he noticed from Day 1.
“It comes from somewhere, I’m sure his parents,” Shanahan said to King. “I think it has a lot to do with his faith. He has a foundation in him of who he is as a human being. He is so confident in who he is as a person. He’s one of the most confident, humble people I’ve ever been around. Borderline cocky, which is such the wrong word because he’s so humble and such a good dude. He one thousand percent believes in himself. This doesn’t surprise him at all.
“I remember his walk-through before his first start last year. He made all these mistakes. Missed a few audibles; ‘cans,’ we call them. Not a good day. He comes up to me right after and he’s like, ‘I hope that didn’t stress you out, Kyle. That’ll happen to me sometimes. Trust me. I won’t mess those up in the game. Don’t be scared.’ And of course he goes out and plays great.”
The 49ers are back in the Super Bowl, with Purdy having led the team to back-to-back playoff appearances since taking over under center in Week 13 last season. The 24-year-old is a huge reason for San Francisco's success, and he knows soon enough, everyone else will realize it.