Why CMC immediately recognized ‘greatness' in 49ers' Purdy

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SANTA CLARA -- Before Brock Purdy stepped on the field in his role as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, the team’s high-profile midseason acquisition saw something special in him.

Running back Christian McCaffrey heavily leaned on Purdy during those first few weeks after coming to the 49ers in a trade from the Carolina Panthers. McCaffrey took a crash course in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and Purdy spent hours tutoring him.

“I saw greatness in him right there,” McCaffrey told NBC Sports Bay Area during a sit-down interview for the latest "49ers Talk" podcast.

Greatness?

McCaffrey did not blink. Yes, greatness. McCaffrey recognized something in Purdy that he appreciated -- a unique drive similar to what he possesses, too.

“There’s a way that a lot of rookies are, and I think I was a little like that myself,” McCaffrey said. “I wanted to be great, obviously.

“He doesn’t act like a rookie. He doesn’t act like a rookie in the huddle. And he plays with a calm confidence that is rare, especially in rookie quarterbacks.”

The 49ers open the NFL playoffs on Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. The team concluded the regular season on a 10-game win streak, and the one-time third-string quarterback has not just been along for the ride.

Purdy played major roles in the 49ers’ past six victories. But even before he got on the field for a game, Purdy made contributions behind the scenes.

McCaffrey spent more one-on-one time with Purdy than any other player on the team after he arrived in Santa Clara on Oct. 21 in the blockbuster trade.

Purdy would recite the plays to McCaffrey, and they would walk through every line of the team’s game plan in those first few weeks. McCaffrey said he gained so much from hearing the plays verbalized from Purdy rather than just reading and memorizing.

“When you’re hearing them, that’s how it’s going to be given to you in the huddle,” McCaffrey said. “He came out and spent a lot of extra time with me. I knew he was selfless. I knew he had high character, and he was learning, too. So it was good for both of us.

“It showed high character as a rookie quarterback to go out there and spend extra time with me like that. I was very appreciative of it. Looking back, it was no shock that he did it. He wants to be great and it shows every day in practice.”

Purdy was instrumental in assisting McCaffrey in his transition to the new offense, and it did not take long for the 49ers to benefit from all the extra work.

In his ninth day with the organization, McCaffrey became the first player in 49ers history to register touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving in a game. His performance in the 49ers’ 31-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams came in McCaffrey’s first start -- the beginning of their current win streak.

Soon, Purdy would step into the spotlight, too. He took over against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 4 when Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a fractured foot.

In Purdy’s five starts to finish the regular season, he completed 85 of 124 pass attempts (68.5 percent) for 1,098 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating was 119.0 in those starts.

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McCaffrey said he immediately saw the qualities in Purdy that could lead him toward success.

“I noticed right away that he was somebody who cared a lot,” McCaffrey said. “That sounds a little weird. It’s the NFL and everyone cares. But there was another level of urgency that I saw in him.

“Even though he was the third-string quarterback coming into this year, he knew he could play. He had a confidence in himself.”

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