49ers LT Trent Williams lauds QB Brock Purdy: 'Made of the right stuff'

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Monday, December 11, 2023

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy had put the finishing touches on another career day Sunday afternoon, left tackle Trent Williams had something to say.

Speaking to the media roughly 40 minutes after the Niners had beaten the Seattle Seahawks 28-16 to improve to 10-3 on the season, Williams didn't need much prodding for what would soon turn into a short dissertation on the virtues of his quarterback.

Whether it was because Purdy had just lit up the Seahawks for a career-high 368 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception, because Williams has grown tired of hearing Purdy's skeptics give credit to everyone but the second-year quarterback, or a combination of the two, Williams made it clear that Purdy is deserving of his status as front-runner for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.

"He literally can make every throw and you can't show a throw that he can't make," Williams said. "I get it. Everybody is slow to give him his props because nobody wants to be wrong [and say] 'Oh, he looks like a seventh-round pick now.' But no, I think this guy's made of the right stuff. Every time he approaches Sunday, you can tell this is the most important game in his life and he treats every week like that. His success is not a secret and it damn sure ain't got nothing to do with the system."

Thirteen games into his first full season as San Francisco's starter, Purdy continues building a case that backs up Williams' words.

To wit:

  • Purdy is averaging 9.9 yards per attempt this season, the most by any quarterback (minimum 300 attempts) in NFL history through a team's first 13 games by a comfortable margin over Randall Cunningham's 9.6 in 1998
  • On Sunday, Purdy became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to record four games with 300 passing yards and a 70% completion rate in either of a player's first or second seasons
  • Purdy's 70.4% completion rate Sunday was his seventh game in a row completing at least 70% of his passes, a feat accomplished by only three others and one shy of Joe Montana's record of eight
  • For the season, Purdy ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (3,553) and tied for second in touchdown passes (25) going into Sunday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles

While the Niners share in the credit for their offensive success, Williams believes Purdy, the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, has been unfairly critiqued because of the talent he has around him rather than credited for how he has helped the offense reach another level.

Williams offered a reason for that.

"I know obviously with him being the Mr. Irrelevant, everybody is slow to give him his flowers because then what's that say about a lot of scouting departments if you let a guy like this slip to Mr. Irrelevant pick," Williams said. "I think a lot of people are slow to give him his props just because of his draft status and where he was drafted. If he was Zach Wilson, I think he'd probably be unanimous MVP, the next coming of Aaron Rodgers or somebody like that. But since he's a Mr. Irrelevant pick, and this is what, almost two years of him putting just unbelievable quarterback play on film and it's still guys saying, 'Hey, I think it's Deebo. I think it's Trent.' I think, yeah, that's not realistic."

One of the common criticisms of Purdy has been that he simply dumps the ball off to receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, tight end George Kittle or running back Christian McCaffrey, and they do the bulk of the work. There's truth in that as San Francisco leads the NFL in yards after the catch per reception at 6.9 and wrecked the Philadelphia Eagles with the short passing game last week.

But Purdy has added a deep ball element to San Francisco's offense that it previously lacked. That was on full display Sunday when Purdy set career highs for air yards per attempt (10.5) and air yards per completion (10.5). He hit Samuel for a 54-yard touchdown and Kittle for a 44-yard score on a day where the Niners had four plays that picked up at least 44 yards.

"We've got a lot of explosive guys, and when you're not just one-dimensional that way, you hope it's a matter of time," Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said.

Against the Seahawks, Purdy went 6-of-7 for 225 yards and two touchdowns on throws traveling 15-plus air yards. Over the past five games, Purdy is completing 73% of his throws of 15-plus air yards for 24.6 yards per attempt with six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Still, Purdy is quick to give the credit to those around him for that success.

"I'm a part of a special group," Purdy said. "Any one of our eligibles can get the ball in their hands and go do the rest, break tackles, breakaway speed. And you see it every game. So, to throw a 5-yard pass or a deep ball, it doesn't matter. We have got playmakers."

For the season, Purdy is seventh in the NFL in air yards per attempt (7.9) and ranks fourth in completions on throws traveling 10-plus air yards (79) and 15-plus air yards (51) and fifth in completions on throws traveling 20-plus air yards (24). Purdy ranks second in completion percentage on throws of 10-plus yards and first in completion percentage on 15-plus-yard and 20-plus-yard throws. He also has six passing touchdowns of 40-plus yards on the season, the most by a Niners quarterback since Steve Young had seven in 1998.

Including playoffs, Purdy is now 21 starts into his young career, and it's also been only 13 games since he returned from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Which is at least partially why Williams believes Purdy is just scratching the surface on a promising career.

"This is not something that's a flash," Williams said. "He is going to be doing this for a long time."

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