Philadelphia – It may come as a surprise to many that the San Francisco 49ers quarterback went from the last player drafted last spring – the so-called “Mr. Inappropriate” – to the third-string quarterback with the 49ers when the season began.
However, here’s Purdy now, starting with the NFC Championship game against the Eagles on Sunday, with a trip to the Super Bowl in the balance, after leading the 49ers to their last 7 of their 12 straight victories.
This has all the makings of the ultimate Cinderella story, considering that when the season started, it was another rookie, Trey Lance, who was going to be the franchise quarterback. Lance was named third overall this past spring, 259 spots ahead of Purdy.
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The 49ers also had Jimmy Garoppolo, the franchise’s former quarterback who took the 49ers to the Super Bowl just three years earlier, as a backup.
Both suffered season-ending injuries – Lance broke his ankle in September, and Garoppolo, injured his foot in December.
But there are three Eagles, including quarterback Jalen Hurts, who have already seen Purdy’s potential firsthand.
That goes back to an epic game during Hurts’ first season in 2019, when he played for Oklahoma and Purdy, then a sophomore, played for Iowa.
On November 9th it looked like Hurts and the No. 9 lucky runner would be sailing. Hurts was a masterful first half when Oklahoma built a 42-21 lead late in the third quarter.
But Purdy and the Hurricanes are back roaring. Purdy threw a potential game-tying touchdown pass with 24 seconds left in the game. Iowa decided to go for the two-point conversion and fell short when Purdy threw an interception.
“It was a good game, and we’re glad we won,” Hurtz said on Wednesday. “I have a lot of respect for him. He’s always been a really good player, and he’s got a lot of moxie. He makes plays. And he’s been doing that since college, so there’s no surprise when he had this opportunity, to see the success he’s having now.”
Call him ‘Mr. Appropriate’
Defensive end Matt Lieu, who is in the Eagles’ coaching lineup, spent three seasons with Purdy at Iowa State. He said he had no idea why Purdy wasn’t drafted until the last pick.
“They should call him Mr. Relevant,” Leo said with a laugh. “It always seemed like he was cool, calm, and collected. It’s his nature. I remember when he came right out of high school. He was already working out before the semester started.
“Given that kind of competitive nature in him, I kind of knew what he would bring to the team.”
Purdy became a starter as a true freshman, and had his best season as a sophomore, throwing for 3,982 yards and 31 TDs. That season, Hurts finished second in Heisman voting, leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs. Hurts threw for 3,851 yards and ran for 1,298 others.
So Leo had his own concerns to try and stop the mischief. On that day, Hurts completed 18 of 26 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had 68 yards rushing on 22 carries with two touchdowns. That’s a total of 341 yards and 5 TDs.
“He’s got a lot of tricks,” Leo said of Chase After Mischief that day. “He’s just an escape artist. You know if you push him, everyone has to be (in their lanes). Otherwise he can make plays.”
Then Leo was asked if that made it to the NFL, now that he has to chase Hurts in practice.
“More than that,” Liu said. “He’s still the quiet, down-to-earth competitor that he is. He can play right away, his ability to make plays last. He almost has a plan B.”
Purdy was impressive in every way. He went 19-for-30 for 282 yards and 5 TDs. Purdy added 55 yards on 15 touchdown carries. So that’s a total of 337 yards and 6 TDs.
Eagles running back Trey Sermon played for Oklahoma that day, though he left in the second quarter with a torn knee ligament, so he says he doesn’t remember much of that game.
But Sermon was a third-round pick from the 49ers in 2021, and spent spring training and training camp with them before he was waived and picked up by the Eagles.
“He can make plays with his feet,” Sermon said. “He did a good job extending plays in that time. I saw him get better and better. Then I saw him around camp and OTAs in San Fran as well. I knew he’d be a good quarterback if he got his chance.”
Over the last five regular season games, Purdy threw for 1,374 yards, completing 67.1% of his passes, with 13 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. His passer rating was 107.3, which would have led the NFL if he had played in enough games to qualify.
As expected during a 17-game full season, Purdy had thrown for 4,671 yards. That would have ranked him fourth, behind Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Tom Brady.
No wonder Eagles coach Nick Siriani called Purdy a “winner.” Siriani was also acquainted with Birdie long before he came to the NFL.
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That’s because Siriani was teammates with Iowa State’s college coach Matt Campbell at Mount Union, and when they talk, Campbell takes an interest in Birdie.
“Obviously, I always follow Iowa State and their program because I have a lot of my college mates and roommates who coach there,” Siriani said. Again. It’s a winner.”
It hurts too. Hurts and Purdy combined are 22-1 in games started this season.
The Associated Press named Hurts MVP of the Final Wednesday, along with Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson.
It’s easy to see why.
Hurts threw for 3,701 yards with 22 touchdowns, 6 INT’s and a completion percentage of 66.5%. Hurts’ passer rating of 101.5 ranks fourth. Hurts also has 760 rushing yards with 13 TDs.
“It’s just an amazing honour,” Hurts said of reaching the final. “I don’t have much to say about that. I’m at a loss for words, to be honest.”
Hurts prefers to let his play do his talking, like he and Purdy did over three years ago.
Purdy threw three TD passes for 20 points in that fourth quarter, and went 5-for-9 for 90 yards. He also added 36 yards rushing in that period.
“He’s always looking down the field,” Campbell told reporters that day. “He’s always trying to extend the game. You have a one-on-one guy, and he makes you miss. All of a sudden, it’s a layup, and he throws the ball on the money. Some people just have that, and he does.
“It will get better and better.”
But it was Hurts’ interception late in the fourth quarter that resulted in Iowa State potentially winning the game.
After the game, Hurts told The Oklahoman what he had in mind when he watched Purdy run into the end zone for the two-point conversion. The pass was intended for Charlie Kollar, but it was intercepted by Parnell Motley.
“Putting (the defense) in that position and not switching to third when we had success the whole first half,” Hurtz said that day. “I consider myself, under my wing, to do my job and execute to the best of my abilities and get the job done but we haven’t.
“But we had each other’s back.”
Just as the Eagles do for Hurts and the 49ers for Purdy.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @Mfranknfl.