Brock Purdy's comparison to an NFL legend doesn't have any weight to it... Yet

  • Brock Purdy has defied expectations as Mr. Irrelevant in the NFL so far
  • His stature and cognition have put him in the Drew Brees archetype
  • Brees displayed a higher level of deep passing ability than Purdy has thus far

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages
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As San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy prepares to start in his first Super Bowl, and has now appeared in an NFC Championship in each of his first two seasons, there's a level of respect even his biggest doubters have to shower him with. Taken with the last pick in the NFL Draft, no one expected him to come this far this fast.

A perfect mix of circumstances have made this possible, with Purdy getting starts because of injuries and poor play from Trey Lance. Moreover, a quality system and surrounding talent makes the Niners one of the best scenarios for quarterbacks to plug-and-play.

Though the qualifications may be fair, the results are clear. Purdy still has to play the games, and win them he has.

Brock Purdy/Drew Brees comparisons miss the mark in a big way so far

As Purdy has emerged to the largest stage in football for the first time, so too have the comparisons. Most recently is one that likens him to Drew Brees (subscription required), which Brees himself has acknowledged and lightly endorsed.

The surface level likenesses are there, as pointed out by Matt Barrows of The Athletic. Purdy and Brees are both undersized, "too short" to play the position of quarterback. Both scored high on cognition tests ahead of their respective drafts.

Beyond the surface, I'm not so sure there's much to speak of in terms of a Brees/Purdy comparison, at least not yet.

In the Barrows piece, Purdy admits that once his height slowed, he pivoted his role model from the Dan Marino type to Brees, specifically seeming to point out Brees's ability to win without his arm.


“I don’t think either of us are guys who have a Josh Allen-, Dan Marino-type of arm,” Purdy said. “But we definitely have a good enough arm to play in this league and make the intermediate and even deep throws every once in a while.”

Lumping Brees in with that assessment of a "weak arm" misses the mark completely. Brees, who is second on the career completion percentage leaderboard to only Joe Burrow, absolutely utilized screen passes and over-center bailouts to juice those numbers but was not nearly as shy of the long ball as this comparison seems to indicate.

Brees made 358 passing attempts that featured 30 yards of air, a rate of 3.8 percent per dropback. That equates to about 1.25 "long" (defining long as 30+ yards of air) passing attempts per game throughout Brees's entire career.

Long passing percentage: 10 names around Drew Brees

Position on leaderboard

Name

Long pass percentage

81

Baker Mayfield

3.95%

82

Tony Romo

3.95%

83

Zach Wilson

3.94%

84

Marcus Mariota

3.91%

85

Drew Brees

3.82%

86

Matt Cassell

3.81%

87

Shaun Hill

3.80%

88

Alex Smith

3.76%

89

Justin Herbert

3.74%

90

Trevor Siemian

3.73%

Purdy, on the other hand, doesn't have much of an arm, as he professes. He's completed 21 such long air passes, a rate of 2.8 percent per dropback. He produces 0.84 "long" passing attempts per game. It's not nearly a staple piece of his skill offering.

Long passing percentage: 10 names around Brock Purdy

Position on leaderboard

Name

Long pass percentage

115

Seneca Wallace

3.03%

116

Kenny Pickett

2.95%

117

Jared Goff

2.91%

118

Sam McNair

2.88%

119

Brock Purdy

2.83%

120

Chad Henne

2.72%

121

Kurt Warner

2.72%

122

Blaine Gabbert

2.62%

123

Chad Pennington

2.57%

124

Jimmy Garoppolo

2.33%

Looking more at extra short passes -- which I am defining as three yards of air or fewer -- Purdy is more reliant, throwing these 67.6 percent of his dropbacks thus far, Brees doing so 60.9 percent of his dropbacks.

Not to pile onto the emerging narrative that Purdy is purely a system quarterback hasn't earned his and become a triumphant, fun, underdog story, but he's simply not Drew Brees. To be honest, I'm not sure anyone ever will be.

Long passing percentage: Top 10

Here's how the top 10 falls all-time for NFL players in "long passing percentage" (at least 100 dropbacks and 200 plays logged):

Position on leaderboard

Name

Long pass percentage

1

Drew Stanton

7.31%

2

Michael Vick

6.69%

3

Vince Young

6.65%

4

Tyrod Taylor

6.54%

5

Jalen Hurts

6.49%

6

Russell Wilson

6.38%

7

Jameis Winston

6.20%

8

T.Jackson

6.11%

9

J.P. Losman

6.02%

10

Matthew Moore

5.91%

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