As a head coach labeled by some as a distinguished quarterback guru, one would think that he had a lot to do with Iowa State’ Brock Purdy becoming the final pick of the 2022 draft — plus adding him to a room that already has the future of the franchise (Trey Lance), the veteran (Jimmy Garoppolo) and the resigned backup (Nate Sudfeld).
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However, Shanahan shared a telling story on how “Mr. Irrelevant” surfaced for him and the 49ers.
Was There Any Interaction?
Shanahan shared with the Bay Area media following the final day of the draft this rare moment: He didn’t say not one sentence or a word to Purdy.
“I didn’t have any interaction with him,” Shanahan claimed to the media. “I was just going through this whole draft, I spend a lot of my time on all positions, knowing that we might not have the luxury to take a quarterback.”
Turns out, it was other 49ers — particularly in the QB room — who had more of a hand in getting the Gilbert, Arizona native on board.
“It’s stuff that our scouts get ahead on, I had [quarterbacks coach] Brian [Griese] and [assistant quarterbacks coach] Klay [Kubiak], Griese and Kubiak get on that the last couple months and they gave you a list of the guys they liked to try to narrow it down where possibilities were we would take one,” Shanahan said. “And there aren’t a lot when you get to that part of the draft.”
Was Purdy ever truly on the 49ers’ draft board? Or just surfaced last minute?
“He was a guy we knew early that was our number one free agent we were going to go after,” Shanahan said. “And when you get through there and they haven’t been drafted and we got the last pick, we thought it was perfect.”
Shanahan is Confident in Final Pick
Shanahan did state the reasonings why they decided to draft the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder rather than wait until free agency.
“I mean, the guy has played a lot of football, plays the game the right way, is extremely tough, gets the ball to the right spot, plays very well in the pocket and a guy who can come in here and help fill out this roster and give himself a chance to make a team,” Shanahan said.
Purdy went on to play four seasons and 48 total games for the Cyclones. He went on to throw for 12,170 yards, 81 touchdowns and was picked off 33 times per Sports Reference. Purdy, however, only had one season that saw him throw for more than 20 touchdowns (27 in 2019) and produced two 3,000-yard seasons (his best outing a 3,982-yard campaign in 2019).
Purdy also brought a dual-threat presence at Ames: Tallying 1,177 yards on the ground and scoring 19 rushing touchdowns.
He even escaped an Oregon defensive line led by the fifth overall pick in the draft Kayvon Thibodeaux in the 34-17 stunner won by ISU in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl.
“He knows how to play the position well. He’s got a ton of reps,” Shanahan said. “You’re not looking on what you can develop him into, you’re looking at, this guy knows how to play the position, let’s see how he can do it at this level.”
Shanahan even gave Purdy his NFL comparison: A former 49ers signal-caller who showed up to Shanahan and the 49ers as an undrafted free agent when the head coach first took the coaching reins.
“I think there’s some traits that were very similar to Nick Mullens (now with the Las Vegas Raiders). He was a four-year starter, who played at a very high level in college and people want to know how he can do it at this level and that’s probably why we got him where we did,” Shanahan said.
Time will tell how long Purdy’s Bay Area stay will be. But the QB who was more of a find for the coaches not named Shanahan did enough to convince the 49ers to take him…even as “Mr. Irrelevant.”
“You’re going to try to take the guys who you think that are the best when you have the opportunity to take them. We thought pretty strongly that Brock was at that point,” Shanahan said.