Steve Young, 49ers legendary quarterback, believes Kyle Shanahan has unlocked the secret to quarterback play

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Ever since Brock Purdy was elevated to the San Francisco 49ers’ starting lineup and immediately began producing elite results, there’s been a ton of discussion surrounding the idea of exactly how good Purdy really is, and whether or not he is a “game manager.” 

For Purdy’s part, he said during Super Bowl media availability that he doesn’t really care about said discussion, and that he views the “game manager” label as a compliment. 

“I feel like it can be a compliment at times, where it’s like, ‘All right, you’ve got a guy that can come in and run the system well,'” Purdy said. “I feel like that’s a compliment. I think you’re doing things right, mentally, and obviously, you’re good enough to be able to hit guys that are open and make plays.

“You know, there’s 32 teams in the NFL, and there’s not a lot of people that can come in and play the quarterback position well in the NFL. It’s a hard job. So if you’re saying that I’m a game manager and I don’t look flashy in how I do it, I mean, that’s your opinion, and that’s okay.”

Still, that won’t stop people from talking about the topic anyway. The latest to weigh in: former 49ers quarterback and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Steve Young. 

“He’s not the prototype. But what he is, is he’s playing the quarterback position,” Young said on ESPN’s This is Football. “Not all the things that go along with — I played the quarterback position, but I had some other stuff that I could do. But you still have to do the job, and the job that he’s doing is the job that every quarterback needs to do. Get the play, call it, run it, get the ball out effectively and efficiently, under duress, in a couple of seconds, against the fastest game in America, and the best athletes in America. He’s doing that in an incredible way. 

“So, I don’t know what you want to call it. I don’t know what you want to name it. There’s no criticism. It just IS. If you wanna belabor it [and say] he’s not the prototype and that bugs you, fine. Just own it. But if you’re saying he can’t play the position: It feels like that’s what he’s doing.”

That aligns pretty well with what Purdy himself said. But Young added something that is basically the central tenet of the argument the “game manager” folks make regarding Purdy, or before him, Jimmy Garoppolo. “Kyle [Shanahan] has cracked the code,” Young said. “He has made the quarterback job as easy as it can be for the quarterback and as difficult as possible for the defense. That is the code that every offensive coordinator dreams about.”

That may be true. Shanahan has shown throughout his career that he is capable of raising the level of play from his quarterback, and he is among the game’s best play-callers and play-designers, routinely scheming his weapons into open space and creating wide throwing windows for his signal caller. 

But Purdy is also bringing something to the table that Garoppolo never did: a willingness to attack down the field with consistency, and the ability to make plays outside of structure. He gets the point-and-shoot part of the offense right, like his predecessor did, while also bringing a little bit extra. Not quite Steve Young-level extra, but enough to elevate the offense beyond where it was during the Garoppolo era. Whether or not you want to call him a “game manager” doesn’t really matter, because he has managed them to the Super Bowl. 

(Super Bowl LVIII will be broadcast on CBS and Nickelodeon and you can stream it on Paramount+; here’s how to watch)

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