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Week 14 Quick Reads: Why Brock Purdy Is Like Randall Cunningham

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Brock Purdy has easily been the most efficient quarterback in the NFL during the 2023 season. Purdy now leads all quarterbacks with 48.9% passing DVOA. He also leads quarterbacks in passing DYAR despite throwing fewer passes than most starters.

That brings up the controversy about whether Purdy should be the MVP or not. Purdy is clearly the most efficient quarterback and he leads the NFL’s best team, so doesn’t that make him the MVP? The argument against Purdy is that he is helped significantly by the San Francisco scheme and his teammates.

Do you remember who was No. 1 in passing DVOA last year? It was Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers at 30.4%. Jimmy Garoppolo! Garoppolo went to Las Vegas this season and did not, shall we say, look very good. So those San Francisco surroundings were doing a lot of heavy lifting for Garoppolo’s stats with the 49ers.

Purdy is clearly better than Garoppolo was with the same team. In particular, he’s been far superior on deep passes compared to Garoppolo. However, it brings up an interesting point. The 49ers will have two consecutive years of leading the NFL in QB passing DVOA with different quarterbacks. Has that ever happened before?

The answer is no. It’s never happened. But I did go back and look through history to find consecutive years where the same team had two different quarterbacks rank in the top five in passing DVOA. There’s also one year where a team had two quarterbacks qualify (at least 200 passes) and rank in the top five in the same year. Let’s take a look:

1986-1987 Washington: This one barely qualifies. Jay Schroeder was fifth in passing DVOA in 1986 and Doug Williams was fifth in 1987.

1991 San Francisco 49ers: This is the one where two quarterbacks show up in the top five in the same year. Steve Young was second in passing DVOA and Steve Bono was third. The Niners won their final six games but missed the playoffs at 10-6.

1992-1993 Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino was fourth in passing DVOA in 1992. Then he was hurt in 1993 and his backup Scott Mitchell finished fifth.

1994-1995 Detroit Lions: Scott Mitchell again! Mitchell signed with the Lions as a free agent in 1994 but got hurt. His backup Dave Krieg qualified for our rankings and finished second in passing DVOA. Mitchell was healthy in 1995 and set all kinds of Lions records, finishing fourth in passing DVOA.

1997-2000 Minnesota Vikings: Here’s my strong comparison for the current 49ers. The Vikings had quarterbacks finish in the top five for passing DVOA in four straight years and it was four different quarterbacks. Brad Johnson was fifth in 1997. He got hurt in 1998 and was replaced by Randall Cunningham, who led the league with one of the highest passing DVOAs ever. Then Cunningham was hurt in 1999 and was replaced by Jeff George, who ranked third that year. And then the Vikings handed the keys to second-year quarterback Daunte Culpepper in 2000 and he ranked fourth.

The discussion around Cunningham for MVP in 1998 was similar to some of the discussion around Purdy now. After all, Cunningham was throwing to Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and Jake Reed. He had Robert Smith in the backfield and one of the league’s top offensive coordinators in Brian Billick. Cunningham ended up finishing second in the MVP voting that year to Terrell Davis and his huge rushing season for the Denver Broncos. This year the only running back who is in the MVP discussion is one of Purdy’s teammates, Christian McCaffrey, and he’s not having the year Terrell Davis had in 1998. And it’s worth noting that the other Vikings quarterbacks who were efficient in 1999 and 2000 also got to take advantage of that same supporting cast, although Billick was gone to Baltimore as head coach.

Back to our countdown with two more teams:

2001-2002 St. Louis Rams: Kurt Warner led the league in passing DVOA in 2001, got hurt in 2002, and his backup Marc Bulger finished second in half a season.

2002-2003 New York Jets: Yes, the Jets! They had good quarterbacks once upon a time, specifically Chad Pennington who led the NFL in passing DVOA in 2002 and Vinny Testaverde who took over for an injured Pennington and finished fifth in 2003.

But the good comparison for the 49ers really is those late-’90s Vikings, where it was hard to figure out just how much credit to give the quarterback as one quarterback after another had success in that system with those receivers. And like Purdy compared to Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, and C.J. Beathard, Randall Cunningham was clearly the best of the bunch. So he’s the one who did get some MVP votes.

Here’s a look at the best and worst players of Week 14 by DYAR, including Brock Purdy having yet another huge week for the 49ers:

Quarterbacks
Rk Player Team CP/AT Yds TD INT Sacks Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1. Matthew Stafford LAR 23/41 294 3 0 2 168 168 0 BAL

Opponent adjustments boost Stafford from 108 passing YAR to 168 passing DYAR. He threw 11 passes in the red zone, with three touchdowns plus a first down on a second-and-7 from the Baltimore 17.

2. Brock Purdy SF 19/27 368 2 1 3 135 132 3 SEA
Purdy’s receivers had an average of 10.3 yards after the catch, second in the league this week, but he also had an above-average average depth of target at 9.3 yards. Purdy had 9 passing DYAR in the first half of this game and then 123 passing DYAR in the second half.
MNF Tommy DeVito NYG 17/21 158 1 0 0 118 101 17 GB
3. Lamar Jackson BAL 24/43 316 3 1 2 117 93 24 LAR
Jackson added on nine carries for 71 yards. He had the second-highest average depth of target this week at 12.7 yards.
4. Jake Browning CIN 18/24 275 2 1 0 104 105 -1 IND
Browning got an average of 11.4 yards after the catch to lead all quarterbacks this week.
5. Trevor Lawrence JAX 28/50 257 3 3 4 96 93 3 CLE
Opponent adjustments boost Lawrence a ton, from -18 passing YAR to 93 passing DYAR. He leads all quarterbacks this week with 90 DYAR on passes up the middle. He completed all five attempts for four first downs and a touchdown plus a 25-yard DPI that also came on a pass up the middle.
6. Dak Prescott DAL 24/39 271 2 0 3 83 79 4 PHI
Prescott drew three DPI flags for a total of 35 yards. He had -52 passing DYAR on first down with just 2.2 net yards per pass, then 91 DYAR on second down (6.4 net yards per pass) and 40 passing DYAR on third down (10.5 net yards per pass).
7. Zach Wilson NYJ 27/36 301 2 0 4 75 85 -9 HOU
Wilson finishes seventh despite a big penalty for opponent adjustment, dropping from 124 passing YAR to 84 passing DYAR. He has negative rushing value because of a fumble on a 10-yard scramble in the third quarter.
8. Jalen Hurts PHI 18/27 197 0 0 1 74 79 -6 DAL
MNF Will Levis TEN 23/38 327 1 1 1 74 94 -20 MIA
9. Bailey Zappe NE 19/28 240 3 1 2 73 78 -4 PIT
Zappe completed four of five pass attempts up the middle with three first downs and an 8-yard touchdown to Hunter Henry. He had 132 passing DYAR in the first half of this game and then -54 passing DYAR in the second half.
10. Drew Lock SEA 22/31 269 2 2 4 63 69 -6 SF
Lock struggled in the fourth quarter with -66 passing DYAR including two picks and three sacks.
11. Desmond Ridder ATL 26/39 347 1 1 3 60 64 -5 TB
Ridder led all quarterbacks this week with 114 passing DYAR on deep passes (16 or more air yards). He completed six of 10 on these passes for 173 yards and a touchdown.
12. Patrick Mahomes KC 25/43 271 1 1 1 45 40 5 BUF
Mahomes had -89 passing DYAR in the first quarter with just 2.4 net yards per pass.
Rk Player Team CP/AT Yds TD INT Sacks Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13. Joe Flacco CLE 26/45 311 3 1 1 43 40 2 JAX

Flacco had -71 passing DYAR on third down, with just 3.4 net yards per pass and only two conversions out of 14 pass attempts. Then David Bell took Flacco’s only fourth-down attempt 41 yards with 37 yards after the catch.

14. Gardner Minshew IND 26/39 240 1 1 3 33 29 4 CIN
15. Justin Fields CHI 19/33 223 1 0 3 20 -1 22 DET
Fields added on 10 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown.
16. Nick Mullens MIN 9/13 83 0 0 0 14 14 0 LV
17. Josh Allen BUF 23/41 233 1 1 3 13 11 2 KC
Allen added on eight carries for 34 yards and a touchdown, but a couple of his third-down scrambles ended short of the sticks.
18. Baker Mayfield TB 14/29 144 2 0 1 4 4 0 ATL
19. Mitch Trubisky PIT 22/35 190 1 1 2 2 -21 22 NE
Trubisky, who was always a good scrambler in his Chicago days, added on seven carries for 31 yards and a touchdown. He struggled on third downs with -80 passing DYAR and 2.1 net yards per pass.
20. Russell Wilson DEN 21/33 224 2 1 2 -9 -8 -1 LAC
MNF Jordan Love GB 25/39 218 1 1 2 -11 16 -27 NYG
21. Easton Stick LAC 13/24 179 1 0 2 -24 -24 0 DEN
Stick had 25 passing DYAR on first down and then -49 passing DYAR on second through fourth downs.
22. Derek Carr NO 19/26 119 2 1 1 -30 -30 0 CAR
Carr’s average depth of target was just 4.2 yards, the lowest in the league this week.
Rk Player Team CP/AT Yds TD INT Sacks Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
MNF Tua Tagovailoa MIA 23/33 240 0 0 5 -39 -43 4 TEN
23. C.J. Stroud HOU 10/23 91 0 0 4 -57 -57 0 NYJ
Stroud gets a boost from opponent adjustments from -113 passing YAR to -57 passing DYAR.
24. Jared Goff DET 20/35 161 1 2 4 -93 -93 0 CHI
25. Justin Herbert LAC 9/17 96 0 1 4 -118 -118 0 DEN
Herbert on third down: two sacks, two failed completions, an incompletion on third-and-3, and an interception thrown at his own 12. He also had two incomplete passes on fourth down.
26. Aidan O’Connell LV 22/32 171 0 1 4 -123 -127 5 MIN
O’Connell’s average depth of target was just 4.5 yards, the second-lowest in the league this week behind the Raiders’ old quarterback, Derek Carr.
27. Joshua Dobbs MIN 10/23 63 0 0 5 -126 -121 -5 LV
28. Bryce Young CAR 13/36 137 0 0 4 -132 -148 16 NO
Young had the highest average depth of target this week at 13.6 yards.
Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk Player Team Runs Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1. James Cook BUF 10 58 0 5/5 83 1 63 6 57 KC

Cook had at least 8 yards on each reception including this 27-yard first down and a 25-yard touchdown.

As a runner, Cook loses 11 DYAR because the Chiefs run defense is poor this season.

MNF Raheem Mostert MIA 21 96 2 1/1 4 0 57 57 0 TEN
2. Ezekiel Elliott NE 22 68 0 7/8 72 1 50 -2 52 PIT
All of Elliott’s positive value came on receptions, with three for at least 11 yards and two more for 9 yards.
3. Breece Hall NYJ 10 40 0 8/9 86 1 47 -2 48 HOU
Hall, who has been surprisingly poor as a runner this year (near the bottom of the league in DYAR), had receptions for 25 and 27 yards plus a 3-yard touchdown.
4. David Montgomery DET 10 66 0 3/3 19 0 38 34 4 CHI
Montgomery gained at least 2 yards on every carry, with three first downs of double-digit yards — all on second-and-medium.
5. Tony Pollard DAL 16 59 0 7/8 37 0 30 12 19 PHI
Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk Player Team Runs Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
MNF Raheem Mostert MIA 21 96 2 1/1 4 0 57 57 0  
1. David Montgomery DET 10 66 0 3/3 19 0 38 34 4 CHI
2. Devin Singletary HOU 13 65 1 0/3 0 0 19 33 -14 NYJ
Singletary goes from 23 rushing YAR to 33 DYAR for playing the Jets defense.
3. Christian McCaffrey SF 16 145 0 1/1 8 0 28 26 2 SEA
McCaffrey earned half his yards on one carry, 72 yards on his first run of the game. Otherwise, he had three double-digit first downs but also eight carries that gained a yard or less.
4. Kyren Williams LAR 25 114 0 3/4 -1 0 -12 18 -30 BAL
As a runner, Williams had a 56% success rate with five first downs. As a receiver, Williams had a 2-yard loss on first-and-10, an 8-yard loss on third-and-7, and another failed completion on third-and-11.
5. Rico Dowdle DAL 12 46 1 1/1 6 0 24 17 7 PHI
Dowdle’s only run with less than 2 yards was a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk Player Team Runs Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1. Dalvin Cook NYJ 7 13 0 1/1 -5 0 -24 -10 -13 HOU
Four of Cook’s carries went for just 0 or 1 yards, and he lost five yards on his only pass target.
Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk Player Team Runs Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1. Zack Moss IND 13 28 0 4/8 28 0 -9 -23 14 CIN
Moss was stuffed for no gain on three carries and took a loss on three more. He had only three carries over 3 yards.
Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk Player Team Rec Att Yds Avg TD Total
DYAR
Opp
1. Drake London ATL 10 11 172 17.2 0 77 TB

London had four different gains of at least 20 yards and two more of 15 and 16 yards. He also earned an important 11-yard DPI in the fourth quarter as the Falcons tried to make a comeback.

2. Deebo Samuel SF 7 9 149 21.3 1 69 SEA

This includes 11 rushing DYAR for a 1-yard touchdown run. Samuel also had a 54-yard touchdown on third-and-11, one of two third-and-11s he converted in this game.

3. Evan Engram JAX 11 12 95 8.6 2 49 CLE
The Browns were the No. 1 defense covering tight ends going into this game. Engram had five first downs to go with two touchdowns.
4. Puka Nacua LAR 5 8 84 16.8 0 47 BAL

This includes 6 rushing DYAR for a 6-yard carry as well as DPI gains of 15 and 16 yards. Those were two of Nacua’s five first downs in this game, and one of them (which was a bit questionable given how far out of bounds the pass was) came on a third-and-16.

5. Cooper Kupp LAR 8 10 115 14.4 1 45 BAL
Kupp had gains of 34, 42, and 27 yards to go with a 6-yard touchdown.
Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk Player Team Rec Att Yds Avg TD Total
DYAR
Opp
1. Zay Jones JAX 5 14 29 5.8 0 -46 CLE
The Jaguars essentially asked Jones to play the Christian Kirk role with Kirk out, and it did not go well, even after a huge adjustment (from -64 DYAR to -46 DYAR) for the Browns defense. Jones was targeted on incomplete passes on third-and-9 and fourth-and-3, and had a failed completion of 2 yards on third-and-8.
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