Why 49ers QB Brock Purdy Gets Called 'Mr. Irrelevant'

Because it falls just before the playoffs, December is crunch time in the NFL. So when San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a foot injury that saw him carted off the field in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, it was doubly crushing. "It just stinks because I really felt him coming on, even more so this year," defensive end Nick Bosa told 49ers.com. "Just hearing it is pretty crushing," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan added.

Enter Brock Purdy. The rookie quarterback from Queen Creek, Arizona, stepped in for the injured Garoppolo — and the results were astonishing. In his first full game as a starter, Purdy threw two touchdowns in the 49ers' blowout win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "Just standing there, like 'man that's Tom Brady,' talking to guys and dapping guys up and stuff," Purdy later told reporters about the game, per CNN.

Since beating Tampa Bay, Purdy has only gone from strength to strength, and the 49ers finished the regular season 13-4. He's been setting the league on fire since his first game against the Dolphins — so what's this about the moniker "Mr. Irrelevant?"

Brock Purdy was picked last in the NFL Draft

In 2022, Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy was selected last in the NFL Draft. Purdy's current improbable win streak notwithstanding, Greg Cosell of "The Ross Tucker Podcast" explained that there was a reason behind the pick. "[Purdy] ... has average arm strength," Cosell said. "He tends to be streaky with his accuracy. He does move well ... he's not physically imposing. So he was not seen as a really good prospect." Pro Football Network reports that the last pick of the draft has the dubious honor of being referred to as "Mr. Irrelevant," a tradition dating back to 1976. That year, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Paul Salata invited the last pick of the draft to Newport Beach, California, to participate in a series of activities dubbed "Irrelevant Week." The tradition grew to the point that NFL teams began clamoring to acquire the last pick, leading ex-NFL commissioner Pete Rozell to pass the "Salata Rule," in which teams cannot pass up the penultimate choice in a bid for the last pick.

Today, Purdy seems determined to shed his mantle of irrelevancy. Those close to the star quarterback have always believed that he'd make it big one day. "He is going to make it because he is Brock Purdy," Purdy's high school coach Preston Jones told AZ Central. "Someday they will write a book about Brock and his story. Mr. Irrelevant will be just a chapter in the middle somewhere."

Do we have another GOAT on our hands?

Brock Purdy's meteoric rise is interesting because it mirrors that of another NFL great: Tom Brady. Though Brady wasn't "Mr. Irrelevant," he was close to it at the 199th pick. And former NFL player Brent Jones thinks Purdy has what it takes to overcome "Mr. Irrelevant" for good and follow in the footsteps of the GOAT. "I can't say that Brock will be the new Tom Brady, but there are a lot of similarities," Jones told The U.S. Sun. "Tom was never affected. He was never super nervous and Brock is like that. He's the best rookie I have seen since Dan Marino." Now, a quarterback is only as good as his offensive line, and Jones praised the San Francisco 49ers offense, adding that Purdy has "a lot of great weapons around him ... [which has] given him confidence."

A Super Bowl victory for the 49ers didn't happen that year, but head coach Kyle Shanahan appreciated what Purdy brought to the team. "With the way that Brock Purdy has been playing over these past few weeks, what he adds to this 49ers offense — being able to improvise, the deep ball, throws outside the numbers — I think that if Jimmy Garoppolo returns, he should be the backup to Brock Purdy," NBC Sports' Donte Whitner opined. In the end, that wasn't necessary. Garoppolo left the 49ers and signed a three-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Brock Purdy, our NFL inspiration

Now with Brock Purdy into his second season as the starting quarterback of the '49ers, there's little talk about his Irrelevant days. The athlete led his team to a successive NFC Championship in 2024, and this time, the headlines are all about how a former #1 draft pick — in the Detroit Lions' quarterback Jared Goff — will face down a dead-last pick in Purdy. Surprisingly, as AOL Sports points out, there's not that much difference between the two of them.

After all, a label is what you make of it, and Purdy knows this better than anybody. Shortly after Mr. Irrelevant made his first career start in the 2022-2023 season, he had a conversation with Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop, who was also picked last in the NFL Draft. Per Yahoo! Sports, Succop reminded Purdy that Mr. Irrelevant was its own type of badge. "He was like, 'Man, wear it with some honor.' And I was like, 'Yeah, man. You too.' It was cool," the quarterback reflected.

According to Forbes, Purdy's meteoric rise from Mr. Irrelevant to the NFL's leading choice for MVP is proof that rookies everywhere can make it. Even Purdy's peers think he deserves the award. "I tried to explain that Brock Purdy is the MVP," former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman wrote on X in December. But whether or not he wins the award is just icing on the cake at this point. After all, his story has already won people's hearts.