LAS VEGAS — Brock Purdy hasn’t given his legacy much of a thought, explaining countless times over three days he is focused on the three and a half hours at Allegiant Stadium rather than the panoramic view of how he’ll be remembered someday should he win Super Bowl LVIII for the 49ers.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, on the other hand, wants to go after Tom Brady and seven Super Bowl rings even if he knows it’s a tall order.
In one breath, Mahomes said on Thursday that “dynasties and legacies are for other people to talk about after your career’s over” before conceding he’s got Brady on his mind.
“It would mean a great deal,” Mahomes said. “I’ve still got a long ways to go to get to seven.”
Mahomes, seeking his third ring, has done the heavy lifting in getting the Chiefs’ offense to a point where it can complement their stifling defense. With Purdy, it has been more of a two-way street. He makes his teammates better and they make him better.
Should Purdy bring home the 49ers’ first Super Bowl in nearly 30 years, all the “system quarterback” and “game manager” talk will be muted in tone, even if it never goes away. He’ll be 24 years old and on a pedestal with Joe Montana and Steve Young as 49ers championship quarterbacks. The expectation will be that he passes Young’s one ring and pursues Montana’s four.
Lose, and Purdy is just another Colin Kaepernick or Jimmy Garoppolo, able to get the 49ers to the Super Bowl but unable to close the deal.
Here’s the thing about Purdy — he’s still an ascending player. The notion that he’s made the most of his modest physical gifts and reached his ceiling couldn’t be more false. He’s grown as a leader and his teammates realize that he’s carried them as much as they’ve carried him. Yes, Purdy has a great supporting cast. And he’s made that supporting cast better.
“Last year there were times I felt I really wasn’t playing the position of quarterback like I needed to and wanted to,” Purdy said. “A big jump for me this year is just playing the position and not trying to be Superman every play when something’s not there.”
He’s letting his personality show more often with his teammates. Montana famously relaxed his teammates before his game-winning drive to win Super Bowl XXIII by pointing out actor John Candy to offensive tackle Harris Barton. Purdy has done impressions of teammates and coaches for years and said he’s even done it in the huddle a time or two.
“I’ll do it sometimes to show, ‘Brock’s calm, he’s cool, he’s collected, he’s joking around,’ ” Purdy said. “But I don’t go around trying to impersonate people all the time.”
If Purdy is the selfless ball distributor, Mahomes has been compared with Stephen Curry for his transcendent skill set and is a big admirer of Kobe Bryant in terms of willing a team to victory.
Mahomes, by the way, likes what he’s seen of Purdy and believes their names could be linked for the foreseeable future.
“Obviously he can throw the football, but he’s able to dissect a defense and get the ball out of his hand,” Mahomes said. “I’ve watched a lot of his games with similar opponents that we’ve played. He throws a great ball, does a great job recognizing defenses and it’s hard. I mean, I don’t think I’d be ready to come in after my first year and play like that. I’m sure I’ll play him a lot as our careers go on.”
Purdy is so elite when it comes to processing information he’s actually a much better NFL quarterback than he ever was in college.
“In college, you get a signal from the sideline and everyone’s looking and you look real quick and try to call the play,” Purdy said. “In the NFL, you’re looking guys in the eyes and say, ‘This is the play and this is what we have to do.’ In the NFL you’re reciting plays, long plays, multiple plays . . . as a quarterback I like that because you can see the play in your head better and you’ve got to say it multiple times and I feel it’s a little more clear to me in my mind.”
If the Chiefs win, Mahomes will separate himself from quarterbacks who have won two Super Bowls — Peyton and Eli Manning, John Elway, Jim Plunkett, Bob Griese and Bart Starr. He’ll join Troy Aikman with No. 3 and be one shy of Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four in his ascent on Brady. No quarterback has won back-to-back Super Bowls for 19 years.
And he’ll have done it in an entirely different way, adapting his game to coach Andy Reid’s wishes. It’s been one of his least impressive statistical seasons. Mahomes has 14 interceptions, a career high, although none in his last seven games including the playoffs. His yards per game (261.4) and yards per completion (10.4) are career lows.
But Mahomes can manage a game with the best of them, and it’s a skill that is so underrated by the masses that it’s morphed into a criticism rather than a compliment. He has carried the Chiefs to where they are and history will recognize him for that with a win on Sunday. Lose and he’s 2-2 — a .500 quarterback on the game’s biggest stage.
What Purdy has accomplished in a season and a half as a starter is unprecedented but has created a legion of skeptics and doubters. Take down Mahomes and it throws perception in reverse. He’ll be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for a franchise that treasures them and the question will be: How many more are on the horizon?