It only took four weeks for the old “elite quarterback” debate to start gaining traction in NFL media circles.
With Brock Purdy’s 4-0 start to the season and an NFL-best 115.1 quarterback rating, the question was tossed around between former ESPN personality Rich Eisen and NFL Network analyst Gerald McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who recently retired: is Purdy an elite quarterback?
McCoy started laughing when asked the question.
“No,” he said.
Eisen asked him why he was laughing.
“Brock Purdy is not elite, man, c’mon now,” McCoy said the Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday. “Brock Purdy is playing well, he is, but … that roster is incredible. He’s playing well.”
Purdy enters a big Week 5 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys while ranking near the top of the NFL in most passing categories. He’s third in completion percentage (72.3%), eighth in yards (1,019), second in yards per attempt (9.1), tied for 12th in touchdown passes (five) and is one of three quarterbacks (along with C.J. Stroud and Joshua Dobbs) who has started every game but not yet thrown an interception.
Including the postseason, Purdy hasn’t gone more than 200 consecutive passing attempts without throwing a pick. Of all quarterbacks to make at least nine starts over the last two seasons, his completion percentage of 69.1% ranks second only to Geno Smith (69.5%).
“Here’s what I’ll say about Brock Purdy,” McCoy said. “He’s more than what we gave him credit for. Brock Purdy is not just not losing games anymore. He’s actually winning games. In order to take that next step as a QB you have to go win games, not just not lose them. We can agree with the run he’s been on, he’s legit. Elite? No. It takes a lot to be elite.”
Eisen fought back.
“His play has removed the whole conversation of what happened with Trey Lance from the table,” he said. “That’s gone. His play, with the contract he has, allows them to pay Nick Bosa and a whole bunch of other people because of what he’s doing, playing elite quarterback at the rate he’s being paid. Put it all together, the fact he’s not losing games for them – I understand we haven’t seen them down seven, 3-½ minutes to go, can Brock Purdy go 80 yards with only one timeout? We haven’t seen that. I see what you’re putting down right there.
“But the way he’s playing and the way they’re playing around him, he’s an elite quarterback.”
McCoy, the third overall pick out of Oklahoma in the 2010 NFL Draft, played most of his nine-year career on some bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers teams that hadn’t yet recruited Tom Brady to play quarterback. But he made the Pro Bowl every season from 2012-17, while the Bucs had a losing record every year but one.
“There are a lot of terms we use too loosely and give it to people too easily,” McCoy said. “I worked hard to be a good defensive tackle in this league. It took a lot for me to be considered elite because I did it on a team that wasn’t winning and I was still able to produce playing from behind. I don’t think people understand how hard that is.
“In order to be a guy in a small market where people don’t see you and still be considered elite, that’s very difficult. I don’t pass around the word, ‘elite.’”
McCoy listed Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson as quarterbacks he considers elite. Among those he does not: Purdy, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert.
“In order for me to consider you elite, we need to see it more than once,” McCoy said. “In order to be elite you have to have a full season, then I need to see it twice. Two full seasons.”