Maiocco clarifies viral, outrageous Darnold comments


Sam Darnold might be the most talented thrower of the football the 49ers have ever had.

Yes, those are the words I said Thursday morning on KNBR.

Hyperbole? Of course.

The wording made it clear Darnold also might not be the most talented thrower of the football the 49ers have ever had.

But if you’ve been listening to the 49ers Talk podcast, it has been a theme for a while that Darnold is a physically talented guy who has fallen far short of being a great NFL quarterback through his first five NFL seasons.

Recently, Frank Gore attended the 49ers’ local pro day. He casually told reporters to keep an eye on Darnold. He predicted Darnold would stand out during organized team activities and training camp.

Gore and Darnold were teammates with the New York Jets, and Gore believes Darnold is finally in a position with the 49ers where he has a chance for success.

Darnold joins a roster that already has Brock Purdy, if healthy, the presumptive starter, and Trey Lance. The club has an agreement to sign another veteran, Brandon Allen, next week.

There is no guarantee Darnold will ever get on the field with the 49ers. And nobody knows how he will play if he does appear in any regular-season games.

But the statement that Darnold is physically-gifted should not be considered the least-bit controversial.

After all, Darnold was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. His ability to throw the football is what made him a high draft pick out of USC.

That draft position and how his physical skills were evaluated during the pre-draft process already separates him from many other 49ers quarterbacks through the years.

Three years later, the 49ers selected Lance at No. 3. Lance was the team's selection for a combination of factors, including coach Kyle Shanahan’s vision of using him as a dual-threat player.

Of course, any time the conversation is about “best” anything with the 49ers, the quarterbacks at the top of the list are Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Were Montana and Young great throwers? Of course.

But is “arm talent” the first thing that jumps to mind with both of those men? Probably not.

With Montana, some of his many attributes that come to mind are accuracy, decision-making, feel for the game, poise in the pocket, improvisational skills, toughness, leadership, determination and, of course, being one of the best clutch performers to ever take the field.

Young is remembered for his athleticism, running ability, timing, smarts, grittiness and his high completion percentage.

Also, Montana and Young were perfect for the 49ers — on and off the field.

Montana became even more determined late in his career as his play kept Young on the sideline. Young saw greatness up close and he unquestionably benefited from his years behind Montana on the depth chart.

It is ludicrous to put Darnold’s name in the same sentence as Young and Montana, except to acknowledge that no 49ers quarterback has approached the Hall-of-Fame levels of those men over the past two-plus decades.

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Young and Montana are considered among the greats of the game because they did everything well.

Darnold entered the league with one obvious, high-level quarterback trait.

At 25 years old, Darnold takes that unique skill with him to the 49ers, his third NFL team.

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