Sam Darnold’s comments on ‘most talented pitcher’ clarified by Matt Maiocco

Sam Darnold may be the most talented pitcher in football the 49ers have ever had.

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

Hyperbola? Of course.

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

But if you listen to the 49ers Talk podcast, Darnold has been a physically talented guy for a while who has come a long way from being a great NFL quarterback in his first five NFL seasons.

Recently, Frank Gore attended the local 49ers pro day. He casually told reporters to keep an eye out for Darnold. He predicted that 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 shot at success.

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

There’s no guarantee Darnold will ever step onto the field with the 49ers. And nobody knows how he will play if he appears in regular season games.

But the claim that Darnold is physically gifted shouldn’t be taken as the slightest controversy.

After all, Darnold was the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. His ability to kick the ball is what made him a high draft pick for USC.

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

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

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

Were Montana and Young great pitchers? Of course.

But is “talent of the arms” the first thing that comes to mind for these two men? Probably not.

With Montana, some of his many attributes that come to mind are precision, decision making, game savvy, pocket balance, improvisation skills, tenacity, 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, intelligence, grittiness, and high completion percentage.

Plus, 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 sidelines. Young saw greatness up close and he unquestionably benefited from his years behind Montana on the depth chart.

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

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

Darnold came into the league with an obvious high-level quarterback trait.

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

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