Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports



The valiant Arthur, who was at that time the commander of the soldiers and kings of Britain, fought against [the invaders] invincibly. Twelve times he led in battle. Twelve times was he victorious in battle.
- Henry of Huntingdon. Historia Anglorum, c. 1130

Ancient myth and wild fantasy are vital elements that make up the legend of King Arthur. One of my favorite Arthur prophecies states that he returns to Great Britain when the kingdom needs him.

Support this writer and shop Amazon

Supposedly, Arthur 'fulfilled' this divination as Winston Churchill during World War II to lead the island nation through the relentless air attacks from the Luftwaffe.

Myths make up the fibers and history of athletics. Without them, sports are nothing more than a bunch of adults on a field, court or rink chasing around an inanimate object.

The San Francisco 49ers are no strangers to lore. During Week 13, it felt like 49ers' fans saw a return of Joe Montana – our own Arthur – who lead noble men to four championship trophies. The new version of Montana did not sport a Fu Manchu mustache, nor does he have bird legs or look like a kicker.

No sir. Our new version, at least according to some, comes in the form of Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo, with the eyes of a wizard and arm graced by the Lady of the Lake, had the 49ers' offense looking like the legendary team of the 1980s. We saw slant routes made famous by wide receiver John Taylor, caught by a 5'8 rookie slot receiver named Trent Taylor.

On the 49ers' 3rd possession, head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called a modified version of flanker drive, a play made famous by Jerry Rice. Typically, the drive route – which is a shallow cross from one side of the field to the other – is the primary receiver.

The Bears' linebackers had issues all game, often finding themselves out of position. This time, the linebackers doubled wide receiver Kendrick Bourne on the drive route, leaving a one-on-one matchup for tight end Garrett Celek on a seam. It was an easy decision: Garoppolo went right to Celek for a gain of 22 yards.

The Garoppolo-led offense brought a balanced, constant attack to Solider Field, running the ball 34 times and passing 37 times, and controlled the clock for over 38 minutes of the contest. The game plan and execution wore down the Bears' defense, ultimately resulting in Garoppolo leading a game-winning 92-yard drive.

That's right, a 92-yard game-winning drive just like Montana led in Super Bowl XXIII.

History loves to repeat itself, even if humans force a few loosely connected numbers or patterns together to form a comparison or a conspiracy theory. And, it's fun for a bit, but now we need to come back to reality and leave the pale folklore at a renaissance fair.

Montana's greatness still looms over the 49ers, and probably will for the next fifty years. The organization, the fans (myself included) and some in the sporting press have an overt romance with Montana, and for a good reason. Talking about "The Next Joe Montana" makes for a good headline, but the continued comparison between Montana and any present or future 49ers' quarterback flirts heavily with the absurd.

Thus far, we've had the pleasure of living in one hour, one minute and seven seconds of the Garoppolo era. While the film on Garoppolo is limited to three career starts, it shows clear differences that set him far beyond Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard in overall ability.

Garoppolo's mastery of quarterbacking fundamentals – his footwork, hips, throwing motion, release and field vision – are easy to see when he's behind center. What's more amazing is how sound Garoppolo kept his skills; before Garoppolo's 67-seconds of fury against Seattle, he hadn't thrown a regular-season pass since September 18, 2016.

Even as Shanahan's inadvertent quarterback experiment continues, Garoppolo's fundamentals were never in question, nor was his potential. It's now a matter of getting Garoppolo comfortable in the offense as the team prepares to find talent in the offseason.

Each player in the NFL has potential, but potential in one hand and nothing in the other are the same things. Judging Garoppolo's future, his greatness or anointing him the once and future king after he beat a lousy team rests on fantastical assumption rather than fact.

We owe Garoppolo the space to succeed and fail for the remainder of the season. I'd like to see him take a severe loss, just to learn how he deals with failure; on the flip, I'd like to see him give a top defense like Jacksonville or the Rams a run for their money. Further, Shanahan needs to see what kind of work Garoppolo puts in during the offseason to improve and firmly establish himself as the team leader.

We all know that Montana was a great 49er, who guided the team to unbelievable success and brought them back from the brink of defeat on more than one occasion. I am part of this faithful following, and my memory of Montana does not fail. However, let's not push the Montana legend on Garoppolo, and instead enjoy watching him develop and learn over the last few weeks of the NFL season.