One obvious thing Plunkett has in common with some of those fun days is that he rose out of Stanford, as did both Albert and Brodie. This Stanford syndrome is partly the reason why the 49ers have always been a peninsula team, and it is also part of the reason why Plunkett wanted to come home. He had never stopped living in San Jose during the five years he played for New England. Ht said he would have gone to the Rams or Denver if it could have been worked out—anywhere in the West—but Spadia brought him home by giving the Patriots three first-round draft choices and a second and the sometime 49er quarter back, Tom Owen.
The fact that New England let Plunkett go at any price raised some questions about his ability. Admittedly, Plunkett had not done the things he though he could do for the Patriots—the thing; Steve Grogan has been doing for then this season—and he had been banged around, suffering several shoulder and knee injuries.
"I thought I was capable of anything when I first went there," Plunkett says. "Before it was over, I was questioning my own ability."
There were some NFL coaches who whispered that Plunkett maybe was finished, because of his injuries, and the? questioned his play-calling ability, ever his zest for the game.
"Injuries will make you look timid sometimes in the pocket," Plunkett says. "I was a little cautious at first this year. I said earlier that one of the reasons I was happy to be in San Francisco was because Coach Clark promised I wouldn't have to run any keepers." Plunkett has run the ball only 12 times in seven games.
While the game against Atlanta did little to help anyone assess the real strength of the 49ers, it was helpful in showing that Plunkett could take some licks. He took more than a few from Atlanta's rush, and when he was forced to scramble, he did so with tenacity. He did not throw a touchdown pass, but he did have one that Kenny Harrison probably should have caught.
So now comes the hard part, the part that will furnish the answers about the 49ers. It is almost as if the season is finally starting, for in the second half they will be confronted by St. Louis, Washington, Minnesota and the Rams again Even San Diego, another of the year's pleasant mysteries, could mean trouble
For the moment, however, the 49ers have a five-game win streak, and when they see it in print, the people along the peninsula prefer not to concern themselves with the fact that it was mostly accomplished against Donald Duck and Goofy and their intimate friends.