John Brodie is an authority on the fans and media in the San Francisco area. A former all-America quarterback at Stanford University who was a No. 1 draft choice of the 49ers, he had his share of beer cans and abuse heaped on him. The ideal philosopher to analyze Jim Plunkett.
"I don't know whether I am an authority," Brodie said, "but I had the beer cans thrown at me."
Plunkett went the long, painful route from Stanford to success with the Oakland Raiders by way of New England and San Francisco, where he left his enthusiasm. He was ready to retire after the 49ers released him outright in 1978. He still was ready to retire after the Raiders picked him up off the waiver list and didn't let him play a down.
"I can't put my finger on all of what has resulted in his comeback," Brodie said, "but the first thing is he is now with a really good team. He had two years to sit out and get a rest, and though he didn't like it, he got his enthusiasm for the game back.
"Some quarterbacks -- I think of Norm Snead with a bad Redskins team -- are thrown in there as rookies and take a licking. People jump on their frame. Jim can handle the football aspect, but he got whipped on. He let it all come in; he never criticized anybody. I think he got fed up after eight years (five at New England, two at San Francisco, one at Oakland).
"The worst thing was when he was released at San Francisco. I couldn't understand that. I thought the 49ers made a good trade (giving up quarterback Tom Owen, three No. 1 draft choices and a No. 2).
"When that happened Al Davis (managing general partner of the Raiders) asked me what I thought about Jim. I told him I thought Jim had everything that he had previously, except his enthusiasm, because he had been whipped on by everybody every place he had been. I've seen a lot of Jim and I've never seen so much enthusiasm as he has now.
"He was playing better than Dan Pastorini during the exhibition season.Pastorini told me that. Dan said that if the Raiders had not traded Ken Stabler to Houston for Pastorini, Plunkett would have been playing."
Plunkett took over at quarterback when Pastorini's leg was broken and has won all six of his starts since. The Raiders lead the Western Division of the American Football Conference with an 8-3 record.
Pastorini was struggling before he was injured and Oakland fans were booing the fellow who replaced their favorite, Stabler. In fact, the fans cheered when Pastorini was injured.
"Oakland was trying to find a way for Plunkett to play before Pastorini was hurt," Brodie said. "While Jim was sitting out and watching for a year he did not have to be responsible for everything. He got itching to play. This year when he was not playing he got hot about it. He didn't before.
"The Raiders are good again, believe me. Why? Who knows? Their future looks good, therefore, so does Jim's. I can't see anything but a nice trip down the line for him. It's easy at 32 if you're with a good team, very hard if you're not.
The sportscaster worked the recent Dolphin game at Oakland, which the Raiders struggled to win, 16-10.
"He (Plunkett) played poorly, for him, against Miami, but won. It was the first time I recall that happening. It generally doesn't happen that way for a quarterback. I had dinner with him after the game and he said he could never remember that occuring before. If it had happened in New England or San Francisco he would have been booed out of the park. He had three interceptions.
"But he was enthusiastic about the next game. A lot of players going through what he has -- his arm going bad, his shoulder operations, the abuse -- would have become so-so performers; they feel rejected. It takes a lot of guts to have his stick-to-itiveness. He took it and beat it, instead of leaving.
"He is not throwing as hard as he once did, but I think he is throwing better. I always thought he was a great passer. He is getting the ball where it should go 85 percent of the time."
John Madden, who brought Plunkett to the Raiders as a free agent before retiring as coach, said, "Good things happened to Jim too fast. He wasn't ready. He was coming into the league with the Patriots with half of what he had to have. I never did believe a kid out of college was ready until he was a back-up for two or three years. He got hurt, physically and emotionally.
"At New England, he had the burden of being the Heisman Trophy winner. He was supposed to be the savior of the 49ers. I'd be lying if I said his present success figured. He surprised me and I think himself. I don't think anyone knew he would do this well."