Garoppolo waited his turn and when he got it, led the Niners to a 5-0 surge down the stretch that included wins against playoff-bound teams such as the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. That was enough for San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch to reward Garoppolo with a five-year, $137.5 million contract that at the time set a record for the highest average annual value in league history.
That finishing flourish was also enough for some excited 49ers fans to begin wondering whether Garoppolo could be the long-awaited franchise quarterback the team has sought since the days of Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young.
On Tuesday, Montana made a couple of media appearances in which he discussed what he saw from Garoppolo in 2017, how he sees Garoppolo moving forward and the buzz that seems to be building around the Niners' new quarterback.
"I think it’s still a little early for [the hype] myself," Montana said on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football." "He’s obviously had a lot more success in the games he's played in so far than the other quarterbacks that have been there recently. So I think there's a lot of excitement in the Bay Area about it. I think this year will be a big tell on it. They paid a lot of money for him. But I think there's some belief there that he'll be there for a while."
In a later appearance on Mad Dog Sports Radio, Montana expounded on why he believes it is too early for the hype. Specifically, Montana pointed to a history of quarterbacks who learned from legends leaving the nest and struggling to have similar success after departing.
"I just haven't seen success from guys who have left behind quarterbacks like Tom [Brady] or go all the way back to Danny Marino," Montana said. "When those guys leave and go to another system, if the guy in front of them leaves and they stay in that system, they seem to have more success. But if they leave and go to another team, I don't think there's been any successful quarterback that have made it for any length of time. There's probably three right behind Tom that left already. So I'm hoping that this is a difference for the 49ers because he did bring a lot of life into the stands and to the fans there. They have a lot of hope."
Montana, of course, is referring to former New England quarterbacks such as Matt Cassel, who learned from Brady and had some success in replacing him for a season but didn't fare as well after becoming the starter for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Montana also said he believed Garoppolo benefited from taking over at a point in the season when expectations for the Niners were minimal.
"I think he came in at a good time at the end of a year of a really crappy year for them and I think there's a lot of hope there, but I still want to see a full season played," Montana said. "Because it's easy to come in at the end of a season when a team is down and no one is expecting things and be able to win. I don't want to say it's easy, that's a bad word to choose. But it was all set up for him to be successful that way. So I just hope that it continues for the 49ers' fans sake that this is the right person to take over there and it was worth paying all that money.
"You come in at the end of the season like that when there wasn't a whole lot of expectation from the opposite side, from the other team they were playing at the same time. He did seem to uplift the team, which is a good sign. Everybody is anointing him right now, but let's just give him some time to settle in and make sure he's the guy."
Garoppolo has started just seven games in his career, five of which came with the Niners at the end of the season. Understandably, Montana would like to see Garoppolo continue or at least approximate his late-season success before fully buying in.
Now that he's locked in as the Niners' starter for the foreseeable future, Garoppolo will finally have his chance to remove all doubt.