For the last 10 years, anytime I was at a radio station, barbershop or bar, and the topic of greatest quarterback came up, only one name has come to mind -- Joe Montana.
During the AFC title game when they mentioned that Tom Brady had passed Montana for most playoff wins ever, I chuckled to myself. I'll still take Joe.
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The NFL Network recently did an hour special on Montana's 10 greatest games. Let's face it, that show could have been 3 hours long with all of the spectacular games he had. The 4 Super Bowls is where you have to start, where he didn't have a single turnover and the 49ers averaged 35 points per contest.
I think a key in looking at the greatest of all-time is how he dominated his particular era. In the 1980s it was the 49ers world and everyone else was just living in it. In today's stat driven era, people tend to get caught up in the numbers alone, but Montana was a signal caller who could not be defined strictly by his stats. Vinny Testaverde has more career passing yards, but if you believe he was a better quarterback, I have some lovely beachfront property in Kansas to sell you.
What I appreciated about Montana as I got older and watched games that I could not remember from my youth, was his cool. When he broke the huddle there was a calm, I don't think any quarterback before or since has had it. Perfect example is when he referenced actor John Candy sitting near the end zone before the start of the final drive of Super Bowl XXIII, and then calmly marched San Francisco down field to their third Super Bowl win of the 80s.
Also, no other quarterback has ever had to deal with a future Hall of Fame QB breathing down his neck for 4 years. The 49ers brought in Steve Young in 1987 to compete for the starting job after playoff failures the previous 2 years. Most guys would have crumbled under that kind of pressure, but Montana actually elevated his game to another level, leading the Niners to back-to-back titles in 1988 and 1989.
The 1989 playoffs were the height of Montana's greatness. In games versus the Vikings, Rams and Broncos he completed 78% of his passes with 11 scores and no interceptions. The 49ers outscored their opponents 123-26 during that run, and Joe's stellar play was at the heart of the domination.
There are plenty of outstanding quarterbacks to choose from in this current era, from Brady to Manning, Brees and Rodgers. But I don't believe any of them commanded the huddle and have the ability to play their best in the most pressure-packed situations like Montana did.
Other QBs may have more passing yards and touchdowns, but when the game was on the line and the world was watching, there was no one quite like Joe Cool.