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NFL’s Top 100: The Joe Montana Debate

Nov 5, 2010 at 10:29 AM


I had to get up relatively early (well, for me anyway) to take a friend to the airport this morning. I threw on the Sirius NFL Radio station and went about my drive, enjoying the Austin skyline at sunrise.

The announcers were talking about the top 100 and how Jerry Rice was number one. "Cool!" I thought to myself. I can totally agree with that. Jim Brown was number two, Lawrence Taylor was number three, and Joe Montana was number four. The first quarterback listed? I'll take that, I thought.

Then, I heard it.

"Bill Walsh went from Dan Fouts in San Diego to Joe Montana and Steve Young? Either he has some crazy luck having three hall of fame quarterbacks fall in his lap or he had something to do with it." The caller continued, "I just have to think that if you put a Marino, or Phil Simms or Elway in the West Coast system that they would have done just as much as Montana."

Ugh. I literally almost went nuts. I would have called the station immediately but when I grabbed my phone I realized I was listening to Sirius through the iPhone App. Thwarted. So instead I decided to vent here.

Let's first get one thing out of the way, Joe Montana was made for the West Coast Offense. Joe Montana needed the West Coast Offense. But, more importantly, the West Coast offense needed Joe Montana.

His success is a result of running Bill Walsh's offense. The system that Walsh put in place begged for a smart, accurate, agile quarterback who could move inside and outside the pocket. It did NOT need a quarterback with a rocket arm, but the quarterback had to have a strong enough arm to make the throws the offense required.

Joe Montana excelled at these qualities. He was able to digest the complicated terminology that Walsh used for his plays and understand the offense at an elite level. Montana was ridiculously accurate, hitting receivers in stride and allowing them to rack up the yards after the catch the West Coast Offense requires.

He also moved well inside and outside the pocket. Walsh commented that one of the best traits Joe had was his ability to "feel" pressure. He moved away from defenders while still keeping his eyes down field. And when things broke down, he was able to scramble and create plays, much like he had to do in 1981 against the Cowboys while he rolled to his right with a couple defenders bearing down on him.

Sure, if you put Montana in Denver's offense he might not do as well as he did in San Francisco. But how well would Elway and Marino do in the West Coast offense? Could Marino have run the Sprint Right Option play in 1981? If you ever witnessed a Marino scramble you know he is as mobile as Jabba the Hut playing dodge ball.

Yes, other quarterbacks shared qualities with Montana. Bill Walsh rated Phil Simms higher on his draft board than Montana and wanted to draft him to be the start quarterback of the 49ers.

But the West Coast Offense thrived under Montana. He was able to win 4 Super Bowls and throw 11 touchdowns in the process. How many INTs? ZERO. And this is perhaps what puts Montana over the top. Clutch. When the game matters, he comes through.

So don't give me any of that "Montana is only a product of his system" crap. A "pure" passer (whatever that means) shouldn't be given any more credit for comparison purposes than any other quarterback. Every coach finds players that suit his system then tweaks the playbook to play to the quarterback's strengths. Montana, in that case, had no more advantage than any other quarterback.

So I leave you with this quote which sums everything up nicely:

"Playas gon' play. And haters gon' hate."
-3LW
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


12 Comments

  • finer niner
    Montana #1 Brown # 2 Rice # 3 Payton # 4 Manning # 5 Carter # 6 Taylor # 7 Lott # 8 Sanders # 9 Young # 10 Simpson # 11 Elway/Marino #12 Dickerson # 13 F Dean # 44 T. Smith # 45 R. Craig # 57 G Hearst # 88 A Lee # 131 D Clark # 234 M Hanks # 391 Alex Smith # 34,976
    Nov 16, 2010 at 1:54 AM
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  • Agustin
    I can handle Jerry Rice and Jim Brown being ahead of Montana. This is very debatable. However, LT ahead of Montana?! Negative. No way no how. LT is one of the best and deserves props, but not ahead of Montana. Period. Not debatable.
    Nov 11, 2010 at 2:59 PM
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  • Billy Carter
    If Walsh and Montana had been on an east coast team, the only argument these guys would be having it weather to rename the Lombardi Trophy after Walsh or Montana! West coast teams and players get no love.
    Nov 9, 2010 at 9:04 AM
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  • CHARLES
    "SUPER JOE"- WILL ALWAYS BE NUMBER ONE, THERE IS NO COMPARISON.MONTANA WAS FROM A DIFFERENT MOLD--THE BEST EVER.
    Nov 9, 2010 at 6:16 AM
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  • Stewart
    Hey Green..I love Steve Young as much as you. But here is a stat that matters. Troy 3 superbowls, Steve 1.
    Nov 8, 2010 at 3:33 PM
    0
    Response: If Super Bowls rank that high in the selection criteria shouldn't Marino (25) and Peyton Manning (8) be lower than their standings?
  • Jeromy
    I could not agree more! With 2 minutes left in the game and the Niners down by 14 points in the Super Bowl the opposing coach was still scared out of his mind....and why was he scared? Because Joe Montana was coming back on the field....and that type of Clutch play is the most important stat! Marino has lots of stats and 0 rings...can he be considered great? Ill tell you this..Joe can..and not because of stats..But because he knew how to win football games!
    Nov 8, 2010 at 10:27 AM
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  • John
    Lt admitted the he used coke before games...If you are a linebacker in the NFL, I would consider coke a performance enhancing drug....LT should be high on the list, but above Joe?...And where the hell is Dan Fouts on this list?
    Nov 7, 2010 at 8:56 AM
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  • Tchristian
    Joe had good years a 49er , enough said about that , but as a chief he didn't fared so well he is in the right order . LT was t he best as his position , can't where he is as well . Now Jim brown was the best running back period to have done all he did in 9 game seasons is truly outstanding . Jerry being number 1 , how can you are argue that , he is called a GOAT for a reason , greatest if all time enough said . I thought Ronnie Lott should have cracked the top 10 .
    Nov 7, 2010 at 6:09 AM
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  • GreenReaper
    OK, i get the joe angst but seriously folks, theres a MUCH BIGGER PROBLEM ON THIS LIST! #80...troy aikman #81...steve young thats right folks, not only do they have one of the top 10 QB's of all time talent AND stat wise listed at 81, THEY HAVE TROY F'ING AIKMAN AHEAD OF HIM. oh really, really? REALLY?! WHAT? i shouldnt even have to argue this. nevermind the stats between the two, they speak for themselves. the 49ers would have been pure crap without steve for the last 5 years he was there. all people can remember is the failing of the 49ers in the playoffs but come on, when steve finally got a fair shake he beat the cowboys and the packers. peyton manning has failed much more spectacularly in big games and hes friggin #8 overall.
    Nov 6, 2010 at 2:07 PM
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  • el guapo
    Very true he should of been third ahead of lt. Lt was limited to pass rushing the best at that but he couldnt cover the pass. Montana was a complete qb and the best inder pressure ever. He also won 2 sbs WITHOUT RICE and taylor and jones rathman. He had little to nobody in the passing game. Craig a rb and clark a decent wr but not great. What people need to understand is this......the system arguement goes out the window with this realization....hello he took the horrible Chiefs offense and team to the championship game. Arguement done and so are montana haters. Rice 1 montana 2 or 3.
    Nov 5, 2010 at 4:09 PM
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  • DC49er
    AMEN. In all honesty, I ranked Montana at #1 not because he was any better than Jerry Rice at his respective position.....but IMO, the QB is a more important position than the WR. Either way, can't complain!
    Nov 5, 2010 at 12:41 PM
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  • dr8van
    I was annoyed with Montana being #4 on the list. Jerry #1, I understand. However, I think the consensus is that QB is the most important position in football. Yet the #1 ranked QB on the list is not the best player? I can't argue against Jerry Rice. However, I will say WR is a skill position, Im not sure a skill position should've gone #1. That being said, to have LT above Montana was just stupid. I could lived with Rice and Montana 1 and 2 in whatever order (though I prefer Montana-1) but to have LT above Montana is reckless and calls into question the merit of the deciding panel. Jim Brown is also tough to argue against, but 9 seasons in a skill position, I wouldn't put him above Joe or Jerry. Just my thought on this subject.
    Nov 5, 2010 at 11:18 AM
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