My dad was a fan of the Miami Dolphins, but he was not a fan of legendary quarterback Dan Marino.
I asked my dad what he thought about Mr. Marino and if he liked him. His answer was more brief than a Drew Rosenhaus response to a reporter inquiring about a player. “No,” Dad replied. “How many championships did he win? How many Super Bowls did even appear in? I can count that on one finger.”
But isn’t it teams that win football games?
My dad’s all time favorite quarterback, if I had to guess, would be Joe Montana. He wasn’t even remotely a Niners fan (he bled teal green, orange, and white all the way), but he held Montana in high regards. Montana appeared in four Super Bowls and won all four, not to mention he was the MVP in three of the four Super Bowls (the other MVP? Jerry Rice).
Montana needs no introduction as to who he is. ‘Cool Joe’ was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times, a 16-7 post season record, passed for 40500 yards and 273 total touchdowns (45 during the post season).
But was he a product of the system that was comprised by genius Bill Walsh, a happy go lucky quarterback that had a status propagated by all-time great Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark?
Montana playing the quarterback position — the most important and crucial position that is played in football — he had to think, improvise, call plays, and carry his team offensively. While the 1980s’ dynasty that was the San Francisco 49ers did wield a team that was chock full of greats, Montana was not a lucky quarterback by any means. ‘Lucky’ is a team that you would more-so apply to the NBA’s Robert Horry, but that’s another discussion.
A question that is thrown around everywhere you go is: “Did Montana make Rice a better receiver or did Montana make Rice a better quarterback?” Both of the answers are correct to that question. Rice would have fared poorly if a quarterback of the caliber, say, Joey Harrington was passing him the ball. Same with Montana if he had a number one receiver by the name of J.J. Stokes or somebody. It all comes down to chemistry and work ethic. Chemistry is self explanatory. What I mean by work ethic is how often they prepare and work at their crafts. Troy Aikman isn’t a top five or arguably a top 10 quarterback, but his chemistry with receiver Michael Irvin proved to be a great success.
My dad was a fan of Montana because he was a leader. He didn’t jitter in the pocket. He didn’t make stupid mistakes that a lot of quarterbacks make today. He didn’t throw into double coverage and take risks like all-time interception leader Brett Favre. He didn’t run out of the pocket. He stayed in the pocket and took hit after hit. He rarely missed games due to injuries. He was one tough S.O.B.
Yet I look at top five all-time quarterback lists and don’t see Montana as much as I should. I even see Brett Favre listed ahead of Montana on several of the said lists. Preposterous, I say! (This is coming from a Rams fan — Montana tossed 37 touchdowns on their stout defense during the 1980s)
My dad passed away in December 2003, so I never really had any in-depth conversations with him about the NFL as I would have wished, except for the last couple of months of his life. At the time, Peyton Manning didn’t have a Super Bowl ring. My dad would often emit the statement, “Peyton Manning will never win a Super Bowl.”
And he was almost right. Manning finally won a Super Bowl in the culmination of the 2006 season, though, but it wasn’t him who carried his team to victory. With the Colts limping into the playoffs, facing the Kansas City Chiefs, the majority of America picked the Chiefs to beat the Colts. But safety Bob Sanders was back in action and ready to roll. Behind the steady and ready defense of Indianapolis, the Colts walked past Kansas City, dusted off Baltimore, and while there was a shootout against New England in the AFC title game, it was an interception by defensive back Marlin Jackson that subsequently ended the game. In the Super Bowl, Manning had an alright performance (enough of a game manager to keep the Colts in), while it was the running game and the erroneous play of Rex Grossman that gave the Colts the Lombardi trophy. So, Peyton won a Super Bowl, but the ride wasn’t pretty.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has often been compared to Montana — no wonder my dad was a big fan of Brady (even if Miami and New England were — and still are — division rivals). He was a fan of Brady even before anybody knew who the hell he was, before he picked apart the St. Louis Rams defense in Super Bowl XXXVI in the final drive of the game.
Yet Montana belongs on a perch of his own. While the Niners teams during the ’80s were great, when do you remember him faltering to a level that people called him pitiful? Behind the masterful coaching of Bill Walsh and the all-around play of the team as a whole, the 49ers became a forgotten dynasty in the NFL, but please remember: give Joe Montana the credit the man deserves.