Legendary NFL quarterback Joe Montana knows a thing or two about the quarterback position. In our recent conversation, I asked Montana almost exclusively about the position he mastered en route to four Super Bowls, three Super Bowl MVP and two MVP awards.
From Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers to Jimmy Garoppolo, Montana had plenty of predictions for where these quarterbacks will land next.
Here's our conversation, on behalf of Guinness.
The Spun: Joe, thanks for taking the time out talk with us leading up to the Super Bowl. I know you grew up on Monongahela - my dad was born in New Eagle and went to Ringgold too. Just a bit of background before I tell you I’m a longtime Steelers fan and I want your thoughts on who the next quarterback should be?
JM: You know there’s a lot of names floating around, but I don’t know who exactly fits into that system. I don’t think Aaron [Rodgers] goes there. If I were the [San Francisco] 49ers I wouldn’t let Jimmy Garoppolo go. But if they’re set on it, he would be a fit in Pittsburgh. He’s more of that pocket kind of guy. Going on to Jameis Winston, I don’t think he’s a fit. I mean Rodgers would be a fit if he wanted to go there, but I don’t see it. If Tom Brady doesn’t come back to Tampa, I think Tampa should try and go get him - you know, he would fit in with a great team right away, so I don’t know.
TS: We’ve seen an elite tier of young quarterbacks emerge with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson - among others. Which do you think will have had the best career when all is said and done?
JM: You know who the other guy on that list is? I think the guy on the Chargers, Justin Herbert, I like him too. I like Josh Allen. You know both of those guys had great years last year and then this year, people kind of catch up to you a little bit and it takes a little while to get the motor running again. I think all four of those guys that you mentioned end up having great careers. The guy in Baltimore is already having a pretty good one, but teams have seemed to catch up to him over the past couple of years.
I like the guys that have a good sense of the pocket and know how to stay in the pocket better than the guys that run around. Although, Lamar isn’t a runner. I mean, he can run, but he’s a pocket guy too.
TS: We watched Tom Brady leave the Patriots for the Buccaneers and find immediate success. Does Aaron Rodgers need to follow that path to win a Super Bowl or can he do that in Green Bay?
JM: I think Green Bay has a chance, they just didn’t play well at the end there for some reason. I actually thought they would be the ones to represent the NFC, but Aaron just didn’t play as well at the end as he was in the middle part of the season. In the latter part, the playoffs, he just didn’t play as well and I don’t know what that was about. Too much talk about whether he’s going to go or if he’s going to stay? That might have taken him off track a little bit.
But if he’s going to go somewhere why wouldn’t you go to Tampa? I mean they’re loaded.
TS: So you’d have more problem following in the footsteps of Tom Brady?
JM: Guys like that don’t think about Brady or anybody else. They think about themselves and about what he can do - it doesn’t matter who you follow.
TS: The 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo under contract for another season. Do you think the team should bring him back for the 2022 season or roll with Trey Lance?
JM: Yeah, I don’t know who else you’re going to get. I mean, unless you’re going to get one of those big guys. I just don’t think Aaron Rodgers is going to come here, although some of that talk does go around in San Francisco. But I just don’t think he goes there. I know he would be a good fit to the system though. So who else could you get that’s better than that? You could get the kid from Seattle too - Russell Wilson - is he a fit? I don’t know.
TS: So you don’t think Trey Lance has what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL right now?
JM: I don’t think he’s ready. And that’s just what I hear. I heard even more things today from some of the players, so I just don’t think they think he’s ready. But if they’re willing to get rid of Jimmy they must think he’s ready - or at least close enough. Either that or they have a plan to pick up somebody else that we don’t know about. I’d keep Jimmy G. I mean he got them almost there.
TS: What do you think would be a good landing spot for Jimmy G if he’s not retain in San Francisco? Is it somewhere like Pittsburgh, possibly Tampa?
JM: I don’t think Tampa will take a chance on him. Pittsburgh might. He’s on the last year of his contract, though, but they might be able to negotiate something along from there. I just couldn’t believe they paid him so much money to begin with because he was unproven at that point. If Russell Wilson leaves Seattle that opens another place he might end up.
TS: Tom Brady announced his retirement from the NFL last week. We throw the term GOAT around all the time. But as someone who was considered the GOAT at one point, do you think that title belongs to Brady now?
JM: Well, obviously Tom has had a tremendous career. The hard part is trying to compare eras. I mean this is what, Super Bowl 56. The NFL has been around for 100 years. There was a guy way back, Otto Graham, who won 11 championships before there were Super Bowls. I mean the game was just so different, the ball might not have even been the same shape back then. If you watch him, it’s just had to compare guys.
TS: Do you think Brady will stay retired?
JM: No. I couldn’t believe he retired in the first place. He doesn’t get hit, so unless he’s getting pressure from his other half [Gisele Bundchen] he never gets hurt so I was surprised that he walked away. Especially given how the season ended, I thought he’d come back at least one more year.
TS: There were a bunch of rumors lately that he’d retire and then find his way to playing for the 49ers.
JM: Well, you never know. That’s what I meant by unless [San Francisco] finds someone better [than Jimmy Garoppolo]. But you never know, they might. Who knows what’s going on these days. Everyone is moving everywhere now.
TS: Stepping away from the NFL for a moment. We watched Brian Kelly leave for LSU just a few weeks ago. What was it like watching that all unfold and are you happy with the team hiring Marcus Freeman as the new head coach?
JM: I think it was a good thing for Notre Dame in the long run. I haven’t seen much of [Marcus Freeman] but I think that what transpired and all of the things that took place, that I know they had to get [Brian Kelly] calmed down and it was best for the university. That’s just my opinion.
Marcus Freeman, will he a do a good job? I mean I think he will.
TS: Of course, I can’t let you leave without getting a Super Bowl prediction. Who do you think is going to win it all?
JM: I’m thinking Cincinnati and I’m thinking 26-24.
TS: So you think Joe Burrow is going to pull it out?
JM: I think so. I mean I’d love to see [Matthew] Stafford win, you know, just because he’s been through so much. To be able to come down here in his first year and get the Rams to the Super Bowl would be cool. You pull for the older guys this time of year. The younger guys have a lot more time to win one.
TS: So why don’t you tell us what you’re doing with Guinness leading into the Super Bowl and then St. Patrick’s Day?
JM: They have this promotion going on with Guinness after the Super Bowl the next big thing that happens is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s been a number of years since everyone has been able to get together and celebrate with all their friends like a normal St. Patrick’s Day. This year, it’s going to be like that so on their social media, Guinness, has a barcode for fans to upload a 30-second toast on what it means to be able to get back with friends and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. They’re going to give 20 people, $50,000 each for the winners. So get out there and get your cheers going and take a run at that money.
All interviews from The Spun can be found here.