Joe Montana explains the quarterback position

Here’s a quote from Joe Montana:

“The game is changing. Nobody wants to throw with pressure anymore. But the guys who can win in this league are the ones who can make throws from the pocket.”

You can read the article for more context, as Montana is discussing how he likes the game of Colin Kaepernick but sees room for improvement. Kapernick is part of the new wave of mobile quarterbacks, but give him and head coach Jim Harbaugh credit as they have tried to limit how often Kaepernick takes off and runs. He’s starting to look more like a young John Elway as opposed to a “running quarterback” like year one RG3.

But as Montana points out, the most important part of a quarterback’s game involves throwing in the pocket, and particularly the ability to make the right throw accurately under pressure. This is where many young quarterbacks struggle, but it can be even more difficult to develop this skill for mobile quarterbacks who take off running when the pressure gets too hot, as opposed to shifting in the pocket and making the big throw. Relying on scrambling will cause a quarterback to leave some big throws on the field, limiting some big plays.

We’ll see if Kaepernick or Russell Wilson can actually win a Super Bowl. One of them will be matched up against a classic pocket passer in either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. And yes, the game is changing and we’re seeing more mobile quarterbacks. But Montana is pointing out a critical element for ultimate success in the NFL, and this gives us some perspective as we enjoy the rest of the NFL playoff season.

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Great partnerships between head coaches and quarterbacks

The quarterback has always been the most important position in pro football, even in the days when the running game was dominant. Many fans don’t realize that quarterbacks called all the plays as late as the 1970s and into the early 1980s. So even if offenses weren’t quite as complex back then and great teams had excellent running games, having a field general like Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach was critical. As the NFL evolved into a more pass-happy league, an evolution that has accelerated in the last ten years with rules protecting the quarterbacks and defenseless receivers, the importance of the quarterback has only been magnified.

This reality makes the relationship between the head coach and the quarterback the most important in pro football. Look at the great teams over the years, and you see great partnerships between coach and quarterback leading to success on the field. It’s interesting to take a look back and see how these relationships took shape and see how they varied based on the situations and the personalities involved. Here are several interesting examples:

1-Bill Belichick and Tom Brady

Bill Belichick was known as a defensive genius when he took over the New England Patriots, but he was also known as a rigid coach who had a complete lack of imagination on offense as a result of his years as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Belichick wanted the quarterback to be just another position on the field as he didn’t seem to acknowledge the leadership qualities of the position. Tom Brady was a sixth round pick sitting on the bench behind Drew Bledsoe.

When Bledsoe got hurt, Belichick turned to Brady and immediately saw Brady’s talent, decision-making and leadership ability. When Bledsoe came back, Belichick decided to stay with Brady, which at the time was a controversial decision. They made it to the Super Bowl, and by then Belichick has so much confidence in Brady that he made the aggressive decision to drive down the field with little time left in the fourth quarter in a tie game against the Rams. John Madden famously said on television that the Patriots should have just run out the clock and took their chances in overtime. Instead, Brady drove the Pats down to the game-winning field goal.

Two more Super Bowls and one undefeated regular season later, this partnership between Belichick and Brady is one of the most successful in NFL history. Belichick and his offensive coaches let Brady achieve his full potential by becoming just as imaginative on offense as Belichick had been his whole career on defense. From year to year the Patriots would beat you in many different ways, and then they grabbed Randy Moss they were almost unbeatable.

2-Mike Shanahan and John Elway

John Elway is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Yet despite his heroics with “The Drive” and countless other games that he won on sheer athletic ability, Elway had never managed to win a Super Bowl. He never had a real running game, and the Denver defenses were routinely embarrassed in Super Bowls. Then Mike Shanahan arrived. Shanahan is a stubborn system guy, and since the John Elway days he’s not had nearly as much success with his arrogant attitude. But Shanahan’s system was exactly what Elway needed. Elway bought into the changes which placed more emphasis on a running game and a disciplined approach to the passing game, and the result was two Super Bowl titles.

3-Bill Walsh and Joe Montana

Bill Walsh was a system guy. He was an offensive genius who dominated the NFL with his West Coast offense, and he happened to find the perfect quarterback for his system in third-round draft pick Joe Montana. Montana was very accurate and incredibly smart, and he played the quarterback position flawlessly in this system. Of course the 49ers were loaded with talent on offense, but the natural relationship between Walsh and Montana set a standard that would be copied over and over again in the NFL. Look at Aaron Rodgers today, and you see flashes on what Walsh and Montana created thirty years ago. Rodgers and Mike McCarthy have forged a great relationship following the Brett Favre drama in Green Bay.

Of course there are exceptions that help prove the rule. Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw never got along, but they managed to ride one of the best defenses in history plus a great running game to four Super Bowls, and Bradshaw thrived under pressure despite his frosty relationship with Noll. Bill Parcells was notorious for riding Phil Simms, and they had great success as well.

But there’s no doubt that the relationship between the head coach and the quarterback is usually a critical component to sustained success in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how young quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford grow with their head coaches.

Joe Montana’s son arrested

Apr 24, 2010 - South Bend, Indiana, U.S. - Notre Dame quarterback NATE MONTANA looks over the defense Saturday during the annual Blue-Gold Spring Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Montana, who had an impressive day at quarterback for the Gold team, is the son of former Notre Dame quarterback and NFL legend Joe Montana.

Per the New York Times:

The son of the former Notre Dame standout Joe Montana was among 11 Fighting Irish athletes arrested on misdemeanor charges of underage drinking at a party Friday night in South Bend, Ind. A total of 44 people were arrested after the police discovered the party, said Bill Redman, the St. Joseph County Police assistant chief.

I don’t want to make light of underage drinking because there are plenty of stories out there that end in tragedy after a young person had too much to drink. But it’s not surprising that a bunch of college students got in trouble after their party got broken up and the only reason why this story is on 2A instead of 9B is because it was Joe Montana’s son (Nate is his name).

Either way, it’s not a good start for young Nate, or any of the 11 Irish athletes that were busted.

Montana: Favre coming back, but wants to avoid training camp

Joe Montana is confident that Brett Favre will return to football this season, but believes the 40-year-old quarterback is playing coy with his plans because he doesn’t want to go to training camp.

“He says he’s not sure [about playing] because he doesn’t want to go to training camp. He’s smart,” Montana said. “I’m sure he already has that agreement with them. Nine chances out of 10 they already know and they’ve already had this whole conversation and they should just let everybody know because they know he’s going to come back.

“He knows he’s going to come back, but the reason they don’t say anything is because he doesn’t want to go through training camp,” Montana said. “If he didn’t have to go through training camp, his decision would already be made, but he should know by now going to training camp isn’t going to be hard. They’d never make it hard on him.”

Seeing as how the Vikings have shown zero signs of panicking about Favre’s pending decision, I think Montana is right on the money. Favre has always disliked going to training camp, so it would make sense that he would have an agreement with the Vikings that he’d return as long as he doesn’t have to go to camp.

The Vikings haven’t made any moves yet pertaining to their quarterback situation that would suggest Favre isn’t coming back. And with Favre’s familiarity with Brad Childress’ offense, it wouldn’t take him long to get ready for the season if he skipped camp and showed up when the team started their regular practices. Personally, I think he should be in camp with his teammates, but maybe that’s just me.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Is Manning better than Montana and Brady?

Ross Tucker of writes that Peyton Manning is a better NFL quarterback than Joe Montana and Tom Brady.

Here are the highlights of Tucker’s argument:

Montana may have been the most clutch performer ever; his postseason success is almost unprecedented. He did, however, play in an era before the advent of free agency and the salary cap.

He (Brady) did, however, have the benefit of playing for one of the greatest coaches and defensive minds, Bill Belichick. Belichick’s game planning against Manning earlier this decade was a primary factor in the Pats’ success. Brady has also been blessed by a defense that was among the league’s best for a good portion of his career.

But Manning has also shown an ability to adjust, even after losing longtime running mate Marvin Harrison.

His offensive line has never been dominant, and yet their weaknesses have been covered up by his uncanny ability to get rid of the ball before the defender gets to him.

I can’t think of any other player who has as much control over the game plan or play-calling. That, of course, is fitting because I don’t think any other player has ever had quite the same grasp of his offense that Manning does.

Tucker makes some valid points, especially in the case of Manning, who is incredible at what he does. But what he ignores is that quarterbacks will always be graded by their performances in the Super Bowl. The goal for every team at the start of the year is to win a Super Bowl, it’s not to try and rack up as many stats as possible.

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