Hall of Fame quarterback and MVP for three of his four Super Bowl titles, 49ers legend Joe Montana takes a timeout for some Super Bowl 2024 Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: Analyze Brock Purdy for me.
A: I don’t like the words everybody uses as a “game manager,” but I think one of the things he has done early is figured out the offense, what his job and role is in it. And that he has these weapons around him that he needs to take advantage of. He doesn’t make a lot of big mistakes, which is huge for that position, as everyone knows, but in the most part, he’s having fun it looks like, first of all. But he’s just doing what Kyle [Shanahan, coach] is expected of him. People just say, “Well, he had all these weapons around him, it makes a difference,” but I don’t think so. I think you look at his demeanor, you look at his delivery of balls, his accuracy, his touch — he has everything going for him. And his mobility also. He’s not a runner, but he can get out and run if he has to. But when he moves, he’s looking down the field. He wants to get the ball down there. I think he’s been doing a great job. Everybody said, “Well, we’ll see what happens this year after last year.” But here he is. I think they found a diamond.
Q: Do you think he has a Mr. Irrelevant chip on his shoulder?
A: If you just look at his temperament on the field, things you see when he speaks, I don’t think so. I just think he was in a position where he just wanted an opportunity to play. I think what this proves is the NFL just hadn’t figured out yet what the draft is all about, right? There were so many mistakes in the early rounds and so many good things happen in the later rounds. You just can’t figure it out. You just don’t know who’s going to make that transition, and he’s a perfect example of it.
Q: Do you think there’s less pressure on him than Patrick Mahomes?
A: No, I think it’s equal on both sides. This is the biggest game, this is what they play for, so I don’t think the pressure’s any different on either side of the ball on either team there. Yeah. He wants to win one, and so does Mahomes. … I go, “Did you ever see a kid who’s never had candy, and you give him candy for the first time. Now that’s all he wants: “I just want more candy.” And that’s kind of where Mahomes is. Brock is in position where he wants that candy now. He wants to have a taste of that.
Q: What advice would you have for him playing in his first Super Bowl?
A: I always liked to get hit early, just to remind you you’re in the game, and it’s just another game. Once you get out there, all this stuff the last two weeks — and leading up to the game is the worst part. They already have been ready to play last Sunday, both teams. But all he has to do is what he’s been doing. Don’t do anything different. Just be yourself and let things happen, don’t try to make things happen. They’ll show up for you.
Q: What was your pregame routine before your first Super Bowl, vs. the Bengals following the 1981 season?
A: I didn’t use a lot of tape like on my ankles. I just got quick wraps, so I didn’t take a lot of time to get ready. So I went on the last bus. And I typically would get up, have a little bit of breakfast and then just wait until the last bus and go then. That was the last time I did it though. We were on the way to the stadium [Pontiac Silverdome] and traffic stopped. The vice president we didn’t know was landing, so they stopped everybody so we were sitting out there. And we were there for a long time. I said, “Don’t worry guys, we still have a lot of time.” And (laugh) typical Bill [Walsh], he stood up and said after a while, he goes, “Look guys, I got good news for you: The game has started, we’re ahead, Chico scored a touchdown and Bronco kicked the extra point,” and those were our two equipment managers.
Q: Describe the emotions you felt hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the first time that night, after a 26-21 win in Super Bowl XVI.
A: You almost can’t describe it. There’s such a relief, and such an excitement … and then unfortunately for you it’s over (laugh). Game’s over. The way it happened for me is that we won, I won the MVP, but I didn’t think I played that well, as well as I should have. So it was a little bit of a downer too, where my dad came in, I was in the training room eating a cheeseburger (laugh) to get away from the media got a little bit. He looked at me, he was all happy, and he goes, “What’s a matter?” I go, “I just didn’t feel like I played the way … ” He goes, “You know what? Would you shut up? Finish your cheeseburger and get out there and have fun. You just won the Super Bowl and you won the MVP. What else do you want?”
Q: How do you see the Shanahan-Andy Reid coaching matchup?
A: Well, obviously Andy’s been there and Kyle’s been there — unfortunately on the other side of it, but I don’t see Kyle making those mistakes that he made last time. Andy’s got it down: You just turn it over to Mahomes.
Q: What are your thoughts on Shanahan?
A: He’s done a great job. The problem is everybody blames him on some of the things that happened back then [as Falcons offensive coordinator when they blew a 28-3 lead in a 34-28, overtime loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI], but you know your player [Atlanta QB Matt Ryan] has to understand too that he can’t make that mistake, in taking that sack. He has to know. Even if you have to try to intentional ground it, you got to try to get rid of that ball.
Q: What do you recall about the Super Bowl four years ago when Jimmy Garoppolo overthrew Emmanuel Sanders in the fourth quarter?
A: We all overthrow people. It just was a bad time for him that it happened in that game. He was usually pretty accurate with that. … I don’t know, I’m just glad it wasn’t me, let’s put it that way.
Q: Shanahan asked Tom Brady if he might be interested in quarterbacking the 49ers and mentoring Purdy this season.
A: That would have been crazy and fun to watch. I know everyone in the Bay Area would have loved it.
Q: Do you believe Brady is the GOAT?
A: Oh, he’s got every record there is, just about (chuckle).
Q: What are your thoughts on the 49ers attempting to win their sixth Super Bowl championship and tie the Patriots and Steelers?
A: The organization’s been great for a long time. They’ve got a team well worthy of doing it. It’d be great to see ’em do it.
Q: Is any part of you conflicted because you finished your career as a Chief?
A: I enjoyed my time in Kansas City, we all did as a family. The people were great, the organization obviously was great, and I had some great teammates. You get tossed and torn a little bit, I didn’t most of time here in San Francisco and still live here. Not to say that it’s any better, but I love Kansas City and I loved my time there. And I always wish them the best. … At heart I’m a Steeler fan (laugh) when they were winning those Super Bowls.
Q: Who was your favorite Steeler?
A: Mel Blount I loved, Franco [Harris], Lynn Swann … there was a ton of them.
Q: You got to the AFC Championship game with the 1993 Chiefs, falling 30-13 to the Bills. Where does that season rate for you?
A: We should have gone to the Super Bowl that year. We lost a game we should have won and instead we had to go to Buffalo, and that cost us. It was light drizzle, typical Buffalo weather, chilly, wind blowing. I couldn’t throw the ball 10 yards if I had to (chuckle). And in Kansas City that day it was 50 degrees and sunshine. And we had beaten Buffalo earlier in the year already once [23-7 at home in Week 11]. And we had a chance to really stay in the game right before halftime. I finally threw a pass to the running back, who would have walked into the end zone, I think it would have tied the game at half, and he dropped it. I wish we would have made it, it would have been fun doing that after being traded, so … I look back on that and wish I would have stayed another couple of years, but unfortunately injuries took over.
Q: If you were building the perfect quarterback, what trait or traits would you take from Joe Montana?
A: It was about preparation for me, and how I had to prepare and how it made it easier on Sunday, when you’re out there.
Q: How about physical or mental tools?
A: It would probably be more of the mental part because I think we spent more time on the mental part of the game than on the physical part. When I got to Kansas City that changed, we spent a lot of time on the physical part, which slowed me down a little bit — I went from 192 pounds to 208 (laugh) by lifting weights every day.
Q: Why did you bulk up that much?
A: Marty [Schottenheimer, coach] made me lift every day. And he took one of the assistant, sort of the strength coach, and him go with me to make sure I did it.
Q: In retrospect, do you wish you hadn’t?
A: Oh yeah. I was running against, I think it was the Raiders, and I got clipped from behind just right before I went out of bounds. And I tore my hamstring. And Marty said, “I thought you were faster than that.” I said, “I was at 192, but at 208 I’m a slug.” He didn’t change anything though.
Q: Do you have one favorite Super Bowl memory?
A: I would just probably say throwing the touchdown pass to John Taylor basically to win the game [20-16 over the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII].
Q: Do you think this will be a high-scoring game?
A: You know what, every time you do that, everybody says, “I’m taking the Over (laugh).” It ends up being the 17-14 games, everyone thinks it’s going to be high scoring. It has the capability of being it for sure, with both offenses and you look at it. Kansas City’s got a good defense, the 49ers got a real good defense that showed a little bit of issue with the run game [in the conference championship], and so hopefully they get that tightened up.
Q: What is the key to this game for the 49ers?
A: You can’t turn the ball over. It usually is what costs you the game in the long run. I think the 49ers just got to keep the ball away from Mahomes. Just want to keep him off the field. They score in a heartbeat, so the less opportunities you give ’em, the better off you are.
Q: What are your thoughts on Christian McCaffrey, and does he remind you in any way of Roger Craig?
A: In some ways, yeah, he does remind me of Rog. He’s a gifted athlete, by far. He lines up out as wide receiver if you need him. But his ability in the hole where you watch him, he just squeezes through and then jump-cuts, eludes another tackle. He’s fun to watch, I know that.
Q: Deebo Samuel? Does he remark you at all of Earl Cooper?
A: No, Deebo reminds me more of John Taylor, who couldn’t really get his due because of Jerry Rice. John Taylor was a freak. When he first got there, you’d watch him return punts. Everybody would get up off our bench to watch him. He just had this ability to make you miss.
Q: Describe the greatness of Jerry Rice.
A: He came along too late in my career (laugh). He had a knack for getting open. I don’t know how he would do it, he was very easy to read as a quarterback. There were times when he would just break a route and do something different, and I don’t know why or how, I just knew he was going to do it. We just had a connection to it.
Q: What is your favorite on-field memory of Ronnie Lott?
A: My favorite memory, it’s not on field, it’s actually in the locker room. I was going into the shower and one of our linebackers was walking in front of me. And he had a huge bruise on his back. I go, “How do you get a bruise on your back? He goes: “Ronnie.” I said, “Don’t stand around the pile because Ronnie’s coming full speed.” Ronnie was a great corner when he was there, and he was even a better safety. He just had a great feel for the game. Played against him a couple of times at USC, and so I’ve known Ronnie for a long time. I have tons of respect for him. In fact, he’s the godfather to our youngest son.
Q: Dwight Clark?
A: Dwight was one of those receivers that they missed in the draft, too. Fast, big, could play, if you needed him, as another tight end. Deceptive speed, great hands, and he had great ability to read defenses, which in Bill’s offense you need.
Q: What is the one trait that made Bill Walsh a Hall of Fame coach?
A: I would say his ingenuity. He brought something different to the game when it needed it.
Q: Describe the rivalry with the Giants and being denied a threepeat by them when they won the NFC Championship game in the 1990 season?
A: It was a fun, crazy time for us, and they were definitely our nemesis. And today, … of the big guys I talk to most … Phil Simms and Bill Parcells (laugh).
Q: When was the last time you spoke to Parcells?
A: I spoke to him about a horse race. Get some tips. And Phil ended up coaching the boys (sons) at the end, when they got out of football.
Q: What do you think of rookie Texans QB C.J. Stroud?
A: He has it figured out. He figured it out quickly. Obviously accurate and got a good arm strength there, too. He’s got a little bit of everything.
Q: Aaron Rodgers returning next season at age 40 with a rehabbed torn Achilles?
A: Well, you got to play this game as long as you can. Once you go away from it at that age, you’re pretty much done, and you’re not coming back, and he enjoys the game as much as anybody. It’ll be fun to see him come back. It’ll be fun for New York.
Q: Do you think he can be anywhere near the player he was?
A: Oh yeah. For sure. As you get older, you’re getting smarter in that position, and he has the arm strength and ability still. He’s a good decision-maker, and you’re not getting the big hits anymore, so I think he’ll be fine.
Q: Do you think he’s a top-10 all time quarterback?
A: I think he’s for sure in there, yeah.
Q: Travis Kelce?
A: He has that same thing that Jerry has as a wide receiver as a tight end. He finds the hole, he knows where to sit down, he knows when to keep going, and he’s got great hands. You can’t ask for more than that in a tight end.
Q: Taylor Swift?
A: Like her music, she’s very popular and people want to see her, so they’re going to see her if she’s there.
Q: What do you think about the Super Bowl being in Vegas?
A Oh crazy. I love it and I hate it.
A: Well, I was going there every month for signings. I’d spend one night, and that was enough.
Q: Anything you want to plug?
A: We’ve been doing a lot of stuff for Guinness and Pfizer.
Q: So you’ll be rooting for the Niners, is that safe to say?
A: I can’t say. I’ll be in trouble somewhere (laugh).