On the surface, Joe Montana didn’t look like anything special.
He was skinny, didn’t have a cannon for an arm, wasn’t particularly fast, and had “average” mechanics.
What Montana did possess was the Midas touch. Everything he touched turned to gold.
He was a national champion in college and a four-time Super Bowl winner in the NFL.
Happy birthday, Joe Montana!
— #Random49ers (@Random49ers) June 11, 2021
Montana wasn’t easily rattled and performed well under pressure leading to his nickname, “Joe Cool.”
During his career, Montana helped popularize a new style of offense, and despite his “shortcomings,” became a prototype for future quarterbacks.
This is the story of Joe Montana.
Growing Up in Western Pennsylvania
Joseph Clifford Montana Jr. was born on June 11, 1956, in New Eagle, Pennsylvania.
🎂June 11, 1956: American former football quarterback
Joseph Clifford (Joe) Montana Jr., who played in the National Football League (NFL) for
16 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, is born in New Eagle, Pennsylvania.#borninthefifties #sportshistory pic.twitter.com/X7833VQqvM
— ✦ᴊᴏɴᴇsɪɴɢ ғᴏʀ ᴘʀᴏsᴘᴇʀɪᴛʏ✦ (@GenJones1964) June 11, 2022
New Eagle is located in the Southwest corner of the state.
That area of the country is known for its origins of numerous NFL quarterbacks.
— pittsburghpirateguru (@harvardplayer) June 3, 2021
So it was that Montana became hooked on sports at an early age.
When he was eight, Montana wanted to play football. The only problem was that kids had to be nine to play ball.
Montana’s father, Joe Sr., fibbed about his son’s age so Joe Jr. could play.
Not long after, Montana took an additional interest in basketball and baseball.
Joe Sr. wanted to be involved in his son’s life and started his own basketball team.
Led by Joe Jr., the team practiced locally and played in any tournament they could.
Montana’s father never pushed his son to be the best, he just wanted to connect with Joe.
“I played all sports in the service, but when I was a kid, I never had anyone to take me in the backyard and throw a ball to me,” said Joe Sr. in a 1990 interview. “Maybe that’s why I got Joe started in sports. Once he got started, he was always waiting at the door with a ball when I came home from work.”
Nearly a College Basketball Player
After becoming a student at Ringgold High School, Montana continued to play all three sports.
He took to basketball and would later admit that the sport was his favorite.
During his senior year, Montana helped Ringgold win the state title.
Joe Montana, basketball god. pic.twitter.com/ZJaT46qo0B
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 7, 2016
North Carolina State then offered Montana a basketball scholarship and he seriously considered it.
His consideration was bolstered even more by a promise from NC State coaches that he could play both football and basketball if he attended.
While shining on the hardwood, Montana was also the Rams’ starting quarterback for his junior and senior years.
Despite the fact that he was the big man on campus, Montana’s former youth football coach recalled that he was always humble and hardworking.
“… there was no show-off in him. He wanted to win, and he’d do whatever it took, and that’s another thing the kids liked about him,” said Carl Crawley. “With Joe on the field, they knew they were never out of any game.”
He was named to the Parade magazine All-American team during his senior year and more scholarship opportunities came pouring in.
Notre Dame was interested and head coach Ara Parseghian wanted Montana to play for the Irish.
It just so happened that Montana’s boyhood idol was Hanratty, who had also played for Notre Dame.
Without giving the idea a second thought, Montana accepted the opportunity.
Buried on the Depth Chart
He may have been a starter at Ringgold, but Montana was the low man on the totem pole when he arrived in South Bend in 1974.
“I was one of about seven freshman quarterbacks, and I played my way down to seventh string,” Montana recalled of his 1974 arrival. “I didn’t doubt my ability, but I wondered whether I was ready for a place like Notre Dame. Everybody else was good, and really big—especially the defensive guys.”
With that many quarterbacks vying for playing time, Montana didn’t get to play much in the freshman contests.
— History of College Football (@HistColFootball) January 20, 2022
His biggest competitor was a player named Gary Forystek who was a tough, rocket-armed passer from Michigan.
It wasn’t much fun for Montana to stand around and watch other people play.
He soon became homesick and called his father often.
“His dad would sometimes show up in the middle of the night, and we’d all go out at 1 a.m. for a stack of pancakes,” says Montana’s freshman roommate, Nick DeCicco. “It was crazy.”
At the end of his freshman year, Parseghian resigned, and new coach Dan Devine took over.
Devine didn’t recruit Montana and didn’t expect much of him, at first.
“I asked the coaches about my quarterbacks when I first got there,” Devine says. “No one said much about Joe. He’d been something like the seventh or eighth quarterback. Then he had a fine spring practice, really outstanding. I came home and told my wife, ‘I’m gonna start Joe Montana in the final spring game,’ and she said, ‘Who’s Joe Montana?’ I said, ‘He’s the guy who’s going to feed our family for the next few years.'”
Montana did see some playing time in 1975, passing for 507 yards, four touchdowns, and eight picks in seven games.
Just as he was finding his groove, Montana sustained a severe shoulder injury before the 1976 season and missed the entire year.
A Word about Rudy
Most sports fans are aware of Rudy Ruettiger (and the 1993 film based on his story), the Irish walk-on player with little talent who persevered and willed his way onto the field.
In late 1975, Montana was sidelined with an injury and his absence created a roster spot for Ruettiger.
It was the first and final time that Rudy would suit up for the Irish during a game.
On the last play of a game against Georgia Tech, Ruettiger lined up at defensive end and sacked the opposing quarterback.
Rudy was then carried off the field by his adoring teammates.
Montana, who was watching the game and witnessed the event, recently said Ruettiger was carried off the field as a joke.
“Guys from all over say ‘tell me about Rudy.’ Great story they told, but you really want to know what happened?” Montana said in his docuseries Joe Montana: Cool Under Pressure. “Did he get a sack? Yes. And that’s when they came up with the idea ‘Let’s carry Rudy off, it’ll be fun.’ And I said, “Aw, no don’t do it.’ But they were doing it for fun. I’m a prankster, they may be a bigger prankster than I am.”
Joe Montana has received backlash for his comment, and more than a few of his former Irish teammates have stated that Ruettiger was carried off the field because of his exploits.
“Rudy was carried off the field that day … but not as a joke—but because he finally got to play,” Irish lineman Jay Achterhoff said to TMZ in 2010. “You’ve never in your life seen a guy who wanted to be on the field more.”
Montana Makes His Case to Start
Having been absent for the entire 1976 season, Montana knew he had to work his tail off to return to the starting lineup.
When the 1977 season began, he was third on the depth chart, but that didn’t stop Montana.
Joe Montana under center for Notre Dame pic.twitter.com/Em7acXJ6Ai
— SportsPaper (@SportsPaperInfo) July 11, 2019
He won the respect of his teammate for his dedication and toughness.
The Irish lost their second game of the season to Ole Miss and were losing to Purdue in Week 3 by 10 points.
Forystek was playing when a vicious hit by the Boilermakers ended his playing career.
Finally, Devine sent in Montana, and his teammates knew great things were about to happen.
“Whenever he came on the field,” said Bob Golic, who played at Notre Dame with Montana, “the players knew they had a friend coming in.”
Golic wasn’t the only one who believed in Montana’s ability.
“The players were practically jumping up and down when Joe came into the game. They started slapping him on the back before he had taken a snap,” recalled Roger Valdiserri, Notre Dame’s longtime media relations director. “I was sitting next to my Purdue counterpart, and he asked me what was going on. I said, ‘That’s Joe Montana, and you guys are in trouble.’”
Sure enough, Montana displayed his “Joe Cool” demeanor and proceeded to throw for 154 yards and a touchdown, leading Notre Dame to a comeback 31-24 victory.
Coach Devine was sold and kept Montana as the Irish starter.
Knowing they had to win the rest of their games in 1977 to get back into the national title hunt, Montana and the Irish did just that.
He led the team to a crushing 30-point defeat of USC during the season and hammered the undefeated Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl 38-10.
Joe Montana led the Irish to the National Championship in 1977. pic.twitter.com/vXWE0RdPb6
— Miles Commodore (@miles_commodore) June 28, 2022
Before the bowl game, Notre Dame was a huge underdog. That meant nothing to Montana and his mates.
“… nobody gave us a chance against Texas in the Cotton Bowl,” remembered Montana. “They had every trophy—the Heisman (Earl Campbell), the Outland (Brad Shearer), the best kicker, the best punter—everything you could imagine. But our defense was pretty tough. I’m pretty sure nine of those 11 starters went on to be NFL starters.”
The win threw a giant monkey wrench into the final college football standings.
Ranked fifth in the nation before the game, Notre Dame’s resounding victory led the voters to put the Irish in first place for the national title.
“It’s one of those things that means more and more as the years go by. You look back and you recognize how difficult it was to get to that point. It was a pretty special time because we were in one of the top programs in the country,” said Montana in 2018.
“Chicken Soup” and a Comeback
In 1977, Montana played in nine games and passed for 1,604 yards, 11 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
He wanted even more in 1978 and did his best to try and help the Irish repeat as national champions.
Unfortunately, the Missouri Tigers and Michigan Wolverines thought differently and beat Notre Dame early in the year.
The losses took the Irish out of the national title race.
Of course, that didn’t mean Montana would stop battling.
He led the Irish to eight straight wins before losing the final game of the year to USC.
In the Cotton Bowl against the Houston Cougars, a freak winter storm blew through the area and Montana as well.
During the game, he became seriously ill and spent a good portion of the contest in the locker room.
In order to stave off hypothermia, the team’s medical staff fed their quarterback hot bouillon (not chicken soup as game lore has stated).
— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) December 25, 2018
Devine would periodically send in one of his staff to check on Montana’s condition.
Finally, late in the game and Notre Dame down 34-12, Montana took the field.
Like clockwork, he brought the Irish back from the brink of defeat.
Down by six with two seconds remaining, Montana found receiver Kris Haines for the game-winner.
“… the noseguard came through, Haines broke to the flag, and with the noseguard staring him in the face Joe threw a perfect pass, low and outside, a bullet—under all that pressure, with terrible conditions,” recalled Devine in 1990. “He was so calm. I swear to God he was no different than he would have been in practice.”
Notre Dame won the game 35-34, and the Joe Montana legend was firmly cemented.
For his senior season, Montana passed for 2,010 yards, 10 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
The 1979 NFL Draft was weeks away and there were plenty of pro personnel evaluators who doubted Montana’s pedigree.
He didn’t win any major awards in college and his stats as a passer weren’t overwhelming.
Montana took part in a number of combine-style events with scouts who graded him as above average at best.
After one event, they gave the Notre Dame signal caller a 6.5 overall mark out of a possible nine.
Montana’s arm was consistently graded as a “six,” which was rated as “average.”
One scout, in particular, shared his take on Montana after watching him in a number of drills.
“He can thread the needle,” the report said, “but usually goes with his primary receiver and forces the ball to him even when he’s in a crowd. He’s a gutty, gambling, cocky type. Doesn’t have great tools but could eventually start.”
It wasn’t until the 82nd overall pick of the third round of the draft that the San Francisco 49ers selected Montana.
Most of you don’t remember how Twitter anticipated & reacted when the 49ers chose Joe Montana in the 1979 NFL Draft. (3rd round, 82nd overall) pic.twitter.com/jLyALXBECP
— Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) April 29, 2021
By that time, quarterbacks such as Jack Thompson, Phil Simms, and Steve Fuller had already been picked.
Montana and Bill Walsh are Joined at the Hip
Bill Walsh was a coach who loved offense.
He spent much of his early career devoted to that side of the ball and worked to spot ways for his players to find advantages in the defense.
When he was an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1968 to 1975, he inherited a quarterback named Virgil Carter.
Carter had good mobility and could throw an accurate pass.
What he lacked was the zip to throw long passes consistently.
Walsh then devised a system that specialized in short throws and quick passes.
The origin of the idea came from Sid Gillman and Al Davis, who were early coaches of the LA Rams and Oakland Raiders, respectively.
Walsh’s offense worked with the strengths of Carter’s game, and the quarterback thrived.
We can thank Virgil Carter’s “abilities” for “inspiring” Bill Walsh enough to create the “West Coast” offense after Cincinnati lost Greg Cook. Virgil Carter, the first “great” Brigham Young QB leading up to Steve Young, another disciple of the San Fran’s Walsh genius. pic.twitter.com/nPOm6D7N8o
— Tabrightmyre (@rightmyre) September 13, 2019
After leaving Cincinnati, Walsh made stops with the San Diego Chargers and Stanford University.
He had just wrapped his second year as the head coach of the Cardinals when the San Francisco 49ers came calling in early 1979.
The Niners were in the midst of a losing spell and had seen four coaches in the previous three years.
San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo hired Walsh to be his new head coach and general manager.
One of his first acts as GM was to draft the ‘average’ Montana in the third round.
On this day in 1979(40 years ago)The San Francisco 49ers select QB Joe Montana from Notre Dame as the 82nd pick of the 3rd round of the NFL Draft while Bill Walsh was entering his 1st season as HC. From that spawned a legacy of the “West Coast” offense. pic.twitter.com/2BBfnyIUwu
— T-Bone (@IronFist1982) May 3, 2019
Walsh saw the same thing in Montana that he saw in Carter, someone who was smart and athletic, but who didn’t have great arm strength.
As the 1979 season was about to get underway, Walsh installed his West Coast Offense and began the journey to restore the Niners’ legacy.
Montana Becomes the Starter
Although Montana wasn’t the starter during his rookie year in 1979, he did see time as a backup to Steve DeBerg.
Montana also enjoyed learning the finer points of the game from Walsh.
“I knew he was really smart, and an excellent teacher,” Montana recalled of his first meeting with the cerebral 49ers coach. “And you had to love that offense. If you couldn’t go downfield, you stayed underneath. Somebody was always open.”
San Francisco continued to struggle during Walsh’s first year and ended the season 2-14, the same as the previous year’s record.
In 1980, the Niners got off to a hot, 3-0 start, but the wheels soon fell off.
During the early stages of an eight-game losing streak, Walsh replaced DeBerg with Montana.
— NFL Classic! (@79_nfl) December 6, 2021
As he learned Walsh’s offense, Montana began to get comfortable.
On December 7, in a game against New Orleans, the 49ers were down by four touchdowns at halftime.
Montana whittled away until the score was tied at 35 by the end of the fourth quarter.
In overtime, the Niners kicked a field goal to win.
That day marked Montana’s first official fourth-quarter comeback victory, the first of 31 such games in his career.
It was clear Montana was becoming a good pro quarterback, but San Francisco still ended the 1980 season 6-10.
The 1981 season was a complete surprise for most football “experts” in predicting the Niners’ success.
During the 1981 NFL Draft, the organization beefed up its defense by adding Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson, and Eric Wright.
Then, after starting the season 2-2, Montana and the 49ers won 11 of their next 12 games to finish the year 13-3.
That season, Montana came into his own by passing for 3,565 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
— Funkghost (@Funkghost) July 6, 2022
For the second year in a row, he led the league in completion percentage and would do so three more times in his career.
Montana was voted to the first of eight Pro Bowls and was also selected as a second-team All-Pro.
In the postseason, the Niners beat the New York Giants in the Divisional Playoffs for their first postseason win in a decade.
San Francisco next faced their nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys, in the NFC Championship game.
From 1970 through 1972, the Cowboys had eliminated the Niners three straight times in the playoffs including the 1970 and 1971 NFC title games.
Montana was determined to change the narrative and he kept the game close.
By halftime, Dallas was only up by three points. San Fran led 21-17 after three quarters.
In the final quarter, the Cowboys scored 10 unanswered points to take a 27-21 lead.
With just under five minutes remaining, the Niners had the ball at their own 11.
“Almost five minutes left and all our time-outs,” Walsh would say. “I liked our chances. If we got as far as the 35, we’d go for it on fourth down, no matter what. If we got stopped before that, we’d probably punt.”
Montana and the San Francisco offense dinked and dunked down the field until they found themselves on the Dallas 13-yard line with 1:15 remaining.
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) January 22, 2021
Walsh called a timeout and it was at that point that Niners’ lineman Randy Cross noticed something.
“I looked over at them,” Cross said. “They had, well, I don’t want to say a beaten look, but I saw on their faces the same look Thomas Hearns had when Sugar Ray hit him a few times. They had had us backed up, but now they were no longer the aggressors. They were fighting for their lives.”
On the next play, Montana just missed a wide-open Freddie Solomon, and Walsh was upset.
“The timing on it was a little off,” Montana said. “Yeah, I did happen to see Coach Walsh’s reaction. He looked pretty disgusted.”
Second down was a run play that netted seven yards to the Cowboys’ six-yard line.
San Fran took another time out with 58 seconds left and Walsh called his play, “sprint right option.”
The play called for receiver Dwight Clark to head to the back of the end zone, run left, then break and turn back to the right so Montana could find him.
When the ball was snapped, Montana found himself with three Cowboys in his face including Ed “Too Tall” Jones.
OTD in Sports History:
Joe Montana connected with Dwight Clark for iconic game-winning TD known as "The Catch" as the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the 1982 NFC Championship game… pic.twitter.com/jNAieZITt6
— Michigan State Baseball (@MSUBaseball) January 10, 2022
He let the ball fly in the direction of Clark before getting buried.
“I wasn’t going to take the sack,” Montana said. “I couldn’t see Dwight open. I knew he had to be at the back of the end zone. I let the ball go. I got hit and wound up on my back. I rolled over. I saw Dwight’s feet hit the ground. I heard the crowd screaming.”
Clark extended his 6’4” frame as long as he could while jumping in the air and came down with the pigskin.
“It was over my head,” Clark said. “I thought, ‘Oh oh, I can’t go that high.’ Something got me up there. It must have been God or something.”
After San Francisco converted the extra point to take the lead by one, the defense made sure the Cowboys couldn’t provide their own comeback in the final seconds.
When time expired, the Niners were 28-27 victors and on the way to their first Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XVI
Initially, it looked like San Francisco would run away with Super Bowl XVI.
By halftime, they were leading Walsh’s former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, 20-0.
However, quarterback Ken Anderson and the Bengals would not be denied.
Cincinnati scored two straight touchdowns to cut into the 49er lead 20-14.
Ray Wersching then kicked two consecutive field goals to put the Niners up 26-14 before the Bengals answered with a touchdown of their own.
In the end, it wasn’t enough as San Francisco won their first Super Bowl 26-21.
During the game, Montana was calm, cool, and collected, passing for 157 yards and a touchdown and also rushing for a score.
Today in 1982, Joe Montana leads the 49ers to victory over the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. pic.twitter.com/Xd7wTlRhX7
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 25, 2016
For his efforts, Montana was named the Super Bowl MVP.
The victory meant that he and Joe Namath were the only two quarterbacks to win a national championship in college and a Super Bowl.
“At his best, when Joe was in sync, he had an intuitive, instinctive nature rarely equaled by any athlete in any sport,” said Walsh.
Super Bowl XIX
San Francisco returned to the playoffs in 1983 after a 3-6, strike-shortened season in 1982.
Montana still led the NFL in touchdown passes and pass attempts in 1982 with 17 and 346 respectively.
In 1983, he passed for over 3,900 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 12 picks along with a career-high 284 rushing yards and two more scores.
After defeating Detroit in the Divisional round, the Niners lost to the Washington Redskins 24-21 in the NFC Championship game.
By 1984, the team was back on track.
San Fran had drafted running back Roger Craig in 1983 to balance the offense.
The players on both sides of the ball were clicking on all cylinders as the Niners won 15 games and beat the Giants and Bears in the playoffs by a combined 44-10.
Football fans salivated over the quarterback matchup that would transpire in Super Bowl XIX.
Montana faced Miami Dolphins phenom and fellow Pennsylvania native, Dan Marino.
Unfortunately for the television viewers, the matchup turned out to be hype.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 20, 2016
Miami scored first, but San Francisco scored early and often.
Montana passed for 331 yards (which set a game record) and three touchdowns while Marino had 318 passing yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
The Niners blew out the Dolphins 38-16 and Montana was voted MVP for the second time.
Comeback Player of the Year
In the 1985 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected Mississippi Valley State receiver Jerry Rice in the first round.
The team then lost in the playoffs to the Giants.
Before the 1986 season, the Niners continued to address their offense in the draft when they selected fullback Tom Rathman and receiver John Taylor.
Both players were taken in the third round.
In Week 1 of the 1986 season, Montana sustained a back injury so severe that doctors recommended he retire.
Instead, Montana returned to play half the season and led the Niners to a 10-5-1 record and a loss to the Giants again in the postseason.
Montana was named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.
— DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) July 9, 2021
In the offseason before 1987, San Francisco made a trade for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Steve Young to serve as a backup to Montana.
Montana didn’t need Young as he led the league in completion percentage (66.8) and passer rating (102.1) while also passing for 3,054 yards, 31 touchdowns (a league and career-high), and 13 picks.
After the year, he was selected as a first-team All-Pro for the first of three times.
The Niners went 13-2 during the strike-shortened season but were upset in the Divisional round by Minnesota.
Super Bowl XXIII and John Candy
The 1988 season began with a 6-5 record for San Francisco. Fortunately, the team turned it around to win four of their final five games.
Montana passed for 2,981 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
He then helped the Niners exact revenge against the Vikings by pummeling Minnesota 34-9 in the Divisional round.
Chicago was no match for San Fran in the NFC Championship game, and the Bears were sent back to the Windy City 28-3.
Super Bowl XXIII was a rematch between San Francisco and the Cincinnati Bengals.
My favorite Super Bowl pregame picture taken on this day in 1989 by Michael Zagaris. Joe Montana before playing the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. pic.twitter.com/flNreot5Bq
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 22, 2018
It was the Bengals’ first trip back to the postseason since 1982.
Cincinnati was led by quarterback Boomer Esiason and running back Ickey Woods.
During the contest, the first four scores were all made by kickers.
In the third quarter, the Bengals’ Stanford Jennings returned a kickoff 93 yards for a score.
Not long after, Montana found Rice for a 14-yard touchdown to tie the game.
After kicker Jim Breech put the Bengals up 16-13, it was time for Montana to go to work, again.
With 3:10 remaining in the game, San Francisco was backed up to their own eight-yard line.
— Bobby Holland (@bholland825) July 17, 2015
Before the first play of the drive, Joe Cool made a casual observation to one of his linemen, Harris Barton.
“Joe looks at me, and he goes, ‘Hey H,'” Barton said. “I go, ‘What?’ He goes, ‘Check it out … Look down there in the other end zone. You see him?… There’s John Candy down there in the end zone.’ And sure, enough, the whole huddle turns around, and looks down there, and there’s John Candy eating popcorn at the other end of the stadium. We’re like, ‘Yeah, that is John Candy, look at that?’ And then, the official blows the whistle, and the play starts.”
Still playing it cool years later, Montana clarified why he made the comment.
“Harris was a people-watcher, and all week, he was talking about who he’d run into,” Montana said. “He hadn’t mentioned John Candy, so I was just letting him know he was there.”
Montana then connected on eight of nine passes as he sliced through the Bengals’ defense.
With 34 seconds remaining, he found Taylor for 10 yards and the game-winning score.
On this day 27 yrs ago, Joe Montana found John Taylor with :34 left to break Cincinnati's heart in Super Bowl XXIII. pic.twitter.com/O0pCaJm31a
— ESPN (@espn) January 22, 2016
San Francisco had their third Super Bowl victory and Rice was named the game’s MVP after catching 11 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown.
Montana threw for 357 yards and two scores on the day.
Walsh Leaves, but the Niners Keep Winning
After Super Bowl XXIII, Walsh stepped down as head coach.
In just 10 years, he had turned the 49ers around from 2-14 to a three-time champion.
Defensive coordinator George Seifert took Walsh’s place and the Niners kept on winning.
Montana led the NFL in completion percentage for a fifth time and also passed for 3,521 yards, 26 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
He also led the league in passer rating (112.4) for the second time and was named the NFL’s MVP as well as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.
The 1989 team went 14-2 crushed the Vikings and Rams in the playoffs by a combined 71-16 and annihilated John Elway and the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV.
On this date in 1990: Joe Montana wins his 4th Super Bowl as the 49ers CRUSH the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV pic.twitter.com/X3MPXgMMeI
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 28, 2015
During the contest, Montana outplayed Elway by passing for 297 yards and five scores, which led to his third Super Bowl MVP award.
It was a remarkable testament to his skill that Montana never threw an interception during his four Super Bowl appearances.
Montana Is Seriously Injured
As the 1990 season dawned, the talk around the 49ers’ locker room was their attempt at a three-peat Super Bowl championship.
No team had accomplished three consecutive Super Bowl wins and San Francisco believed they had the tools to become the first.
Sure enough, the team repeated their regular season record from the year before, ending 1990 with 14 wins and 2 losses.
Montana had 3,944 passing yards (a career-high) along with 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
He was awarded his seventh Pro Bowl, a second NFL MVP award, and his third, first-team All-Pro recognition.
In the Divisional Playoffs, the Niners beat Washington 28-10 before facing the Giants in the NFC title game.
The bout against New York was a heavyweight title fight.
Both sides traded field goals until Montana found Taylor for a 61-yard pass in the third quarter to put San Francisco ahead 13-6.
New York closed the gap to 13-9 on a Matt Bahr field goal.
On the 49ers’ next possession, Montana dropped back to pass on third down when he was smashed by Giants defensive end, Leonard Marshall.
— Retro Sports (@RetroSports411) November 12, 2017
Marshall’s hit caused a fumble (which San Fran recovered) but also broke Montana’s hand, cracked some ribs, and bruised his sternum and stomach.
He was forced from the game, and New York would eventually kick two more field goals to advance to Super Bowl XXV, 15-13.
Montana Becomes a Chief
The repercussions of Marshall’s hit were felt by Montana for the next few years.
He missed the entire 1991 season because of his injuries and only saw a few snaps toward the end of 1992.
His absence led to the ascension of Young, who had proven himself to be a good quarterback in his own right.
Montana knew his days in San Francisco might be over when Young was named the NFL’s MVP after the 1992 season.
In the early months of 1993, both Montana and Young were angling for the Niners’ starting spot.
Young was set to become a free agent and Montana wanted to become a free agent himself.
San Francisco had a hard time trying to decide who to keep.
Montana was eventually given permission to seek a trade with the team of his choosing.
He was approached by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Phoenix Cardinals.
The Cardinals offered Montana more money, but he chose the Chiefs.
SI Daily Cover: Lessons from Joe Cool
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 10, 2020
After the Niners made one last desperate attempt to keep him, the two sides closed the deal on April 20, 1993.
Thirteen years after arriving in California, Montana was now a Kansas City Chief.
Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer was more than excited to add Montana to the roster.
Since taking over in Kansas City in 1989, the Chiefs had only sniffed a Super Bowl.
In 1991, with Montana’s former Niners teammate, Steve DeBerg, at the helm, Kansas City advanced to the Divisional Playoffs before losing to Buffalo.
In 1992, Dave Krieg helped the franchise get to the Wild Card round before losing to San Diego.
Schottenheimer needed more talent and received it in the form of Montana and former Raiders running back Marcus Allen, who also signed as a free agent.
“[Joe Montana] had this ability to win,” Chiefs CEO and Chairman Clark Hunt said. “He had this ability to bring his teams back.”
After the first six games of the year, Kansas City was 5-1. They won six of their final 10 to finish the season 11-5.
Joe Montana, of course, finished his Hall of Fame career with the Kansas City Chiefs after winning four Super Bowl titles with the San Francisco 49ers. pic.twitter.com/STHWyCZ8qo
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 18, 2020
The Wild Card round saw Pittsburgh nearly beat the Chiefs before Kansas City triumphed in overtime, 27-24.
“If you go back and look at that game, the calmest person in Arrowhead Stadium is so clearly Joe Montana,” America’s Game author Michael MacCambridge said.
Next up were the Houston Oilers and quarterback Warren Moon.
Just like the previous week, Houston gave the Chiefs a scare, but ultimately, Kansas City prevailed, 28-20.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 4, 2014
The magic of Montana ended in the AFC Championship game when Buffalo dispatched the Chiefs 30-13 on their way to a fourth Super Bowl game.
For the year, Montana passed for 2,144 yards, 13 touchdowns, and seven picks.
He was voted to his final Pro Bowl after the year.
Montana was feeling his age but decided to play for the Chiefs again in 1994.
That season he passed for 3,283 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
Kansas City went 9-7 and lost to Miami in the Wild Card round 27-17.
When the season concluded, Montana retired.
This Day In 1995: Joe Montana Retires. pic.twitter.com/vmmYBRWWzz
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 18, 2021
During his career, Montana threw for 40,551 yards, 273 touchdowns, 139 interceptions, and added 1,676 rushing yards and 20 rushing scores.
He is a four-time Super Bowl winner, three-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time NFL MVP, NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, three-time first-team All-Pro, two-time second-team All-Pro, eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time passer rating and passing touchdowns leader, and five-time completion percentage leader.
Additionally, Montana was named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team and 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
He has been voted into the 49ers Hall of Fame, and his jersey number 16 has been retired by the organization.
Montana entered the NFL as an “average” prospect and left as one of the greatest players in league history.
He currently owns records for most Super Bowl pass attempts without throwing a pick (122).
Montana ranks second all-time in playoff games with a quarterback rating of over 100 (12).
In 2000, Montana was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The quote on his HoF site is classic Montana.
“What I have is recognition. The ability to see everything on the field. Position the other team to death. Keep the ball alive and keep it moving forward. Then, at the right moment, knock them on their ass. Own the field.”
Montana and his third wife, Jennifer, have been married for almost 40 years and have four children.
Joe Montana, his family, and his statue pic.twitter.com/tGlvVeZlpk
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) October 21, 2018
His sons, Nate and Nick, both played football and reached the college ranks.
Montana lives in the San Francisco area and spends much of his time working with various charities.