Going into the draft, the scouts said this quarterback was undersized, causing him to fall to the third round. His real potential was recognized immediately, however, by the head coach of the team that took him. This quarterback would pull a receiver aside and run dozens of extra practice reps to get a particular pattern right. As many as it took, until they got it absolutely right. In his second season as a starter, he led his team to a 13-3 regular season record. Sound familiar, Seahawks fans?
I’m talking of course about Joe Montana.
Go back and watch the Catch: one of the most famous plays in football, the Catch is the Montana to Dwight Clark reception with seconds left in the fourth quarter of the January 10, 1982, NFC Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. Montana rolling out the the pocket, away from pressure, was not a total improvisation. The 49ers practiced that move. A lot. Just like the Seahawks do with Russell Wilson. In both cases the receivers and offensive linemen are breaking off their original assignments to give the passer open lanes or targets. Throwing on the scramble is a seriously sketchy proposition. Or, that is to say, it SHOULD be a sketchy proposition. For a mere human. Throwing on the scramble the ball has momentum to whichever side the quarterback is rolling out on which must be compensated for, and many times he’s throwing across his body, and his feet are never planted.
We may not have a lot of love for the 49ers around these parts, but you have to respect what Montana accomplished during his career: Montana won four Super Bowls, three of them as MVP, in large part because of his talent passing while on the run. This is really special stuff.
The short guys under center are going to have a certain type of game. Doug Flutie and Drew Brees get hidden behind the wall of mass of their offensive line, then they beat you with their devastating mobility. It’s also very entertaining to watch (remember Jim Zorn anybody?) After Montana’s benching, the fleet-footed Steve Young led the 49ers to a fifth Super Bowl victory. Donovan McNabb’s run-and-gun game got his team the Philadelphia Eagles into Super Bowl XXXIX. Other great scrambler quarterbacks include: Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach. Scramblers get a bad rap and the conventional wisdom is that they cannot win championships. This is nonsense.
Drew Brees was also a victim of pre-draft scouting reports regarding his size (6’0″), causing him to fall to the first pick of the second round in the 2001 draft taken by the San Diego Chargers. In the 2009 season Brees drove his team, the New Orleans Saints to victory over the favored Indianapolis Colts by a score of 31-17, passing for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns and winning the Super Bowl MVP. It’s possible these undersized and underrated quarterbacks are going into games with something to prove. In fact it’s quite hard to believe they aren’t. On Saturday two of them will go to war.
Joe Montana was written off for his size. He became Joe Cool. The Comeback Kid. One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of football, all because he had something to prove.
Now Russell Wilson does too.
Seattle is the smartest city in the country, as evidenced by this wonderfully nerdy 12th man flag.