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The Joe Montana that football fans will always remember is the 33-year-old version of the quarterback who was leading the San Francisco 49ers to their fourth Super Bowl victory of the 1980s. It’s hard to believe that the Hall of Fame hero is now 64 years old.

He helped usher in the pass-happy era of football, and it certainly would be fun to see a Joe Montana in his prime against the defenses of today that are at such a disadvantage because of NFL rules that encourage scoring. However, Montana has offered a reason why he couldn’t see himself playing quarterback – or any other position – this fall regardless of age considerations.

Joe Montana played quarterback as well as anyone

Joe Montana will be remembered for leading the San Francisco 49ers and Bill Walsh’s innovative offense to four Super Bowl victories from 1981-89. Those were the prime years of Montana’s NFL career, which spanned 15 seasons on the field with the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.

Montana led the league in competition percentage five times and passer efficiency rating twice. He left the NFL in 1994 after throwing for 40,551 yards and 273 touchdowns against just 139 interceptions. He was also 16-7 as a starter in playoff contests.

The first player to earn three Super Bowl MVP awards threw 122 passes in the four title-game triumphs without being intercepted, completing a resume that made him an easy choice for inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In 2006, Sports Illustrated selected Montana as the No. 1 clutch quarterback of all time.

Joe Montana says he would use the opt-out

While the NFL continues to march full-steam ahead with its 2020 plans, major-college football has been falling apart bit by bit. The University of Connecticut became the first FBS school to drop the sport for 2020, the Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to opt-out, and then the Big Ten and Pac-12 abandoned the fall season out of concerns over COVID-19.

A total of 69 NFL players have opted out of the season. Schools in the handful of college conferences that have not yet bagged 2020 have also reported instances of players declining to take the field this fall.

If he were a mere 21 years old instead of 64, all-time NFL great Joe Montana says he would be among those who would be sitting out over health concerns created by the pandemic.

“For me, I think I would’ve gone after the safety of my health first, in the end,” Montana told USA Today. “Because we’re not talking about the flu or a cold. This thing is killing people everywhere and not by one or two here and there. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds a day, thousands.”

Some leagues are having more success than others

The NBA and NHL, each playing in so-called bubbles, have been successful in restarting their seasons since late July. They have succeeded by limiting the numbers of teams, players, and support personnel involved.

However, those are not models that football can follow. The NFL and college conferences can’t hunker down at central locations. Forget about practice logistics; there would not be enough fields available to handle even the smaller the number of games that need to be played.

The baseball model is closer to what the NFL will be following – hopefully without the multitude of problems brought about by sloppy adherence to protocols. Lapses by the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals have fouled up the sport less than a third of the way through the regular season.

“All I can tell you is look at baseball and baseball isn’t even a contact sport and look at the troubles they’ve had right away in trying to control it,” retired San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana said. “How many players are on a baseball team? Twenty-something? In college, it’s at least double that, if not more and double that in the NFL.”

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.


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