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I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the football universe views Joe Montana as one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time.

And the accolades are certainly there to support that argument.

In 15 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, Montana was a four-time Super Bowl champion, a three-time Super Bowl MVP, a two-time NFL MVP, an eight-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro selection, a five-time completion percentage leader, a two-time touchdown passes leader, and a two-time passer rating leader.

He was a two-time AP Athlete of the Year, a one-time Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, a member of both the 75th and 100th Anniversary NFL All-Time Teams, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

There’s no getting around it. Joe Montana is an absolute legend.

But have you ever wondered where he’d rank statistically among today’s quarterbacks? Well, here’s a spoiler alert for you: it’s not as high as you might think.

Where Joe Montana would rank statistically among today’s NFL quarterbacks

Joe Montana ahead of a 49ers-Steelers matchup in September 1987
Joe Montana | George Gojkovich/Getty Images

To get this out of the way, I’m in no way trying to slam Montana here, although I’m sure not all of you will see it that way.

As I already said, the guy’s a legend, which will never change. I was simply curious about how his numbers would look in today’s NFL. And just to prove that I’m not trying to sway things in a negative direction by including his early numbers (which aren’t pretty for most quarterbacks), I only included the seasons in which Montana was a full-time starter.

So that eliminates his first two seasons (2-6 in eight starts) and the 1992 campaign in which he appeared in just one game in his final season with the Niners, which I think is fair.

So that leaves his prime decade in San Francisco (1981-1990) and his two years in Kansas City (1993-1994). And to those who think using the pair of seasons with the Chiefs will bring the numbers down, that argument doesn’t hold up, as Montana made the Pro Bowl that first year and went 17-8 as a starter in KC.

Using those dozen seasons, we’re looking at 156 regular-season games. And in those 156 games, Montana completed 3,205 of 5,074 passes for 38,534 yards with 255 touchdowns against 130 interceptions.

As he only played all 16 games twice, I didn’t think it was fair to average things out by season when comparing his numbers to today’s quarterbacks. And let’s not forget that there are now 17 games on the schedule, so we have to take that into account as well.

With that in mind, the fair thing to do is divide Montana’s numbers by 156 games and then multiply those totals by 17, although we don’t need to do that with completion percentage as that’s set at 63.2%.

Montana’s prime numbers averaged out over 17 games

Using that formula, he averaged 247 yards per game with 1.63 touchdowns against 0.83 interceptions. So over 17 games, we’re looking at 4,199 yards with 28 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. Take those totals against 2021 numbers from the current QBs, and here’s what you get:

  • 63.2% completion percentage: Ranks 25th — behind Josh Allen (63.3%) and ahead of Carson Wentz (62.4%)
  • 4,199 passing yards: Ranks 10th — behind Kirk Cousins (4,221) and ahead of Aaron Rodgers (4,115)
  • 247 passing yards per game: Ranks 13th — behind Jimmy Garoppolo (254) and ahead of Lamar Jackson (240.2)
  • 28 touchdowns: Ranks 10th — behind Kirk Cousins (33) and ahead of Carson Wentz (27)
  • 14 interceptions: Tied for 6th-worst with Joe Burrow, Derek Carr, and Ryan Tannehill

His postseason stats averaged out over 17 games

Now, some might argue that Montana truly turned it on in the postseason. So let’s now average out his 23 postseason appearances to get a 17-game total and put those numbers to the test.

  • 62.7% completion percentage: Ranks 25th — behind Josh Allen (63.3%) and ahead of Carson Wentz (62.4%)
  • 4,267 passing yards: Ranks 9th — behind Josh Allen (4,407) and ahead of Kirk Cousins (4,221)
  • 251 passing yards per game: Ranks 13th — behind Jimmy Garoppolo (254) and ahead of Lamar Jackson (240.2)
  • 33 touchdowns: Tied for ninth with Kirk Cousins — behind Joe Burrow (34) and ahead of Carson Wentz (27)
  • 16 interceptions: Ranks 3rd-worst — behind Matthew Stafford (17) and Trevor Lawrence (17)

Not much difference, is there?

Montana’s best season in each category


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Finally, let’s take the best number Joe Montana ever had in each category and go one more time.

  • 70.2% completion percentage (1989, 13 games): Ranks 2nd — behind Joe Burrow (70.4%) and ahead of Kyler Murray (69.2%)
  • 3,944 passing yards (1990, 15 games): Ranks 12th — behind Matt Ryan (3,968 – 17 games) and ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo (3,810 – 15 games)
  • 290.3 passing yards per game (1982, 9 games due to strike): Ranks 3rd — behind Justin Herbert (294.9) and ahead of Joe Burrow (288.2)
  • 31 touchdowns (1987, 13 games): Ranks 10th — behind Kirk Cousins (33) and ahead of Carson Wentz (27)
  • 16 interceptions (1990, 15 games): Ranks 3rd-worst — behind Matthew Stafford (17) and Trevor Lawrence (17)

If you’re wondering, Montana’s lifetime passer rating of 92.3 would rank 15th. But his highest (112.4 in 1989) would rank first.

Now, one argument some might pose that I failed to mention is the number of pass attempts in the ’80s and ’90s versus the current era. And, on average, more passes are certainly thrown today. But Montana also threw more than the average QB back in the day.

Between the 156 regular-season games and 23 playoff games we’ve used here, Montana averaged 32.4 pass attempts. Multiply that by 17, and you get 551.

While that’s nowhere near the league-leading 719 passes Tom Brady threw in 2021, it would still rank 12th, ahead of Aaron Rodgers (531) and behind Matt Ryan (560). So he flung it around more than most back then. And who wouldn’t with Jerry Rice on your team?

So, all in all, at his best, Montana still ranks in the top two or three in several categories. But take his career averages, and he’s kinda just there in the middle of the pack.

So, where do you come out on this? Would Joe Montana still be an elite quarterback in today’s NFL or just another guy?

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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