Joe Montana vs. Steve Young

I just got back from a walk around the neighborhood with my dad, and on that walk I asked him this loaded question:

You are the GM of the 49ers, and there is an NFL expansion draft, and every player who’s ever played the game is 22-years-old and draft-eligible, but you know what they are going to do in their career. So, who would you rank higher on your big board – Joe Montana or Steve Young?

My dad said it’s tough because they both were great, but he’d rank Joe higher because Joe was a cool quarterback, whereas Steve was a hot quarterback. He’d rather have the cool guy in a pressure situation. I agreed, but I pointed out that Steve would often blow the opposing team out early and didn’t have to be in pressure situations.

I’ve never seen Joe play, I was born in 1988. But Steve is my favorite player of all-time, so I argued on his behalf. I reminded my dad that Steve is the better athlete and he has the better QB rating, and, compared to Joe, he played for inferior teams with inferior coaching staffs. Joe Montana never had to play under the Mooch.

My dad said he once wrote in the early ‘90s that Joe was better than Steve. Steve sought my dad out after a practice and asked, “Why did you write that?”

My dad thought, “Steve must be pretty good if he thinks he’s better than Joe Montana.” My dad admired Steve for being upfront, for sticking up for himself, all of that. And he still does.

I asked my dad who Bill Walsh would have ranked higher.

My dad said Bill never told whom he thought was better. He called Steve the greatest athlete he ever coached, a clever way of avoiding the issue.

A year before Walsh died he was watching old film of Joe for a presentation he was scheduled to give. Bill told my dad, “Every pass Joe threw was perfect, exactly where it needed to go.” A year before he died, Bill fell in love with Joe all over again.

This may be a silly discussion, choosing between these two Hall of Fame greats. If so, I apologize. If you care to give your opinion about Joe and Steve, I welcome your input.


Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.

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