If there’s anyone who would know all about the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback controversies, it’d be Joe Montana.
The four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP had plenty to say as he made a media blitz while promoting a new whiskey on Thursday morning, when he appeared on 95.7 The Game, KNBR and ESPN’s First Take, all in the 8 a.m. PR hour.
What did the Hall of Famer who had a years-long QB saga with another Hall of Famer in Steve Young think of the 49ers’ trade of Trey Lance? Montana called it a “tough situation” but thinks it may work out for all parties involved.
“I think the biggest thing for Trey is that he needs to find a place that he’s comfortable in the system, and I don’t think I ever saw a comfort level for him in that 49ers’] system,” Montana said on ESPN. “It’s a system that is played inside the pocket and he came from a system in college that always got outside and he had different reads that happened. The pocket is not a place to learn to throw from when you get to the NFL.”
Montana, 67, made similar comments on both local sports talk radio stations as well, telling 95.7 The Game he thought a trade might be coming when Lance played heavy minutes in the first two preseason games. In Montana’s eyes, finding the right fit between player, coach and scheme is far more important than the talent.
“I got lucky, when I first got there, that I got with Bill Walsh,” Montana said on 95.7 The Game. “You saw it again, when Steve Young came to San Francisco, it was a fit for him. Can he run? Yeah, he can run as good as anybody. But he also can play from the pocket, [so] it was a fit for Steve. I think it’s just finding that spot that you can plug yourself in and that you’re comfortable.”
Of course, Montana has felt this way for a bit. Since the 49ers traded up to select Lance and effectively set him up to be the heir apparent to Jimmy Garoppolo, Montana has said he felt the 49ers should keep Garoppolo. Montana reiterated that thought on Thursday, too.
“For the longest time, I thought they were going to find a way to keep Jimmy,” Montana said on 95.7 The Game. “Because the one thing he could do for them is win games, even if he was coming off the bench. I just think the salary cap issues were a big problem, and I don’t spend a lot of time down there, but I’m sure there were other things internally that happened to sour the 49ers to Jimmy.”
Asked about Garoppolo’s recent comments that things got “weird” with the 49ers, Montana noted it is pretty typical in the NFL — and especially so in San Francisco. He would know, after all.
“They’re all weird. You can go back to when I was playing and it was a strange situation for a while there too, back and forth with Steve and I,” Montana said on 95.7 The Game. “It happens in every organization and in every era. It is what it is and you move on and make the best of where you are. I’m sure Jimmy will win some games for them down in Las Vegas and I wish him the best.”
Now, the 49ers will be led by Brock Purdy, who many have compared to Montana himself since the former Iowa State star’s sudden rise to the starting spot. Montana said he “hates” making comparisons, but sees some standout traits from Purdy.
“He makes great decisions,” Montana said on KNBR. “He can run if he has to run. He’s not a runner and he realizes that, but yet he uses his feet to make plays. It’s fun to watch.”
Montana also seemed to be impressed by Purdy’s ability to avoid costly turnovers — he only threw two interceptions in his nine starts (regular season and postseason combined).
“It’s okay, every now and then, to punt — you’ve got a good defense and it’s a team game. I’m not going to force it down the field,” Montana said on KNBR. “An interception is so much more devastating than a punt. Even if it’s 40 yards down the field than if you have to punt it 40 yards, it just means something different to the other team. That’s why you see him dumping it underneath and that was what Bill’s offense was all about.”
While Montana was mostly asked about the quarterbacks, he did touch on Nick Bosa’s ongoing holdout, too. Stephen A. Smith on First Take said it “shouldn’t be difficult” for the 49ers to get Bosa signed, which Montana “totally agreed” with.
“I think he’s a big key part of that defense,” Montana said on ESPN. “You can’t win in this league without a great defense. He needs to be signed and I can’t believe it’s taken this long to get it done. I know all 49ers fans out here in the Bay Area got their fingers crossed that it gets done very quickly.”
Montana never held out, but noted on KNBR he did have a few contentious contract negotiations — though he noted it was never directly contentious with former owner Eddie DeBartolo.
Still, he’s seen some holdouts last deep into the season, including when Fred Dean missed 10 games in 1984. In Montana’s eyes, the 49ers cannot let that happen with Bosa.
“I think it’d be a total disservice to the team if they don’t get him signed quickly,” Montana said on ESPN.