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Joe Montana Talks Young QBs, Peyton Manning and More in Exclusive Interview

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Joe Montana Talks Young QBs, Peyton Manning and More in Exclusive Interview
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Joe Montana, a four-time Super Bowl champion and arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, is currently going on another Super Bowl run in New York City. Only this time, it's a rundown on Radio Row in Times Square.

Montana has made several radio appearances during Super Bowl week, and I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with him over the phone.

He isn't only in Times Square to talk about the big game, though, he's also been promoting Delta Air Lines, the charter of 15 NFL teams (including the Seattle Seahawks), plus both New York baseball teams, the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers.

"They're a big part of the presence in sports here," he said.

Naturally, the main interest of our conversation was the quarterback position. Montana has posted arguably the best numbers of any quarterback in the history of the game, making him an authority on today's NFL talent.

The basics? He completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 40,551 yards and 273 touchdown passes in 192 games. He also boasts three Super Bowl MVP awards.

While several great quarterbacks have come and gone since Montana left the game, there appears to be a new influx of young talent at the position in today's NFL. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick are the next generation of signal-callers that will take the NFL by storm.

If he had to pick just one of these quarterbacks, though, Montana would choose Luck:

I think I'd pick Luck. Everyone will say I'm biased because I was a pocket-passer, but I think his mobility, his ability to throw the ball inside the pocket and out makes the difference.

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Even though Wilson has more touchdown passes through his first two seasons (52) than any other quarterback not named Peyton Manning (who also had 52), Montana might have a point. Luck is the most "traditional" quarterback of the three, and he has led his Indianapolis Colts to two straight 11-5 seasons.

During that time, he has amassed 8,196 yards and 46 touchdowns to just 27 interceptions. With a little more maturation, Luck has all the potential to go places.

Still, Wilson has led his Seahawks to the Super Bowl in just his second season, and that's one thing that Luck cannot say. In regards to how he would approach the game with a young quarterback as a member of the Seahawks coaching staff, Montana had this to say:

I think they need to keep doing mostly what they've done the past five or six weeks. That is, let him (Wilson) kind of manage the game and hope they get Marshawn Lynch off and running early to keep the pressure off him.

Montana did also acknowledge what would be the Seahawks' downfall:

I think they (the Denver Broncos defense) can keep Marshawn down. They can put the pressure on Russell. Russell doesn't want to have to be that guy (that puts up big numbers).

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

With a future Hall of Famer leading the opposition, Montana recognizes that Manning and the Broncos would likely be the winner of the Super Bowl if it becomes a shootout between quarterbacks. Wilson is a talented young player and is dynamic behind center, but Manning has more weapons and experience in big games, not to mention his untouchable resume. That being said, the cold may hurt Manning's productivity in East Rutherford, N.J.

Montana is not a fan of the cold-weather venue as the location of the game's biggest stage:

Normally, it's just football. But I think, in this game, I would want it to be where weather wouldn't have anything to do with it. You know, I want to see the two best teams play at the top of their games.

The frigid cold may very well be a reason why the Broncos fail to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Despite playing his home games in the far-from-tropical city of Denver, Manning hasn't always been the best of performers in the cold.

Much has been made about what a loss might do for Manning's legacy. Adversely, Woody Paige of The Denver Post thinks that Manning should be considered the best ever if his team wins on Feb. 2. Montana doesn't think the outcome should impact what people think of Manning one way or the other.

When asked if a loss would affect his legacy, Montana said:

It won't—or, it shouldn't. I mean, people look at it like if he loses it does, but I don't really see it that way. The numbers he is putting up today are just ridiculous, so I don't really look at it that way.

Of course, the numbers Montana is alluding to are the record-setting numbers "The Sheriff" posted in 2013 at the expense of NFL defenses. He racked up 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns—both NFL single-season records—to go along with NFL-leading marks in completions (450), attempts (659) and yards per game (342.3).

Montana recognizes that this season was, in fact, the best season ever by a quarterback:

Well, the numbers say so. As a quarterback, you have to love it. As much as you like to turn around and hand the ball off—the whole traditional football game—as a quarterback, you gotta love putting it in the air.

Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

Despite the gaudy numbers, Manning may be facing his toughest test of the season in the Super Bowl. A man by the name of Richard Sherman has his sights set on ruining Manning's masterful season, going so far as to say during one of his many media sessions that Manning "throws ducks," per ESPN.com's Kieran Darcy.

Presumably, that suggests Sherman is far from intimidated by arguably the game's best quarterback, which isn't surprising considering Sherman's outspoken confidence in himself.

Sherman certainly has the ability to change the way offenses do things, but Montana doesn't think Denver (or Manning) should alter the game plan:

I think you just don't worry about him. You just go run your offense. I think you'll see them try to beat them (Seattle) horizontally to get guys open. You know, plays in the middle of the field.

Doing so won't be easy, though, and Denver's effectiveness in doing so will directly impact the outcome of the contest. Montana offered me his own Super Bowl pick and believes that Manning will be able to get it done.

"I think it's going to be a low-to-medium scoring-type game," he said. "Maybe in the 20s at most—like, maybe, 27-24, Denver."

However, acknowledged picking the winner isn't so cut and dried:

"I think it's just a matter of who gets who off their game. Defense does look like it wins championships, so we'll see."

The old adage that defense wins championships has been debated for years, and this season's finale will really put the saying to the test. The NFL's best offense will look to take down the NFL's best defense in a game that should be of epic proportions.

It will be interesting to see if Montana's speculation about the horizontal passing game will be enough to silence Sherman and the rest of the Seattle defense. After all, if there's anyone who would know, it's Montana.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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