Super Bowl XLV: How Aaron Rodgers Can Protect Joe Montana's Super Bowl Legacy

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Super Bowl XLV: How Aaron Rodgers Can Protect Joe Montana's Super Bowl Legacy
Mike Powell/Getty Images
Joe Montana is rightfully considered the greatest Super Bowl QB of all time. Aaron Rodgers could help further secure that honor in Super Bowl XLV.

Super Bowl XLV is finally upon us and mercifully, the over-commercialized advertising front with a pinch of football thrown in will soon be over.

For San Francisco 49er fans, the game marks the 16th anniversary of the last time their beloved team tasted greatness, but the game provides some interesting tie-ins to Red and Gold history as well, both recent and distant.

Most 49er fans will no doubt spend the game in a state of delusion, lost in some fantastic, farcical, and utterly fabricated alternate surreality in which the 49ers selected Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft and he had led them to this shot at the Lombardi Trophy instead.

All reasonable logic should fairly easily prove that such a reality could never have existed, and even if it could have, the 49ers chose Alex Smith, and we all know the rest of the tale.

Nonetheless, there are a good many reasons for true 49er fans to root for Rodgers to lead the Packers to victory on Sunday.

Rooting for the Packers—a team that back in the mid-to-late 1990s dealt the 49ers many a painful dismissal from postseason contention—may seem like an unsavory thought, but if Rodgers and the Packers can defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger, it could be very significant in protecting key aspects of 49er historical lore.

Ultimately this would be a hollow victory for the 49er faithful, but face it: pride in the team's illustrious history is about all we have left to cling to these days. We all hope that Jim Harbaugh will finally change that outlook, but that chapter has yet to be written.

In addition to preventing the Steelers from gaining even more ground over the 49ers (and Dallas Cowboys, but who cares about them) in the number of Super Bowl titles, a Packers win could be instrumental in helping protect 49er legend Joe Montana's claim as the greatest Super Bowl QB of all time.

Montana is rightfully heralded virtually unanimously as being the greatest QB in the history of the Super Bowl. He is 4-0, holds three MVP awards, and threw 11 touchdowns without a single interception.

The only other QB to earn four Super Bowl rings is Terry Bradshaw, and his numbers simply do not add up to Joe's.

Tom Brady (a 49er fan as a child) was once being suggested as the man who might finally challenge Montana for the honor. He started his career 3-0 in Super Bowl play, earning MVP honors in two of the three games.

While his stats were not up to Montana's standards, many said he could eclipse the legend due to his age and the prowess of the dynastic New England Patriots.

Just as such speculation was reaching critical mass, following a season in which the Patriots had gone 18-0 and Brady had a statistically phenomenal season, the New York Giants shocked the free world by beating Brady's Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Brady is young enough and the Patriots are powerful enough that he could still tie or surpass Montana in the ring count, but having that loss on his record will always give Joe the upper hand.

In this age of parity in the NFL, it is rare to see a team be able to sustain a level of play to reach four Super Bowls within the span of a single QB's career. Brady served as the best threat to Montana's mantle, but there are others.

Peyton Manning has a loss just like Brady, but his brother Eli is 1-0. The Giants have had difficulty consistently making the playoffs, let alone Super Bowls, in his career so far, but that could change. Ben Roethlisberger may be the most reasonable threat left for now.

Big Ben is still young, he is an offensive fixture for a team with a consistently winning formula that is preparing for its third Super Bowl since the 2005 season, and most importantly, he is 2-0 in the big game to this point.

It is premature to consider Roethlisberger a legitimate threat. While he has won two Super Bowls, he has been a far cry from Joe Cool in the big game.

Where Montana went to four games without ever failing to break 100 in passer rating, Roethlisberger has yet to break 95 in two tries (and failed to break 25 on his first try).

Big Ben has never been named MVP, and has already prevented any hope of ever equaling Montana's 11-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio—having thrown three picks to date.

Still, with a perfect record and plenty of time ahead of him, if Roethlisberger got to five or six rings without losing, he could have a very legitimate argument for supplanting Montana.

But if the Packers were to saddle him with his first loss on Sunday, Joe's legacy would seem safe.

Rodgers grew up in Chico, Calif., and spent the weeks leading up to the 2005 NFL Draft waxing on and on about how he loved the 49ers as a child and wore a Joe Montana T-shirt under his pads at Cal.

In the end, it failed to score enough brownie points to convince the 49ers to invest the top pick in him, but it could serve as extra motivation on Sunday.

Of course if Rodgers does win, it will only escalate the torrent of cries from countless misguided fans about how destined for greatness this kid from Cal was and how the 49ers screwed the pooch in passing on him, but the sanctity of the legacy of a long-standing 49er legend is worth the annoyance of hearing still more of this tired and categorically false postulation.

Hopefully, the 49ers will soon be contending with Rodgers' Packers in many NFC title matches to come—rekindling an old rivalry and finally putting a lid on the demons of the 2005 draft.

Go Packers. (No exclamation point, just a period)

Keep the Faith!

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