Joe Montana: 49ers can win Super Bowl even with ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ at QB

Joe Montana said he thinks the San Francisco 49ers still can win the Super Bowl even if it’s with rookie Brock Purdy (a.k.a. “Mr. Irrelevant”) starting at quarterback.   

“You know what, if he does what he did last week, yeah,’ said Montana, the Hall of Fame quarterback who won four Super Bowls with the 49ers.

Purdy, forced into action Sunday when starter Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a potentially season-ending foot injury, helped lead the 49ers to a 33-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Purdy, dubbed ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ as the last pick of the 2022 NFL draft, threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-37 passing with an interception.

“As he becomes a starter at this point in time, he just has to not try to overthink things,’’ Montana told USA TODAY Sports. “Just go in and you don’t have to make plays. You’ve got guys on the outside that can make plays. So just relax.’

There’s little choice considering the 49ers lost quarterback Trey Lance to a season-ending injury during Week 2 and Montana doesn’t look or sound ready for a comeback at 66. 

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On Tuesday, Montana was spreading the word about the Guinness 1 Million Hours Pledge: a mission to encourage Americans to join Montana and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in pledging at least 10 hours of service to help lift up their communities. The Guinness Pledge can be made at GivesBack.Guinness.com.

“It’s going to be fun,’’ said Montana, a pitchman for the beer company. “We’re just trying to get people to reach out and donate some hours and help us reach that one million hour pledge along with Guinness.’’

Then, it was back to football, as the 49ers (8-4) prepare to play Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) Sunday and Montana learned of the latest developments, including that Garoppolo could be available during the playoffs because the veteran quarterback did not suffer a broken foot

“Non-breaking news,’’ Montana joked.

Matty Ice to the Bay? 

Quarterback Matt Ryan could be a good fit for the 49ers if the Indianapolis Colts release him, said Montana, who noted that Ryan and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan were paired up once before, with the Atlanta Falcons. In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Shanahan was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator and Ryan was the starter.

“Matt Ryan makes a lot of sense because he already knows the offense,’’ Montana said. “It’s just what’s that relationship like from when they left Atlanta?’’

Ryan and Shanahan were part of an epic Super Bowl defeat in 2017. The Falcons led 28-3 before the New England Patriots rallied for a 34-28 victory in overtime.

At one point, Montana touted the possibility of the 49ers acquiring quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL draft and waived Monday by the Carolina Panthers.

“Probably the most accurate player in college football history,” Montana said. ‘I still to this day struggle (with) what went wrong there and maybe it takes someone like Kyle Shanahan and his group to bring him back to earth, so to speak.”

Moments later, he learned Mayfield joined the Los Angeles Rams and grinned at the prospect he had been ‘snatched up” to keep him from the 49ers. 

‘Mr. Irrelevant was pretty relevant’

Montana did not abandon the idea of the 49ers winning their first Super Bowl since 1995 with Purdy.

“Mr. Irrelevant was pretty relevant last weekend,” Montana said with a grin. ‘I think they’ve got a chance. I mean, their defense is playing well. When you’ve got a good defense, you can make (up for) a lot of mistakes on offense and those guys have a tendency to make it up for you.’’

He also drew on the coaching philosophy of Bill Walsh, the late Hall of Fame 49ers coach.

“You’ve got a good defense, so it’s OK to punt in this game,’’ Montana said. “Bill always said, ‘Hey, look, we’ve got a good defense. Early in the game it’s OK to punt the ball. We don’t need to make early mistakes and give them a short field.’ ’’

Referring to the 49ers coaching staff, Montana said of Purdy, “Don’t put him in a bad position.’’ Then the Hall of Famer noted the coaches’ role from a miscue in Week 3, when Garoppolo stepped out of his end zone for a safety in an 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.

“He should have never been in a seven-step drop,’’ Montana said. “So yeah, he should have known the line was there, but don’t put him back there so he even has to think about it.’’

What Purdy should be thinking about is all the playmakers at his disposal – running back Christian McCaffrey, receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, according to Montana.

“Don’t put the young guy in a position where he has to feel like, “Oh, I got to force one,’ ” Montana said. “Let him punt the ball, especially early. Just get himself in a rhythm and that offense does that for you.

“I mean, heck, you got McCaffrey and Kittle and Deebo, and that receiving corps is pretty good.’’

Montana on TB12: ‘He’s running out of time eventually’

In what is scheduled to be his first NFL start, Purdy will be facing Brady, who in Tampa Bay’s 17-16 victory over New Orleans on Monday broke Peyton Manning’s NFL record for fourth-quarter comebacks with his 44th.

The bigger news came in October, when Brady and Gisele Bündchen announced their divorce. Montana said he’s not surprised the 45-year-old Brady still is performing at a high level – albeit with an overall drop in production – despite Brady’s personal issues.

“When you reach that level, when you walk on the field the things, they’re not on your mind other than what’s going on,” Montana said of off-the-field distractions. ‘Especially when you get hit. That’ll remind you. There are other things going on, yeah, but not while you’re out there. It’s not a place to be thinking about other things.”

Montana, who retired at 38, said of Brady, ‘He’s running out of time eventually.” But he backed off any predictions of when Brady will call it quits for good.

“The game’s too fun to play,” Montana said. ‘He’s not getting hit, he’s not getting hurt. He’s not a runner, so he’s not going to get out there and get in any trouble. He’s going to throw the ball away, lay down, keep himself healthy.

‘I don’t know. It’s a tough decision.”

The easier decision is whether Montana would play football for Deion Sanders, the new head coach at Colorado after three highly successful seasons at Jackson State. Granted, Montana would have had to make that decision in the 1970s, when he chose to enroll at Notre Dame.

Replied Montana: ‘How do you not want to play for someone who has that love of the game and that spark and understands the NFL system and understands what it takes to get there?’’ 

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