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Joe Montana on the pistol offense, the Super Bowl blackout, and that famous salsa stain

Feb 6, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT

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Joe Montana AP

I had the opportunity to speak via telephone with three-time Super Bowl MVP, four-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback Joe Montana. We talked about the big game, the big blackout, the Big Easy, Colin Kaepernick, the read-option, and his well-received Super Bowl commercial for Tide. Here are the highlights:

What did you think about the blackout in the Super Bowl?

The blackout reminded me of the time it happened in Candlestick. As I was watching it happen during the game, I kept thinking of Candlestick. That was the only other time I’d seen something like that.

What did you think of the game? How did the 49ers play?

They fell behind early but then after that blackout, they made a pretty good comeback. They played a great second half and they made it close. It ended up being a good game, which is what the fans want. I think they’ll be back next year.

How did Colin Kaepernick play in your opinion?

I thought Colin played very well, except for that one mistake that cost them. But you know, he’s a young quarterback and young quarterbacks make mistakes. I thought overall he played a good game and gave [the 49ers] an opportunity to win, but they just couldn’t quite pull it off.

Could you talk about the Tide Super Bowl commercial that features a salsa stain of your face? How did you come to be involved in that campaign?

Tide came to us and pitched the commercial, and I thought it was a great idea. I knew they’d done some commercials before featuring stains, and this seemed like a funny idea so I agreed to be a part of it. I think it turned out great.

Do three-time Super Bowl MVPs do their own laundry?

Oh yes. I know I do. Everybody gets laundry duty in our house.

Would you wash off a stain of your face?

Of my face? Oh yeah, I’d wash it immediately [laughs].

Did Notre Dame and the 49ers both losing in their title games make this a good year for you or a bad year?

Well, I guess it would have to be both. … I think [Notre Dame] just happened to go up against a pro team. Alabama, they really are like a pro team. Notre Dame had a great season but in the end, Alabama was too good.

Could you have run the pistol offense or the read-option?

Me? [laughs]. Oh yeah. I could run the read-option. I’d just do the read part every time and hand it off [laughs]. Here you go. That’s all I’d do, just read the hand-off. I could do that.

Is the pistol here to stay?

We’ll definitely be seeing more of it in the NFL, I think. But offenses like the the 49ers and Redskins are succeeding now because both Kaepernick and Robert Griffin are big, fast quarterbacks with strong arms. Guys like that aren’t exactly easy to come by.

Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning for the NFL MVP award?

That was a tough one this year. I think they should have just done co-awards, for both MVP and Comeback Player of the Year. I know they gave out co-MVP awards one season, so I think they should have done that again. Split them in half, they both had great seasons. They both deserve it.

Is the NFL doing enough to prevent concussions?

You know, it’s hard. A lot of that contact, the helmet-to-helmet stuff, happens because of the offensive player too. He’s moving around and sometimes he moves into the contact. It’s tough. I don’t really know how you can fix that.

Does the success of John Elway as head honcho of the Denver Broncos have you contemplating NFL front office work?

No, I don’t think so. I have my sons playing right now and that’s something that would be really hard to pull myself away from, being able to watch them play. I really enjoy that aspect. It’s not something I’m thinking about right now.

Maybe in the future, then?

No, by then, I’ll be too old [laughs]. Nobody would want me.


I also asked Joe about his son Nick transferring to play QB at Tulane in the same Superdome where this year’s Super Bowl was just held and where Joe won the MVP of Super Bowl XXIV, and he reacted like any proud father talking about his child, saying it was a good opportunity for Nick and that he and the rest of the family couldn’t wait to watch him play and play well (another of Joe’s sons, Nate, is currently the QB for West Virginia Wesleyan).

As we further discussed the issue of concussions in football, I asked Joe if he’s ever worried about the potential health impacts for his quarterbacking sons. He said that of course he and his wife worry for their safety because they recognize what a violent game it can be, with Joe having himself been through “three neck surgeries, a shoulder, an arm, a leg, a foot.” He went on that he never had any issue with them playing football or ever wished they wouldn’t because he knows how much they love the game and how much he loves watching them play, but he still tries to stress to them that ultimately, their health, “their life,” is more important than football. It was clearly a topic he had spent some time thinking about and wrestling with– a parent both proud and cautious in equal parts, a survivor of a brutal, beloved game his own sons now embark upon anew. Even for someone as cool as Joe Montana, not every question comes with an easy answer.


Rob Sylvester is an occasional contributor to Off the Bench and would like to thank Joe Cool immensely for his time and patience, and for laughing at his bad jokes. He can (occasionally) be found on Twitter @Rob__Sly.