Today is Joe Montana’s birthday, and I happened to come across an interesting set of rankings for historic quarterbacks. Bryan Frye put together a cascading stats tool that tries to assess the best regular season quarterbacks of all time. Cascading means that using his tools, a player’s best season gets 100 percent credit, his second best season gets 96 percent credit, his third best season gets 92 percent credit, and so on. He then prorated the numbers so that players who played before the 16-game schedule do not get handicapped.
You can view the full rankings here. Peyton Manning comes in at No. 1, Dan Marino is No. 2, Tom Brady is No. 3, and Drew Brees is No. 4. Where it gets interesting is the next two. Steve Young is listed at No. 5, and Joe Montana is listed at No. 6. Other 49ers quarterbacks show up, with Y.A. Tittle at No. 19, John Brodie at No. 23, and Jeff Garcia at No. 31.
There are a bunch of different ways to assess the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Joe Montana was obviously a great overall quarterback, but his postseason performances net him a big boost. The Montana-Young comparisons are always fascinating given how the rivalry developed. Both players ended up spending 13 years with the 49ers. Young started 124 games, while Montana started 139 games. It always feels like Montana started so many more games given the cross-over years, but Montana dealt with quite a few injuries during his time in San Francisco. And so, the number of starts ended up a lot closer than I always think.
Best regular season quarterback is just sort of a generic accolade. Winning Super Bowls is what matters. And while I am more of a Steve guy than a Joe guy, if I needed the 49ers to win one game, I take peak Joe. And if I need a 2-minute drill to win a game, again, I take peak Joe. And that’s over Young and any other quarterback. I think plenty would agree.