FOUR SUPER BOWL championships, 40,000+ passing yards, and arguably the greatest championship-winning touchdown pass ever is more than enough to earn you the title of the greatest quarterback of all time. That’s a title Joe Montana has proudly worn for decades. However, there’s a difference between “greatest” and “best,” and Montana thinks the latter distinction doesn’t belong to him.
The title of “greatest QB” typically refers to career achievements, whereas “best QB” refers to individual talent. During his recent tour of the pint glass-shaped Guinness Storehouse with its Gravity Bar overlooking Dublin, Ireland, and exhibits tracing the history of the 264-year-old beer goliath, Montana didn’t hesitate telling Men’s Health his pick for the best QB of all time: Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino.
Even though Montana bested Marino at Super Bowl XIX, Marino’s only Super Bowl appearance in his illustrious 17-year career, Montana believes his exceptional contemporary could do things even Montana couldn’t do.
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“He had a quick release. I had to step into a lot of things to get enough [force] on the ball,” Montana says of Marino. “He had the perfect torque of his upper body and strength to deliver the ball quickly at a fast release with accuracy.”
Beyond Marino’s physical prowess, Montana’s steely blue eyes lit up when remembering the disadvantages Marino overcame to put up the eighth-most passing yards ever and seventh-most passing touchdowns ever. Remember, Marino and Montana played in an era of football when 350-pound linebackers could press their full body weight on a quarterback after tackling them and freely target their lower extremities. Now quarterbacks are the most protected they ever have been, and Montana can’t help but wonder how dominant the best QB ever would be in this era.
“Put Marino into today’s game where he gets free release…and his receivers, holy cow, weren’t very big,” Montana proclaims. “Now these guys are 6’4,” 6’5.” I think [Marino] is probably one of the most unsung heroes of the game. People don’t talk enough about him or realize the numbers that he put up during the times that he put them up.”
The playing days of the 67-year-old father of four are far behind him since retiring in 1995, and Montana knows Father Time is undefeated. So, there will come a day when he is no longer considered the greatest QB ever. The consensus on that topic has already begun swinging in Tom Brady’s favor, which Montana isn’t entirely sold on.
Before Montana’s alma mater, Notre Dame pummelled the Navy on August 26, he looked at the current landscape of NFL quarterbacks and decided the one closest to supplanting him as the GOAT is “by far” Patrick Mahomes. “The things he does and is able to do are so different than what any other quarterback does who’s out there,” he says.
Cincinnati Bengals fans need not worry; the Guinness ambassador didn’t forget his Guinness Zero commercial co-star Joe Burrow. While Montana doesn’t have Burrow as the leading successor to his GOAT legacy, he does have him firmly in his top four picks. Just don’t expect him to move Marino from his Best QB Ever perch anytime soon.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.