You can’t compare Jimmy G to Montana and Young, but there are similarities

Joe Davidson
·6 min read

We are not fool enough to compare Jimmy Garoppolo to Joe Montana or Steve Young. We’re not that concussed.

So, let’s compare them, OK?

It’s Super Bowl week and all storylines are open game. Why not dig into what ties the three together?

For starters, they have this on their resume: played quarterback for the 49ers. Each is 6-foot-2. Each was known to operate with a sense of cool in the heat of competition. Each earned the respect of teammates.

Simple guys with simple names and Herculean tasks: Joe, Steve and Jimmy. Jimmy Garoppolo has a better quarterback ring to it than Jim Garoppolo. Fans and even some TV media fanboy and girl sorts can easier gush, “Jimmy G!” than “Jim G!”

Like Montana and Young before him, Garoppolo could fire off a witty one-liner. He joked once, “I thank my parents for the good looks It’s the Italian tan.” He has also trademarked his saying of “Feels great, baby!”

Each reached a Super Bowl multiple times. Montana did so four times with four victories. Young won three Super Bowl rings, twice as a backup to Montana and once as a record-setting starter when San Francisco last won the sport’s grandest prize. Garoppolo has two Super Bowl rings from his time with the Patriots stashed away, “back in Chicago, safe and sound,” he said recently.

He earned those as a backup to Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Garoppolo studied and learned from Brady, who might just be the best quarterback in the 100-year history of the NFL not named Joe Montana.

Young also learned as a backup, burning to lead his own team. Young and Garoppolo share that common bond of patience being a virtue, leading to opportunity and the Super Bowl.

Garoppolo must seize the moment

In order to muscle into the Montana/Young crowd and within that considerable shadow, Garopollo understands what he has to do: Seize the moment. Finish the task. He has to beat Kansas City on Sunday in Miami, the same venue in which Montana won his third Super Bowl following the 1988 season in his most dramatic Super finish. Miami is also where Young fired six touchdown passes to throttle San Diego to cap the 1994 season.

Young on KNBR radio in the Bay Area said he would tell Garoppolo of the Super Bowl, “that it happens fast, and you’ve got to be super careful. Seasons end quickly It’s a do-or-die situation. Don’t waste a down.”

Garoppolo hasn’t wasted any downs. He has embraced his role as a franchise leader, though it took some getting used to. He came into the NFL a great deal less heralded than Montana and Young, in part because he attended the least-known college of the lot.

Montana went to Notre Dame and led late-game triumphs under the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. Young went to BYU and set passing records in Provo under the spiritual shadow of his great, great, great grandfather, Brigham Young.

Garoppolo is the pride of Eastern Illinois University, a smaller college in the Ohio Valley Conference. You may know the mascot at Notre Dame and BYU — Irish and Cougars. And Eastern Illinois? Correct! It’s Billy the Panther.

As for in-season feats, Garoppolo joined Montana and Young as the only 49ers to pass for 400 yards and toss four touchdowns in a single game, doing so against Arizona in November. After that game, Garoppolo said of being lumped in with the Hall of Fame passers, “any time you’re in a sentence with those two names, it’s always an honor. But I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to those two. They did some great things around here.”

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Garoppolo has the same sort of team-first mantra championed by Montana and Young. You win with ego-less guys like that.

“He’s open. (Garoppolo) is one of the guys,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said late in the regular season. “If there’s a Christmas event, he’s not too big for it. If we’re throwing a Halloween deal at a bar and the whole team is there, he’ll be there. He’ll not be like, ‘Aw man I’ll show up for just a second.’ He’ll stay until the thing closes, and he’ll have conversations with everybody. He’s not too big for any one of his teammates, and that’s important.”

Young has always been a straight arrow, a Mormon who doesn’t drink, smoke or even curse. He has spit on occasion. Montana once wore a T-shirt in the 49ers locker room that read, “Forty (bleepin’) Niners!” Garoppolo has paraded around the locker room with a T-shirt of similar comedic shock value, such as the picture of exasperated tight end George Kittle.

Win or lose, Garoppolo is entrenched in history

Young and Montana will be in Miami this week. It’s a certainty that at some point, they will run into Garopollo. They’re pulling for him because he’s firmly entrenched as 49ers family now.

Montana and Young attended the NFC playoff victories the 49ers posted on Minnesota and Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium. Garoppolo wasn’t intimidated by their presence. He was inspired by it.

“I love that we keep it in the family ... having them around is cool,” Garoppolo said. “It just makes you realize the history of this organization.”

Garpoppolo has been asked by his bosses to be steady this season, but he does have spectacular ability. In beating New Orleans 48-46, Garoppolo passed for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He was 18 of 22 passing for 285 yards to beat Seattle in the Pacific Northwest to clinch the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record.

That’s the same mark Montana had in 1981 when he started his first NFC Championship game, and it’s the same record and standing Young achieved in 1994 for his first NFC championship triumph. So yes, there are similarities.

In Montana’s first NFC title tilt, he started slow and finished fast. He overcame three interceptions but tossed the epic touchdown to Dwight Clark for “The Catch” for a 28-27 triumph of Dallas. Two weeks later, he was the MVP of Super Bowl XVI. Twenty five years ago, Young wasn’t typically sharp, completing just 13 of 39 passes for 155 yards, but he took a victory lap at Candlestick Park to celebrate a 38-28 win over Dallas to launch into Super Bowl XXIX. There, Young was sharp, tossing six touchdowns to roll San Diego.

In Garopollo’s NFC Championship effort over Green Bay, he was masterful in handing off and getting out of the way. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 77 yards in looking the role of vintage 1972 Miami Dolphins Bob Griesie. The 49ers rushed 42 times, and Raheem Mostert carried the load to the tune of 220 yards and four touchdowns.

More Sherman, “We see (Garoppolo) every day. We see what kind of work ethic he puts in, the hours he puts in preparing, the first one in, the last one out. The guy looks for no credit. All he does is encourage his teammates and put more work in.”

That’s so Montana and Young of him.