The crowd of several thousand advisors at Tuesday’s Inside ETFs event in Hollywood, Florida, gave revered quarterback Joe Montana a standing ovation as he approached the stage to deliver his thoughts on leadership and sports.
Montana, 62, won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. In three of those games, he also won the Most Valuable Player award. He’s best known for leading the 49ers to 32 fourth-quarter comeback victories.
The NFL star, who played with the 49ers from 1979 to 1992 and the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 1994, enjoys a second career in angel investing from his base in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he helps lead Liquid 2 Ventures.
“No one told me how hard it would be,” Montana said of investment work. He then shared stories from his football days and what he thinks of current NFL rules — and last month’s Super Bowl LIII.
The retired quarterback said that in high school, he dreamed of playing football for Notre Dame and turned down a scholarship to play basketball at North Carolina State.
“When I arrived at Notre Dame, there were seven freshman quarterbacks. You just never know what’s going to happen,” Montana said.
When asked about his best comeback and lessons learned from them, he responded, “I hate to lose — period — in anything.”
Turning to investing, he said that startups can hit bumps, too. “I’ve seen some of the toughest transitions. Even good investors in Series C funding — the third wave of financing — can lose 50% of a portfolio.”
Montana recalled a tough situation during the ’79 Cotton Bowl in Houston when there was ice on the field and tough conditions. “They put rock salt on some patches!”
But in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame came back as it had the wind direction in its favor. “It was an ugly game all around,” he recalled.
As for the NFL Scouting Combine, Montana said, “It’s hard to judge [players]. You just do not know who can make transition” to professional play.
The discussion then turned to 49ers Coach Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense he popularized, which encourages passing over running.
“We did not have a great runner” when they first worked together, Montana said. “We just kept pushing for four yards and high completion to get there. [New England Patriots QB] Tom Brady does the same.”
As for Walsh, “He was ahead of his time and had some crazy ideas come into his head now and then.”
Thanks to 49ers wide receivers Jerry Rice and John Taylor, who can easily make so many different plays, Montana says, “the game changed easily.”
Walsh kept players on their toes, according the Hall of Famer: “If Walsh put in [a new type of play], we went with it. You never know with plays. Sometimes they work, and sometimes it’s a mess and you have to get players to compensate.”
Turning to Rice, “The only bad thing is that he came along too late in my career,” Montana said. “He made the game different. He struggled at first, but after that the coach built him up.”
Rice’s work ethic was stellar, according to his former teammate. “Jerry would always go all the way with the touchdown in practice. He’s the all-time touchdown reception leader, and it’s no surprise.”
The wide receiver’s routine of fully completing plays in practice “became contagious,” Montana explained. “He did it every day,” and then others would complete their plays, too.
“Rice could wear the enemies out,” the speaker said, adding that the 49ers would do full workouts together during the summer at a community college, and some players would run in the nearby hills.
Ex-running back Roger Craig runs marathons these days, according to Montana. “I’m dumb but I’m not stupid,” he said of his own desire to do so.
Montana helped his teams score 273 touchdowns and had a 65% pass-completion record.
With today’s rules, which aim to protect the quarterback, the retired player thinks he probably would have had better results. “You never know for sure,” he admitted, describing the challenge of throwing and then defending yourself as a quarterback before new rules.
“I would love” to be a quarterback today, he said. “All your do really is throw. It’s set up that way, and the advantage is there for the offense.”
Rules and Safety
Preventing collisions, according to Montana, is not easy. “Better equipment has given players a false sense of security,” he said.
Concerning overtime in the NFL playoffs, “The college rules are better,” according to Montana. “You fight to get to a playoff game and then you lose a coin toss and … get no chance to touch the ball. It doesn’t seem fair.”
This may have affected the recent game between New England and Kansas City, which Montana attended. “I am not sure if Kansas City would have won, but … we need to fix this.”
Beyond how tie games are decided by the NFL, “There’s a lot they need to fix,” he explained, such as how plays are reviewed.
He favors what happens in the National Hockey League, in which “officials use all views available,” including what the fans see. “I say review it all or nothing — the system is broken.”
Regarding coaches’ challenges on penalty calls, “I’m not sure it fits,” Montana explained. If it’s done well at first, like in the NHL, “you might not need a challenge.”
He did mention what he thinks was a bad call during a playoff game against the Washington Redskins in 1984: “It cost us a trip to the Super Bowl. I might have had five rings.”
This year’s Patriots-Rams matchup, he says, was dull.
“Plus, these teams probably should not have been there,” Montana said — referring the fact that Kansas City did not get a chance to have the ball in overtime when they played the Rams and that a call that could have helped the New Orleans Saints was not made.
This evaluation won him a hearty round of applause.
“It would have been a more exciting [Super Bowl] with the other teams,” he explained. “But if you’re a defense [fan], I guess you … liked the game. As for me, ‘nah.’ ”
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