Rodgers, Romo and the shadow of Montana

As the NFL cranks up for the playoffs, it’s hard not to notice that Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo are playing quarterback about as well as it can be played. Romo’s 113.2 passer rating for the Cowboys this season is the sixth highest in history; Rodgers’ 112.2 for the Packers is ninth. They’ve had their way with almost every defense they’ve gone up against (even, in Tony’s case, the Seahawks).

The question now becomes: Can they keep playing at this ridiculous level in the postseason? Or more to the point: Can they — or anybody else, for that matter — ever do what Joe Montana did 25 years ago?

When you talk about a quarterback “playing the position about as well as it can be played,” you have to start with Joe Montana in 1989. During the regular season, he compiled a 112.4 rating, which was the record at the time. Then he actually turned it up a notch in the playoffs and posted a rating of 146.4, which is still the record in the Super Bowl era (and only 11.9 points shy of a perfect score, 158.3).

Among Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, Montana’s 1989 playoff performance is the gold standard by a sizable margin, as you can see:

TOP POSTSEASON RATINGS BY SUPER BOWL-WINNING QBS

Year Quarterback, Team G Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rating
1989 Joe Montana, 49ers 3 83 65 78.3 800 11 0 146.4
1986 Phil Simms, Giants 3 58 38 65.5 494 8 0 131.8
1992 Troy Aikman, Cowboys 3 89 61 68.5 795 8 0 126.4
2012 Joe Flacco, Ravens 4 126 73 57.9 1,140 11 0 117.2
1994 Steve Young, 49ers 3 87 53 60.9 623 9 0 117.2
2009 Drew Brees, Saints 3 102 72 70.6 732 8 0 117.0
1988 Joe Montana, 49ers 3 90 56 62.2 823 8 1 117.0
1982 Joe Theismann, Redskins 4 85 58 68.2 716 8 3 110.7
2010 Aaron Rodgers, Packers 4 132 90 68.2 1,094 9 2 109.8
2004 Tom Brady, Patriots 3 81 55 67.9 587 5 0 109.4
1996 Brett Favre, Packers 3 71 44 62.0 617 5 1 107.5

In the regular season and postseason combined, Montana had a rating of 119.4. That’s the record by a healthy margin, too. Here’s how the other quarterbacks in the above chart compare to him:

REGULAR SEASON AND POSTSEASON COMBINED

Year Quarterback, Team G Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rating
1989 Joe Montana, 49ers 16 469 336 71.6 4,321 37 8 119.4
1994 Steve Young, 49ers 19 548 377 68.8 4,592 44 10 113.5
2009 Drew Brees, Saints 18 616 435 70.6 5,120 42 11 110.8
2010 Aaron Rodgers, Packers 19 607 402 66.2 5,016 37 13 103.1
1996 Brett Favre, Packers 19 614 369 60.1 4,516 44 14 97.2
1982 Joe Theismann, Redskins 13 337 219 65.0 2,749 21 12 96.2
1992 Troy Aikman, Cowboys 19 562 363 64.6 4,240 31 14 95.4
2004 Tom Brady, Patriots 19 555 343 61.8 4,279 33 14 95.0
2012 Joe Flacco, Ravens 20 657 390 59.4 4,957 33 10 93.4
1988 Joe Montana, 49ers 17 487 294 60.4 3,804 26 11 93.3
1986 Phil Simms, Giants 19 526 297 56.5 3,981 29 22 81.6

Montana’s victory lap, if you want to call it that, really began in the ’88 playoffs. That’s when he started a streak of eight postseason games in which he had a rating of 100 or higher (three in ’88, three in ’89 and two in ’90). Check out his numbers for the 19-game stretch beginning in the ’88 postseason and running through the end of ’89. (Note: He missed three games in ’89.)

MONTANA’S STATS FROM 1988 PLAYOFFS THROUGH 1989 PLAYOFFS

G (RS/PS) Att Comp Pct Yds TD INT Rating
19 (13/6) 559 392 70.1 5,144 45 9 119.0

His ratings in those six postseason games, by the way, were 100.5, 136, 115.2, 142.5, 125.3 and 146.7 — against the best competition the NFL had to offer. How’s that for quarterbacking? And let’s not forget, the rules weren’t nearly as QB-friendly then. The league-wide passer rating in ’88 (70.6) and ’89 (73.3) was much lower than it was this year (87.1).

Montana has set the bar very high, perhaps impossibly high. Anyway, that’s what Rodgers and Romo are up against as they try to “play the position about as well as it can be played.”

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Will anybody ever play quarterback better than Joe Montana did 25 years ago?

Will anybody ever play quarterback better than the 49ers’ Joe Montana did 25 years ago?