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Tom Brady idolized, then surpassed 49ers' Joe Montana in GOAT debate

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Tom Brady idolized, then surpassed 49ers' Joe Montana in GOAT debate

Growing up in San Mateo, Tom Brady was a huge fan of Joe Montana. He was at Candlestick Park to witness "The Catch" and saw Montana play his final game with the 49ers.

Decades later, Brady and Montana sit alone as the two greatest quarterbacks of all time. The debate will go on long after all of us have turned to dirt, with neither side giving an inch even as the apocalypse inches closer. That's just how sports and tribalism work.

But there are no sports and "The Last Dance" has left us all debating hypothetical matchups, top 10 lists, GOATS and who knows what else until we're blue in the face. So, let's take a brief and relatively painless look at why the San Mateo kid -- who once idolized Montana and similarly chose to finish his career on his own terms -- caught and passed the 49ers legend as the greatest of all-time.

Montana's credentials are well known. Joe Cool went 4-0 in Super Bowls and was a three-time Super Bowl MVP. He threw for 40,551 yards, 273 touchdowns and had a 92.3 passer rating. More important than the numbers, Montana was calm, cool and collected under pressure.

With Montana under center, the 49ers were never out of a game. That includes the 92-yard drive to win Super Bowl XXIII. Montana rarely made mistakes when it mattered. In the 1988 and 1989 playoffs, Montana threw 19 touchdowns and only one interception.

There's a reason he was the unquestioned GOAT until recently, but Brady's comeback from the 28-3 deficit in Super Bowl LI gave him a lead that he won't relinquish.

Brady has gone to nine Super Bowls and won six of them. In those three losses, the New England Patriots defense gave up two game-winning drives to Eli Manning and was torched by Nick Foles. Playing in a passer-friendly era, Brady's stats dwarf Montana's. Brady has 219 regular-season wins and 30 postseason wins. He has thrown 541 career touchdown passes. Brady has also thrown for 11,179 yards in the postseason, besting Peyton Manning by almost 4,000 yards and beating Montana by more than 5,000.

Plus, Brady has done more with less during his career. While Montana got to play alongside the likes of Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark and Roger Craig, Brady got limited time with Randy Moss and has had to win with an average group of pass-catchers -- outside of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Deion Branch were decent NFL receivers, but that's a lot less than a lot of marquee quarterbacks are given to win Super Bowls.

At age 41, Brady threw for 4,355 yards and won the Super Bowl. This past season, with almost no offensive help, he threw for 4,057 yards. The Patriots won at least 12 games 12 times in the Brady era and won the AFC East a whopping 17 times (due to a combination of the Patriots' greatness and the lack of quality opponents in the division).

[RELATED: NFL history would have been different if Bears drafted Montana]

Heading toward age 43, Brady followed in Montana's footsteps and left the only team he has ever known, choosing to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason. Montana, Manning and Brett Favre are the only legendary quarterbacks to switch teams late in their career and find success, with only Manning winning a title thanks to a vaunted Denver Broncos defense.

Montana was successful during his final run with the Kansas City Chiefs but failed to win a title.

Debating greatness across eras is relatively pointless. Those who watched Montana in his heyday will undoubtedly claim he's the GOAT no matter how many titles Brady wins, just as grandparents everywhere scold their grandkids for thinking LeBron James is in the same conversation with Michael Jordan.

Brady watched Montana and dreamed of doing what his idol did on Sundays. Then, he went out and eclipsed him.

Tom Brady might not say it. But I will.

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted Friday that the league was wrong for "not listening to NFL players earlier" and that they "encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," but his 81-second video didn't mention former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick first sat, then kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before games in the 2016 season to protest police brutality and institutional racism. The QB's protest has recently received renewed attention, as demonstrations against the same issues spring up around the globe following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, in Minneapolis police custody last Monday.

"We, the [NFL], believe black lives matter," Goodell said Friday. "I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no [NFL] and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.

"We are listening. I am listening. And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and move forward for a better, more united NFL family."

The commissioner's comments came shortly after the league shared a video of players asking for the NFL to "listen" and admit they were "wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting." Multiple players, including star New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, first shared the video Thursday.

"We will not be silenced," the players said. "We assert our right to peacefully protest."

Protests have taken place nationwide in each of the 10 nights following Floyd's death prior to this story's publication. Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe as Derek Chauvin, a since-fired officer who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. The 46-year-old's death occurred within months of Breonna Taylor, 26, and Ahmaud Arbery, 25, dying, all as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disproportionately affect African Americans. Louisville police fatally shot Taylor in her home while reportedly performing a "no-knock" warrant, and two white men allegedly shot and murdered Arbery as he jogged around his Georgia neighborhood.

Demonstrators have taken the streets to protest the same issues Kaepernick highlighted, nearly four years after he first began protesting. Kaepernick, who agreed to kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner" after consulting with former Seattle Seahawks long-snapper and Green Beret Nate Boyer, faced criticism for disrespecting the American flag and the country's veterans. Goodell said he didn't "necessarily agree with what [Kaepernick was] doing" in his first public comments after Kaepernick's protest.

“We have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great,” Goodell told The Associated Press on Sept. 7, 2016. “I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement; and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.”

Goodell said in 2017 players had a "responsibility" of demonstrating "at the right time and in the right way." The NFL owners approved a national-anthem policy in May 2018 that would've required players to stand on the sideline as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, but the league and the NFL Players Association announced in July there would be no new policy.

[RELATED: 49ers' Shanahan wants NFL to fix coaching diversity issue]

Kaepernick argued his protest cost him his career in a collusion lawsuit he settled with the league last February. The quarterback opted out of his contract ahead of the 2017 season, when the 49ers told him he'd otherwise be released, and has not been signed since. The NFL organized a workout for Kaepernick at the Atlanta Falcons' facility last November, but Kaepernick pulled out of the workout after the league barred media access and his lawyers deemed a liability waiver "unusual."

"I've been ready for three years, and I've been denied for three years," Kaepernick told reporters after moving the workout to a high school outside of Atlanta. "We all know why I came out here and showed it today in front of everybody -- we have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people."

Goodell said in December that the NFL had "moved on" from Kaepernick after he "chose not to take" the opportunity the NFL gave him by moving the workout.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

George Kittle has never kept his love for run-blocking a secret. Any opportunity to drive a defender into the turf is embraced by the 49ers tight end the same way kids greet the arrival of Christmas morning.

During a recent appearance on the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast with fellow NFL players Will Compton and Taylor Lewan, Kittle revealed two blocking assignments he doesn’t exactly live for.

“Khalil Mack’s tough,” Kittle said. “He’s pretty good. (Jadeveon) Clowney is pretty good too.”

Kittle and Mack faced off late in the 2018 season, during a low-scoring dogfight at Levi’s Stadium between the 49ers and Chicago Bears. Mack got three hits in on quarterback Nick Mullens, but didn’t end up with a sack among his five tackles.

[RELATED: Ranking top 49ers plays in franchise's storied history: No. 5-1]

Clowney was a difficult assignment for the Niners in both matchups last season, although Kittle was inactive for the Seattle Seahawks’ win on "Monday Night Football" in Week 10.

The current free agent had six tackles and five QB hits over those two games against San Francisco, not to mention scoring one of his two touchdowns on the season after scooping up a fumble.

Mack and Kittle could face off when the 49ers and Bears meet during the 2020 preseason on Aug. 29, but it remains to be seen where Clowney will wind up signing in free agency. 

Some have even postulated he could be a fit for the 49ers, if no team is willing to meet a reportedly exorbitant asking price.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]