Most people don’t like to rush to equate young NFL players with Hall of Famers of legendary status. Obviously, earning the rank of “legend of the game” takes many years of consistent production, and can not be applied to any player in his first or second year in the league. I would not presume to equate any such novice with any aforementioned Legend.
But I am shocked by the similar starts to their careers.
As I said, Joe Montana is a legend. I can’t say it enough. Every time I say his name it is like the pure definition of the word quarterback. They are synonymous. When I first began watching football games some 20 years ago, I quickly learned that Joe Montana was the king of his craft. With him under center, the 49ers were never out of the game, and were usually going to win the game. Precision passing, a great knowledge and understanding of the game, quick decision making, and cool, calm and collected demeanor. That was Joe Montana.
And it sounds a lot like how we describe Trent Edwards. Let’s take a look at just how similar they are.
The first thing that comes to mind is Montana’s former coach, the late Bill Walsh, has often been cited as commending Marv Levy and crew following their selection of the QB in the third round of the 2007 draft. Walsh knew that Edwards was something special, and he called up Levy to tell him so. The Bills had Edwards rated very high in the draft and were thrilled when they picked him up in the third round. Hearing Walsh’s endorsement of him as “the real deal” (or something to that effect) only further confirmed their selection.
I mentioned some of this above, but it bears repeating. As I have watched Trent this season, I’ve heard comparisons to a young Tom Brady. Brady was an unknown mid-late round draft pick who has obviously excelled. But I never quite bought that. Brady has a very different style. He has a slightly stronger arm and excels at the deep ball. Edwards can throw the deep ball, but that is not his strength.
It finally hit me a couple weeks ago. The closest match is Joe Montana. Montana was a very poised, confident, cool and collected leader on the field. His team was never out of it, and they believed he could bring them back. We see that already from Trent and his teammates. Montana didn’t have the great physical talents of Elway (rocket arm), Marino (lightning-quick release), or Kelly (toughness, grit, and strong arm) of his day, but he always made the perfect throw to the perfect guy.
On top of his decision making, Edwards has been right on the money with his passes. He throws a perfect pass to the perfect place for his perfect receiver. He completed 80% of his passes in one of the games this year, and for the season is completing 65.5% of his passes. Montana was also an incredibly accurate passer. He was consistently between 65 and 70% for much of his career. A lot of this is attributed to being able to read the defense quickly and correctly, but of course also a testament to the skill of the passer, throwing an accurate ball.
Trent Edwards was projected by some as a late first-round choice. The Bills were shocked that he was still on the board when they were making their third-round selection in the 2007 draft. They had to take him, even though they weren’t planning to take a QB till the later rounds. Edwards was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft at number 92 overall. Not too surprisingly, the Legend, Joe Montana was drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 1979 draft, pick #82 overall.
This is perhaps the greatest similarity – and what alerted me to how much Edwards is looking like Montana. Joe Montana is known for connecting with Jerry Rice – a lot – and for winning Super Bowls, and for the things I mentioned above. But perhaps above all, he is known for engineering fourth quarter comebacks. And really, what better stat is there? Elway was great at this. And Montana was a master. He engineered 31 come from behind victories in his 16 year career, 26 of them as a 49er.
Trent Edwards has only started 13 games. Less than one full season. Thanks to trailing by one point at the start of the fourth quarter in yesterday’s game against the Rams, Edwards is credited with another fourth quarter comeback in his fledgling career. Actually, that makes five. FIVE. Not only is Edwards a fairly impressive 9-4 as a starter, he also has five 4th quarter comebacks under his belt. Well on his way to 31? Perhaps…
First Year as a Starter
This is where I am getting into speculation a bit, but bear with me.
Joe Montana played a few games in 1979 and 1980. In fact, his first 4th quarter come from behind win was in December of 1980, subbing for the starter, Steve DeBerg. His play that season solidified him as the starter for the coming season. San Francisco had been 2-14 in ’79, and then 6-10 in ’80 – definitely not impressive. But 1981 was coach Bill Walsh’s third season. He had been building the team in his image (much like Dick Jauron – currently in his third season – has done with the Bills) and they were poised to succeed under their new field commander.
Montana led the 49ers to an impressive 13-3 record that season. But it didn’t stop there. That team, which Montana was officially commanding for the first time, hosted the NFC Championship game against Dallas. Dallas had a lead with under five minutes to go in the game. Montana got the ball at the 1 yard line and engineered an 89-yard drive that culminated with “The Catch.”
A come-from-behind victory, taking his team to the Super Bowl. In his first season as the starter, in his coach’s third season with the team. They even went on to win the Super Bowl that season. Montana had pretty average numbers, but as always, got the job done, and got the W.
Edwards’ team is off to a 4-0 start, with three fourth quarter comebacks engineered by the poised, cool and collected, confident, unflappable quarterback. Could we possibly be seeing history repeating itself?
Bills fans certainly hope so!
Montana not only took his team to the Super Bowl – and won – his first year as the starter, but that really ushered in an era of dominance by Montana and the 49ers. They won four Super Bowls during his time there, and were a perennial force in the NFC.
It’s obviously too early to call Edwards a legend. Or even a legend-in-the-making. But you have to admit… he bears a striking resemblance to The Legend. The Legend’s coach saw something in this kid, too.
If Edwards is even close, Bills fans can look forward to great football for many years to come.