From the Immaculate Reception to the Music City Miracle to the Butt Fumble, there are a number of historic NFL plays that immediately conjure up a highlight-reel image in the memory (and have their own Wikipedia page).
None comes to mind faster and more vividly than San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana hitting wide receiver Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone with a six-yard touchdown pass that enabled the 49ers to escape the 1981 NFC Championship Game with a 28–27 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Known simply as The Catch, that play at Candlestick Park will be celebrating its 40th anniversary on January 10, just days after a new six-part sports docuseries, Joe Montana: Cool Under Pressure, premieres on Peacock.
“The Catch was just getting it up and down fast enough with the guys in front of me with their hands up. I think it probably was a good throw,” Montana tells InsideHook. “I used to say it should be called The Throw, not the Catch … He made it look so dramatic. He could have just made the catch.”
That’s the sort of insight that Montana, who has not been a fixture on television on football Sundays since his retirement from the NFL and has refused every previous attempt to make a documentary about his story, shares in the forthcoming docuseries. Produced by NFL Films, the series features exclusive footage as well as interviews with NFL personalities including Tom Brady, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, George Seifert and Peyton Manning.
Below, we asked one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever sling it why now was the right time to pull back the curtain on his football life.
InsideHook: How did you decide it was time to tell some of the untold stories of your playing days?
Joe Montana: We’ve been talking about doing this for some time and things just start to work out. I’m not getting any younger. Who knows what my memory will be like in another few years, after I don’t know how many concussions? It felt like the right time to do something if there was an interest in getting it done. Heck, I just turned 65. So, we decided to get it down while we could. It’s just telling a story about my life in football.
Was there a particular story that made you want to do the series?
No, but I think there are a lot of things in there that’ll be surprising. All the ups and downs throughout my career, whether it was high school or college, with coaches. There’s footage from when I was a kid that no one has seen. I think there are things in there that will make people will say “Wow. I didn’t realize that.” Injuries, getting in and out of games, why I wasn’t playing and what went on on the inside. Yeah. There are a couple of things I think people will be surprised at while I was in San Francisco that come up. There are some surprises in there, especially in the later parts of my career, that I haven’t spoken about.
Did increasing the number of sports docuseries make you want to get in on the action?
It had to be brought up to me to think about doing it. It’s not something I would have done had it not been sparked by someone else’s interest. They explained to me why they thought I should do it. I still look back and go, “Am I sure I want to do this?” I still always question that because it doesn’t fit into what I would normally do or say.
What was the best part of doing something like this for you?
I don’t know. I think you forget a lot of the stories and a lot of things that took place early on in life. Some of the footage from when I was young was refreshing to see. For me, going back to that was the most enjoyable part. The other stuff is pretty still fresh. But looking backward … Both my mom and dad have passed. Seeing them in there and getting their take on some of the things that took place, especially my mom. She never talks. She rarely says anything. It’s also fun to watch my kids explain things and get their takes on some of the things that happened.
Were your children one of the reasons you wanted to do the series?
It’s probably more for my kids than anything. They know they went to games and know they were there but they don’t have memories of it because they were just too young. I get questions from them all the time about when I was younger. What about this? What about that? With this, if something happens to me, they’ll always have something to look back on. It’s a memory for them from me.
The first two episodes of “Joe Montana: Cool Under Pressure” will premiere on Peacock on January 6th with new episodes premiering weekly.