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What if ... Phil Simms and Joe Montana had traded places?

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What would have happened to them, and their teams?

Bay Area News Group Archive

The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers were NFL powerhouses and bitter rivals throughout much of the 1980s and into the early 1990s. There are many reasons why those teams were as outstanding as they were, with five Super Bowl titles between them from 1982 to 1991, but quarterbacks Phil Simms and Joe Montana were each critical to their teams’ success.

What, though, if Simms had been a 49er and Montana had landed in New York with the Giants? It’s ‘What If?’ week here across SB Nation team sites, and that led me to examine a question I have wondered about for a long time. Mostly because Simms very nearly was a 49er.

The Giants, though, picked seventh overall in the 1979 NFL Draft and selected Simms before Bill Walsh and the 49ers, whose first pick was at the top of Round 2, had a chance. Sam Wyche, then a Walsh assistant, admitted years ago that Simms was “our plan.” Walsh then “settled” for Montana with the final pick of Round 3.

Here is Simms talking to Boomer Esaison about Walsh’s interest in him.

Montana, of course, went on to a Hall of Fame career, the perfect quarterback for Walsh’s precision West Coast offense. Simms will never be elected into the Hall of Fame, but he was an excellent quarterback who won a Super Bowl MVP and was the right quarterback for the hard-nosed Giants and coach Bill Parcells. Even if Parcells, at least early in his coaching tenure, didn’t seem to know it.

I quite honestly don’t know what would have happened. Would Simms, a fiery quarterback who led a Giants offense that wasn’t as prolific or efficient, been a fit for Walsh’s personality and his West Coast style? Would the laid-back Montana have been able to thrive under the sarcastic, loud Parcells? Would both teams have been as successful

We will never truly know. It is, though, interesting to think about.

Here’s Dave-Te Thomas, a veteran of five decades of scouting for NFL teams.

“An ironic question, as Bill Walsh preferred Simms over Montana after he and Sam Wyche flew to Moorhead State to work him out, settling for Montana in the 1979 third round. It worked out well, as Montana was known as “Joe Cool” and his coach was a tactful, yet quiet presence on the sideline, winning 3 Super Bowls under Walsh.

“Parcells ended up with Simms when he took over in 1983 after Ray Perkins used the seventh overall pick in that draft for Phil. Parcells was/is a fiery dude and while they seemed to clash at times, Simms would not take any guff from Tuna and the coach respected that.

“Switch the QBs? Well, I don’t think either QB would have meshed with the SF/NYG head coaches. Joe “cool” would have gone into hibernation under Bill and Simms would have become bored with Walsh’s “you gotta do it my way” approach to the game plan.

“You know that saying great minds think alike? It was so true when you match up both QBs with their head coaches.”

I’m curious what older Giants fans who watched that era unfold think. Let us know in the comments.