Joe Montana best QB in LT's mind

Updated: January 31, 2014, 2:34 PM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Even if Peyton Manning wins his second Super Bowl ring Sunday, he will not supplant Joe Montana as the greatest quarterback of all time, according to Lawrence Taylor, arguably the greatest defensive player ever.

In a phone interview with ESPNNewYork.com, the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker praised Manning and said he thoroughly enjoys watching him play. But when asked if the Denver Broncos quarterback would seal his legacy as the best ever if he beats the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Taylor stopped Manning short of the goal line.

"I'm old school, so I'm going to go with Joe Montana," Taylor said. "It's simply because Montana did it in an era where the rules weren't favorable to the quarterback. Right now, you can't intimidate the receiver, you can't hit anybody, and it's like a 7-on-7 drill out there, where a good quarterback will destroy you.

"I'm a little biased because of my era, but if you're asking Peyton Manning or Joe Montana, I'm saying Montana."

Taylor's Giants had some playoff success against Montana's San Francisco 49ers, beating them following the 1985 and '86 regular seasons and again in their epic clash in the NFC Championship Game 23 years ago. But those results don't diminish Montana's historical standing in Taylor's mind.

"And it's not just about his four rings," Taylor said. "Doesn't the guy in Pittsburgh [Terry Bradshaw] have four, too? I don't just go off rings. People say Peyton only won one Super Bowl, but I don't really care about that. I'm looking at the entirety of his career, and he commands a game like nobody else and his talent speaks for itself. When you're talking about the top three or four quarterbacks of all time, you'd be a fool not to put him in there. There's no way to keep him out.

"But the rules did make it easier for him than it was for Montana. I love Montana. So if you're asking me if I'd put Peyton as the No. 1 quarterback of all time if he wins this game, no, I'm not going to do that."

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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