Someday, someway, Joe Montana will be a San Francisco 49er again.
"It's something I want very much," Niner owner Eddie DeBartolo said last week. "Whatever happens, even if he wins three straight Super Bowls in Kansas City, there's kind of an unwritten agreement that the Chiefs will permit him to retire as a 49er."
The way Montana's debut as the Big Chief went last Sunday in Tampa, three straight might be a little low. All Montana did was not miss a pass for almost a quarter and a half, connect for three touchdowns, throw the most beautiful bomb your poor eyes ever laid eyes on, dodge nicely out of the way of some very large men with some very bad intentions, fail to throw even one interception, pass for 246 yards, generally carry on like his old immortal self, pile-drive the Tampa Bay (Well Spent) Bucs 27-3 and call it a day before the end of the third quarter.
"On a scale of 10," said Kansas City's blur-footed receiver Willie Davis. "I'd give him a 13."
On a scale of 10, Davis gets a one in history. He caught Montana's first touchdown pass as a Chief, and then he...he...he....
"I spiked the ball," Davis said ruefully afterward. "I don't know what I was thinking. I should have kept it. Do you know what that ball will be worth?"
The better question is, Do you know what Montana will be worth to a team that finished 25th in total offense last year, to a team that hasn't been to a Super Bowl in almost a quarter of a century, to a team that has always had a killer defense and nothing to show for it?
"To me, he looks like the same old Joe," said Marcus Allen, who, come to think of it, looked like the same old Marcus Allen in his debut with the Chiefs, running and catching for nearly 100 yards and a TD. "He hasn't changed a bit."
Actually, Montana has changed a bit. His arm, his judgment, his release seem, if anything, even better than before. "Yeah, he's all right, I guess," said Buc nosetackle Mark Wheeler. "O.K., he's good. He looked like a college kid out there. He looked like he could go 10 more years."
But if he goes 10 more, his 10th will be in San Francisco. If he goes five more, his fifth will be in San Francisco. Three, his third. That much DeBartolo guarantees. In fact friends of DeBartolo say he'll get Montana back in a 49er uniform even if Montana's right arm falls off and he needs to be propped up on the sideline with two-by-fours.