Joe Montana considered playing in the Canadian Football League. Seriously.
The legendary quarterback was at a crossroads following the 1992 season at the age of 36. He’d won four Super Bowls and two MVP awards over 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers but, after two injury-plagued years, the team was planning to move forward with Steve Young under centre, who’d just won his first MVP.
Montana indicated that he and John Candy had “a couple meetings about” him signing with the Toronto Argonauts. Candy had purchased the team in 1991 as part of an ownership group that also included NHL legend Wayne Gretzky and sports executive Bruce McNall, who later served 13 months in prison for conspiracy and fraud.
Toronto had signed college phenom Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail to a four-year, $18.2 million contract in 1991 and won the Grey Cup that same year. They had subsequently lost starting quarterback Matt Dunigan to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers via free agency and were without an elite-level replacement for 1992 after unsuccessfully courting Calgary native and reigning Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien, who instead signed a four-year, $12 million deal to return to the Washington Football Team.
“My contract was up and he was one of the owners of the Toronto Argonauts. He was trying to get me to go to Canada,” Montana told The Rich Eisen Show. “They just didn’t have enough money.”
Montana said he noticed Candy in the crowd at Super Bowl XXIII, which took place on Jan. 22, 1989 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. He claimed that he’d already met with Candy about signing with Toronto by that point, though Candy didn’t own the Argonauts until two years later. It’d be understandable if Montana was slightly mistaken regarding the timeline of events given how much time has passed.
Toronto’s ownership situation was a mess by 1993 as the house of financial cards McNall had built was rapidly starting to collapse. The team was sold following the 1993 season and, though Candy was hoping to put together a new group to purchase the club, he tragically passed away due to a heart attack on March 4, 1994 at the age of 43.
Montana ended up being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in April 1993 and signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the team, though he played only two years with the club before retiring. Had Toronto been able to offer him more money, he could have been playing on a different side of the border.
“I might have been wearing an Argonaut uniform,” he said.