Best QB-coach combo? Jerry Rice likes Brady-Belichick over Montana-Walsh
Jerry Rice spends a lot of his time on golf courses these days. Football, however, is never far from the mind of the former San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame wide receiver.
Rice covered a wide range of topics spanning from New York Giants rookie sensation Odell Beckham, Colin Kaepernick’s days as a franchise quarterback and Deflategate.
FOXSports.com: Which WR had the best rookie season and why?
Jerry Rice: I would say it’s (New York Giants WR) Odell Beckham. This guy is a rookie but he doesn’t play like a rookie. He’s still trying to get comfortable with the West Coast offense that they run. When Victor Cruz comes back, they will make a great tandem. Odell can run good routes and has confidence. The one-handed catch that he made was incredible. He’s a playmaker.
FS: Which player of this group of rookie WRs will have the most consistent player?
JR: It’s Odell Beckham, man. I’m serious. I’m really impressed with this kid. A reporter said he wanted to talk to me, so I got his information and talked to him. I left him a message and said, "Keep working hard and everything is going to fall into place for you." He posted that on Twitter and everywhere else. You can tell he’s going to be successful because he works hard, he’s going to make everybody better around him. He’s cocky in a way where it will not hurt the team. You want your receiver to have the confidence out there who knows they are the playmaker. I think he’s going to be around for a long time. He’s not going to get complacent and will continue to work hard and develop.
FS: A lot of talent evaluators get blinded by size and speed at the WR position. How much of the modern-day WR is about being a technician rather than fitting a certain mold?
JR: I think speed is important, but a lot of guys have been successful in this league and they weren’t the fastest. I ran around a 4.5. But when I had a uniform on and had people chasing me, I could run a 4.3. That’s football speed and there’s a big difference. When you look at track speed, they can train and learn how to run the 40. Once they put that uniform on, they don’t look that fast. You have to be able to run good routes and get separation from defenders. When I first came into the league, the 49ers had Ronaldo Nehemiah and we knew he could fly. I remember working out with him and I could feel his pace, but he had a problem running consistent routes. You look at Steve Largent and what he was able to accomplish. Dwight Clark, Lynn Swann all of these guys, we weren’t the fastest but we ran precise routes, we got separation so the quarterback could deliver the football.
FS: Is Colin Kaepernick a franchise QB that can sustain success?
JR: I think it’s very important for them to build around him. They need to give him a supporting cast. Not saying the cast last year wasn’t supportive, but he needs a receiver that’s going to be able to stretch the field to strike fear into the opponents. He has that in Vernon Davis. Anquan Boldin did a nice job of making catches this past season, but he’s more of a possession guy. I don’t really know what they’re going to do with Michael Crabtree. They also have a great running game. The offensive line needs to protect a bit more and need to let Colin Kaepernick be Colin Kaepernick. That means getting outside the pocket, same as Russell Wilson. Extend plays, but keep his eyes downfield and use his athleticism to make plays.
FS: Can Kaepernick stay healthy living outside the pocket?
JR: I think when you limit guys you see a totally different quarterback going in the opposite direction. He’s not going to continue to develop, he’s just going to continue to go downwards. You knew what you were getting when you drafted this guy. You can’t expect him to be a pocket passer. Now, Andrew Luck is a different quarterback. He’s going to be around for a long, long time because he’s a pocket passer. He can also pull the ball down and run the ball.
FS: So, you think Kaepernick can be a franchise quarterback and win Super Bowls?
JR: Yeah, I do. I also hope that the next offensive coordinator comes in and goes back to the West Coast offense. I don’t like the offense that they ran last year and the year before. It limits your quarterback and doesn’t give him a lot of options. Everything is so congested. You don’t have a primary, second or third guy to go to. They need to go back to that West Coast offense.
FS: What were your thoughts with the 49ers’ hiring of Jim Tomsula?
JR: I don’t know much about him, but I think it’s more cohesive now. It’s better for Jed York. It’s better for Trent Baalke. And they feel very good about the hiring. The players are excited, but I don’t want the players to take it the wrong way. I don’t want them to get relaxed because they have a coach who will let them let their guard down. Bill Walsh was always one of those coaches who could be your best friend or your worst enemy. He always kept guys on edge. I hope Tomsula can do the same thing.
FS: You bring up Bill Walsh and there’s always talk about legacy this time of year. Which QB-head coach combination is the best of all-time in your opinion?
JR: You have to give it to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They’ve been together for a long time. They’ve been really productive over the years. There have been a lot of good QB-coach tandems in the past and present, but I would say it’s them because of their relationship.
FS: A lot has been made of Deflategate. With your experience at WR is it easier to catch the ball in the cold when it’s deflated more?
JR: Yeah, it will give you an advantage. If the ball is deflated in cold conditions you’ll be able to feel the texture a bit better. You’re going to squeeze the ball better. I’ve played in cold conditions before. I remember in 1988 in Chicago (NFC title game), the ball felt like a frozen brick it was so cold. So yeah, it gives you an edge, but you still have to throw it and catch it. I remember in 2011 Tom Brady said he prefers his balls a little deflated. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth because in 2007 you have Spygate and now you have deflated balls. It puts more pressure on New England to win this game because if they don’t win, everyone is going to say they didn’t win because they didn’t have the deflated balls.