Fred Quillan was the mainstay center of the 49ers for most of Montana’s time at quarterback, joining the team in 1978 as a seventh-round pick from Oregon and leaving only in the summer of 1988. He was traded to the Chargers for Wes Chandler that summer and decided to retire rather than try to make the move south.
He made the Pro Bowl in 1984 and ’85, then, after his playing days ended, was a coach with the San Francisco Demons of the very short-lived XFL and a coach for the World League in Europe. Looking back on his and Montana’s career, Quillan said: “I remember the worst year of my life was when I told a reporter that Steve DeBerg was better prepared to be our quarterback. Because Joe was so quiet, we just didn’t know about his leadership. Midway through his second season, he proved it. He came into the huddle and it was like a different team. He inspired such respect in us and, more important, trust.”
Quillan added: “That’s why one of the low points of my career was missing my guy in New York during the ’86 playoffs and watching Jim Burt knock Joe out of the game. Joe stayed in New York with a concussion that night, while I went crazy on the airplane home.”