A spokesman for Procrastinators Anonymous, Inc., Ltd., said last week that, although they may never get around to it, they would very much like to name a Procrastinator of the Year.
And if they do, he said, they will select Joe Montana, the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback.
The Procrastinators Anonymous spokesman, who kept referring to his group by its familiar nickname, Pro An, said that in the past six months, "Joe has dillied and dallied so beautifully that the 49ers were still behind four times before winning in the fourth quarter."
What's more, according to Pro An records, the 49ers in the past 10 years have been behind 19 times before winning in the fourth quarter.
"Joe really ought to be the Procrastinator of the Decade," the spokesman said. "We've never had anyone else who fooled around that long before winning 19 games."
Actually, he said, the total is 24 games, counting the five times that Notre Dame came from behind in the fourth quarter with Montana.
This year's runner-up in the Pro An poll is Jim Everett, the quarterback who rescued the Rams three times and came within three or four fumbles of rescuing them six times.
In today's game, Everett will be out to catch Montana and become Co-Procrastinator of the Year.
A great deal depends on who's ahead in the fourth quarter.
"Jim has a shot at the single-season record, but he will never match Joe's career record," the Anonymous source said flatly. "I feel confident in predicting that in the next 100 years, you won't see any other football player make 24 big-time comebacks."
According to a survey of Pro An members--few of whom, unfortunately, got around to voting--Montana's best 10 comebacks include:
1. 49ERS 20, BENGALS 16
1989 SUPER BOWL
With 34 seconds left, Cincinnati's 16-13 lead disappeared when split end John Taylor caught Montana's 10-yard pass in the end zone, ending a 92-yard 49er drive in the last three minutes. Actually, Montana sustained the drive for 107 yards, overcoming a holding penalty with a 27-yard pass to wide receiver Jerry Rice on second and 20. The Bengals twice moved ahead in the fourth quarter, but Montana pulled it out with 12 completions in his last 15 throws for 222 yards. "It was my biggest comeback," Montana said last week.
2. NOTRE DAME 35, HOUSTON 34
1979 COTTON BOWL
With 7 1/2 minutes left, Houston led Notre Dame, 34-12. In a Texas freeze, the Irish got 23 points on a blocked punt by Tony Belden, a run by Montana, a pass by Montana and two two-point conversion passes by Montana. The winning touchdown came on a last-second pass after Houston had missed on fourth and one at the Houston 29. The wind-chill reading was below zero when Montana, afflicted with hypothermia, started the second half in the locker room, where the doctors finally brought his temperature up.
3. 49ERS 38, SAINTS 35
At halftime, New Orleans led, 35-7. The 49ers, scoring the next four touchdowns and adding a field goal in overtime, became the only NFL team to come back from 28 points down. In Coach Bill Walsh's second season, the 49ers began the rally with a touchdown run by Montana and two scoring passes. He directed a 78-yard drive to catch the Saints at the wire. The winning overtime drive was sustained for 55 yards.
4. 49ERS 28, COWBOYS 27
1981 NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
In the 49ers' first NFC Championship game, Dallas was ahead with 51 seconds left, 27-21, when, on third and three, Montana raced to his right and threw the winning six-yard touchdown pass to Dwight Clark, who was also running to his right along the end line when he made what is now called "The Catch" in 49er lore. Five minutes earlier, Montana had begun a characteristic fourth-quarter drive, an 89-yard move that launched the 49ers' three-Super Bowls era.
5. 49ERS 27, BENGALS 26
With six seconds left, Cincinnati Coach Sam Wyche unknowingly borrowed a tactic that the University of Houston used, to its regret, against Montana's Notre Dame team in the '79 Cotton Bowl. The Bengals were ahead, 26-20, when they strangely tried a fourth-down run at the Bengal 30. They missed. Montana, on the next play, threw the winning touchdown pass to Rice.
6. NOTRE DAME 31, PURDUE 24
Injured and out of football in 1976--after leading Notre Dame to big wins as a sophomore in 1975--Montana had dropped from second to third team as the Irish split their first two games in 1977. Then Purdue took a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter. Coming on as Coach Dan Devine's third quarterback that day, Montana moved the Irish three times, ending a 17-point rally with a 58-yard drive to the winning touchdown with 1:39 left. Promoted to No. 1, he led Notre Dame past USC, 49-14, and on to the 1977 national championship.
7. USC 27, NOTRE DAME 25
Because Montana was facing a clearly better team, this ranks over most of his fourth-quarter rallies. His defense couldn't hold the lead after Montana drove Notre Dame ahead, 25-24, in the last 46 seconds. Earlier in the fourth quarter, the Irish had seemed badly beaten, 24-6. The Montana surge in the last 12 minutes started with a 57-yard touchdown pass play, continued with a 98-yard touchdown march and ended with a two-yard scoring pass.
8. 49ERS 24, RAMS 21
En route to the Super Bowl, the 49ers made two impressive winning comebacks. In New Jersey, they were losing to the New York Giants in the last 42 seconds, 17-13, when a 78-yard pass from Montana to Rice pulled it out. Then, in Anaheim, going into the fourth quarter, the Rams led, 21-17, when, on third and 19, Montana started the winning 93-yard drive with a 31-yard completion.
9. 49ERS 38, EAGLES 28
En route to today's NFC title game, the 49ers made fourth-quarter comebacks to beat Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Philadelphia and a Ram team that led by 17 points in the opening minutes, and again by 17 points in the final minutes. The most typical of the season's Montana comebacks was his four-touchdown fourth quarter in Philadelphia on Sept. 24. In the midst of it, the Eagles twice led by 11 points, 21-10 and 28-17. The 49ers' fourth-quarter drives, all ending with Montana touchdown passes, went 91, 75, 47 and 39 yards.
10. MONTANA 1, BACK SURGERY 0
His quick return from early-season back surgery was the most unbelievable of all Montana comebacks, doctors still say. Some advised him to give up football forever after they discovered a congenital spinal stenosis when they operated for an acute ruptured disk.
Injured at Tampa in the 49ers' opening game, Montana underwent surgery on Sept. 15 and returned to football Nov. 9 with a startling performance against the St. Louis Cardinals, throwing three long touchdown passes to Rice. A week later, he completed 33 of 60 passes for a Montana-record 441 yards at Washington.
Procrastinators Anonymous has never forgiven him for getting 210 of the 441 yards in the first half.