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San Francisco 49ers

Steve Young – Out of the shadow of greatness

By Jeremy Burnham

Today, it was announced that former San Francisco 49er QB Steve Young was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Young joins fellow Niner QBs Joe Montana and Y. A. Tittle. Steve Young was Born October 11, 1961, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Young was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1st round (1st pick overall) of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft. However, instead of the NFL, he chose to sign a contract with the USFL’s LA Express in what was the largest contract in pro sports history. His contract was for $40.1 million, with $34.5 million of the deal paid over 37 years in an annuity. Unfortunately, he only played there for two years before the league folded.

Young then signed a contract with the Bucs, the NFL team that had drafted him. He played for the Bucs in 1985 and 1986. Both of these years were very painful for Steve, his parents and his fans. Tampa Bay did not have a good line, and Young spent half of his Tampa days down in the dirt. After two very tough seasons in Tampa, including one with a passing rating of only 63.1, the Bucs decided they didn’t want him. They traded him to what some may have seen as the worst job in football. He was to be Joe Montana’s backup.

First of all, Montana still had a large number of good years left in him. And this was one backup job where you really had no chance at all of overtaking the starter. Second, if down the road Montana DID move on and Young had to take over, replacing the great Joe would surely be one of the toughest tasks in the world.

So, one can surely see how some people would call this the worst job in football. However, Young did not look at this way at all. Where other people would see hopelessness, Young saw a chance to learn from the best. Young learned what he could, and quietly waited for his chance. In the meantime, he made the best of his backup roll.

In 1987, his first season as backup QB for the 49ers, Young impressed greatly. He got to start for the injured Montana against the Saints, and was 5 for 6 with a TD before getting hurt himself in the 1st QT. However, he would get to play more that year. He replaced Montana in the game against the Bears, and threw 4 TD passes. He finished the season throwing only 69 passes, but for 570 yards, 10 TDs, no INTs and a passing rating of 120.8. He also saw action in a playoff game where he took over midway through the 3rd QT. In the short amount of time he got to play that game, he led the team in rushing with 72 yards and a TD. It was clear from that point on that Young had something Montana never had. A threat on the ground as well as through the air. This is what made him the QB he was.

Young’s job on the team would grow. Two years later in 1989, he saw action in 10 games. He started 3 of them. This year he thew 92 passes for 1002 yards and 8 TDs. He had 3 INTs as well. His passing rating this year was again 120.8. In the post-season, the Niners had a big enough lead in the Super Bowl that Young got to see some action. He went 2 out of 3 for 20 yards.

When he did get his shot to start, he really proved that he could be an NFL QB. In 1991, Joe Montana missed the season due to injury. Young stepped out of the shadow of Montana’s greatness. In Young’s first season as the starter, he led the league with the highest passing rating, 101.8. And this season, unlike the other seasons, he threw over the 100 pass cutoff that allowed his passing rating to count in the rankings.

In 1992, even though Montana was back, Young started for the 49ers and Montana was 2nd string. Young was named the NFL’s MVP with a passing rating of 107.0. Young threw 402 passes that year, well over 100 he needed to make the rating official.

Over the years, Young would go on to win a record 4 passing titles IN A ROW. He has an NFL record of 6 seasons in which he had a passing rating of over 100 while throwing at least 100 passes. Twice as many as Joe Montana’s 3. And seeing how Young had many fewer years as the team’s starter, that says a lot. Young also has a higher career passing rating than Montana. In fact, he has a higher career passing rating than ANYONE. By stats, he is the best passer in NFL history!  And what’s more, the passing rating doesn’t even take into account what a QB does running the football. There has never been a player who had a better pass/run combo than Steve Young. So, he is a better passer than Montana, and a better runner than Montana.  Add passing and running together and he is one hell of a QB.

His best year came in 1994. This may be the greatest 49er team ever to take the field. Young led the team to a 13-3 record and marched through the playoffs all the way to the Super Bowl. He was named the NFL Player of the Year with an NFL Record passing rating of 112.8. The one and ONLY thing Montana has on Young is more Super Bowls, but this is a TEAM accomplishment. Young did, however, make the best of his one Super Bowl he did get to as a starter. He threw an NFL record 6 TDs in the blowout win and was named Super Bowl MVP.

What truly made Young great though was his class. People remember him as a class act on and off the field.

Former Miami Coach Dave Wannstedt remembers what Young did on and off the field. ” Steve Young was not only a great champion on the field, but he was a leader and a role model off the field as well. He leaves the game having accomplished just about everything a QB can do, and he did it with  class and integrity. He will be missed by many!”

Steve Young, the greatest QB ever to play the game, welcome to the Hall of Fame. You deserve it!

Comments (and hate-mail from Montana fans) can be sent [email protected]

4 replies on “Steve Young – Out of the shadow of greatness”

Montana As a diehard 49er fan born in Marin County I would like to express my surprise me that somebody who clearly writes or has some affiliation with a 49er fan site would bash Montana when you could just praise Steve Young.  Both were great 49er players who deserve better than to be compared to each other like they always were.

Steve Young is one of the ten best quarterbacks to ever play the game of football.  Efficient passer.  Great scrambler.  Nobody was happier to see him win a Super Bowl than I was.  

However as somebody who has watched every single 49er game played over the past 27 years of my existence I will tell you that to say Young is better than Joe Montana is ridiculous.  Joe Montana is the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time.  Period.  End of Sentence.  End of Discussion.  

Nobody ever questioned Montana’s ability to win the big game.  Young always had problems beating the Cowboys and getting to the Bowl.  That is a fact and it is indisputable.  Joe Montana has Three Super Bowl MVP awards and was the guy who got the 49er dynasty up and running in 1981 with his Super Bowl win over Cincinnati.  Being the guy to get the ball rolling counts counts for something.  Four Super Bowl victories on his watch.  Young did an excellent job of running with the ball after Montana left.  However it was classic Montana winning the one matchup (which was maybe the Game of the Century in the Bay Area) when he beat Young at Arrowhead with the Kansas City Chiefs and was brilliant in the process.

right First of all, I don’t bash Montana at all. You are seeing things that are not there, so get your facts right. Next, it seems you don’t know a team accomplishment from a personal accomplishment. Montana’s TEAM won more SBs than Young’s TEAM. Montana did not do it on his own, and NO ONE argues that Montana did not have a better team around him for a longer amount of time. It is a fact, the only time Young had a time around him as good as Montana’s was in 1994, the year Young got his SB. That is a fact and as you would say, Period.  End of Sentence.  End of Discussion.

By the way By the way, thanks for voting for the article anyway man! It takes a big person to vote for people to be able to see something, even though they disagree. SO thanks man! You’re a good guy!

Yo Not a problem.  It was a good article.  

I just completely disagree with the premise that Young is better than Montana.  In my opinion it’s not even close.  

BTW, Young had more than one team that was good enough to win it.  His problem was he turtled up more than once against the Cowboys.

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