Young Must Feel Slighted
June 6 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Joe Montana seemed to have fun at the 49ers current mini-camp. He was on target and looked nearly ready to step right back into the league. Bill Walsh praised his protégé, at every opportunity. Somewhere in all of this excitement, Steve Young got thrown back into the shadows that he brought light to after winning the 1994-5 Super Bowl. Steve, the other quarterback couldn’t have been that happy with was not being said about him.
The debate over which 49ers quarterback was better, Joe or Steve, stems back to the end of Montana’s time with the 49ers, and the beginning of Young as the team’s starter. I for one have always been on the Montana bandwagon. Watching highlights of him now, and live back then, it was like watching the Mona Lisa being painted, or David being sculpted - true art. The mechanics Montana brought to the field, the deep understanding of the game, it all made him a better quarterback. Of course it helped that the offensive system Walsh designed, was done so with Montana as the ideal quarterback. Joe’s competitiveness, his uncanny ability to do the impossible was all just a part of what made him an icon. A legend with four Super Bowl rings, Joe, in my eyes is simply unparalleled.
Of course it’s not hard to make a case for Steve either. He was no doubt the more athletic of the two players, racking up significantly more run yardage than Joe. Steve was as much a threat to run the ball as the team’s running backs, and at times was the team’s leading rusher. He certainly carried the team on his shoulders, showing toughness while playing through injuries in the same manner that Joe did. Steve tossed more touchdowns to any one player in the league (Jerry Rice) than any other quarterback; he amassed countless passing titles while driving an explosive offense fueled from passion, desire and his left arm. He was a big part of the success for about a decade.
So how could Steve not have felt a little slighted when the 49ers’ Papa - Bill Walsh, made his favorite quite evident? "This is something we should have for history, of Joe's fundamentals and mechanics for playing the position, because Joe Montana was clearly the greatest quarterback and maybe the greatest player of all time. His mechanics were the best in the history of the game, and so we want that on tape." Walsh had put more coaching hours in with Joe, than with Steve, but was responsible for brining both players to the 49ers, and in a large way responsible for both their success. While he was off putting Montana on a pedestal, Steve had to have been thinking, “what about me?”.
This debate really will never end. Those who support Steve, will always, and likewise with Joe. But as 49ers fans, and fans of the game, we have all grown to appreciate the greatness of these two players. We understand at a deeper level, just how lucky the 49ers were to have these guys at quarterback. They have become such legends for the team, and the fans, we think of them as friends, calling them by their first names - something rarely done in sports. Joe and Steve were certainly two of a kind, and it’s my hope that Garcia will be the third in a line of great quarterbacks.