Joe Montana vs Steve Young: My Internal Struggle To Evaluate

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Joe Montana vs Steve Young: My Internal Struggle To Evaluate
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

I was born in 1981, the year the 49ers won their first superbowl. It was the beginning of a dynasty that was enjoyed throughout my youth living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I was perhaps too young to truly appreciate the brilliance of Joe Montana from 1981-1986. There is no debate that Joe Montana was an immortal walking among us—who else could make L.A. Gear shoes look so cool?—not a mortal being.

Montana was elected to eight Pro Bowls as well as being voted first team All-Pro by the AP in 1987, 1989, and 1990. Montana had the highest passer rating in the NFC five times (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1989); and, in both 1987 and 1989, Montana had the highest passer rating in the entire NFL.

Joe Cool starred in four Superbowls and won all of them in case you forgot.

Montana had some difficult injuries in 1991 and was eventually traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, thus sparking the biggest controversy in my life.

The Chiefs mailed three jerseys to Joe, one was No. 3, his number at Notre Dame, No. 19, which he wore in little league, and No. 16, which Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson offered to let Montana wear since the organization retired it. It was so strange to see him wear that No. 19.

Young finished Joe's 1991 season with an NFL best 101.8 passer rating. Despite missing five full games and most of a sixth, he still threw for 2,517 yards and 17 touchdowns with only eight interceptions.

But, amid Young's strong season, the season for the team, and my family of jerks, was widely regarded as a disappointment. The 49ers had slipped from a 14–2 record in the previous season to a 10–6 record. While 10 wins is usually enough to make the playoffs in most inferior divisions, it wasn't for this one.

The controversy, at large, was this: My family (uncles, cousins, grandmothers, etc.) hated the move from Joe to Steve and never fully welcomed Young. I was on board with this hatred and scoffed when in 1991 my beloved Niners didn't make the playoffs.

I could mention the stats here and draw the comparisons, but I want to write this from my heart. For the first time in my life, at 12 years of age in 1993, I broke rank from my family and vocally encouraged Young.

How could family turn their backs on the 49ers? Steve Young was our guy and I applauded his athletic ability—LOUDLY. I was at the height of my sports awarenes—cards,  becketts, jerseys, games—I was a walking almanac.

Thus I APPRECIATED what Steve Young and the 49ers did in 1994 much more than ANY other prior Superbowl. For that, I have to leave this question up to my generation to decide (those born after 1977)—who did more for your love of the 49ers—Joe Cool or the Steve Young?

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