Steve Young replaced Montana in 1993
On Sunday night, Aaron Rodgers completed one of the most magical stories in NFL history. The Cal Berkeley quarterback who sat in the proverbial green room on NFL Draft Day while guys like Alex Smith and Troy Williamson were being taken with earlier picks, can now call himself a Super Bowl Champion.
Even better than escaping from that nightmare has to be the sense of relief he must feel at no longer having to hear about Brett Favre and his inescapable shadow. These days, that shadow is being cast more by Rodgers than by Favre. Yet for all the accolades that the Green Bay quarterback is receiving, one cannot help but think that this is a story that has been told before.
Crawling out from under the shadow of a legendary player is not easy, and it certainly hasn't been easy for Rodgers. But as far as legendary players go, Brett Favre is a side note in the annals of NFL lore. Try being the guy who followed Walter Payton or Barry Sanders. Better yet, try being the guy who followed Joe Montana.
In 1993, 37-year old Joe Montana and his four Super Bowl rings were sent from the 49ers to the Kansas City Chiefs in a less-than-popular trade. Caught in the middle of the madness was a quarterback that was considered such a bust that he was traded for a 2nd and a 4th round pick. While those two players went on to have mediocre careers in the NFL, Steve Young went on to NFL glory and eventually the Hall of Fame.
The road for Steve Young wasn't easy. He backed up Montana for six seasons before finally being handed control of the legendary west coast offense. To say that the move to replace Montana with Young was an unpopular one with fans would be like arguing in favor of replacing Willie Mays with, well anyone else. Montana was a legend, giving the city of San Francisco four NFL championships and leaving a slew of records and awards along his path to the Hall of Fame.
Steve Young didn't fit the mold of an NFL quarterback at that time, at once a throwback and a glimpse at the future. He was a quarterback who could throw for accuracy, run for yards, and get in a linebacker's face all in one series. When he was done, Young left his own path of destruction on his way to the Hall of Fame. Much will be said about his inability to win multiple rings, but I doubt you'll find many who will question Young's Hall of Fame credentials.
On Sunday, Aaron Rodgers won what could be the first of several Super Bowl rings. The accolades he has received since then have all been well-deserved. It's certainly not easy to escape from the shadow of a legend, especially one that casts a shadow across the NFL. Ask Steve Young: I'm sure he's got a story or two to tell.