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The Young 49ers
Rick Reilly
September 30, 1991
San Francisco needed a victory on Sunday, and so did Steve Young
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September 30, 1991

The Young 49ers

San Francisco needed a victory on Sunday, and so did Steve Young

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Even 49er wideout Jerry Rice hinted that things weren't going well with the new guy. He complained that Young had not thrown to him enough in a season-opening loss to the New York Giants. A week later Rice told The Washington Post, "I miss Joe out there."

However, the unkindest cut of all came from Montana. "Steve is on a big push for himself," Montana told The Washington Post. "And any time you have a competition, there is always that certain amount of animosity toward each other. I can say we have only a working relationship. That's all it is. After that, he's on my team, but as far as I'm concerned, he's part of the opposition. He wants what I have."

Here are three guesses why Montana did it. He's either a) still gun-shy from the 1988 preseason, when Walsh threw open the quarterback job; b) reacting to the so-called guarantee of more playing time that current 49er coach George Seifert reportedly gave Young this year as an incentive to re-sign with San Francisco; or c) a man who is a football deity on the outside but still the seventh-string Notre Dame freshman on the inside, trying to look taller so the coach will notice him.

Still, Young has not bitten back. In fact, since taking over as starter, Young has said almost nothing you would want to commit to Bic and pad. That is especially odd, because Young used to be a regular on the All-Interview and Hale-Fellow-Well-Met Team. He is a great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young himself and has been speaking in public since he was eight. His gift of gab is such that he is attending law school in the off-season in hopes of becoming a prosecutor. For all of that, he is wonderfully sufferable.

Though he is a millionaire, he does not seem to have the foggiest idea what to do with all the money. He drives a five-year-old Jeep, seems to shop from the back of Boys' Life magazines and does not own a home in the Bay Area. Instead, he bunks in a room at guard Harris Barton's house in Palo Alto. And in the off-season, when Young's at home in Provo, Utah, he can usually be found eating dinner at Joe's Spic and Span, which has a fire marshall's occupancy limit of 20.

Suddenly, though, he seemed to be having about as much fun as a toll collector on the New Jersey Turnpike. Says offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, "I'd like him to enjoy it a little more. He's waited a long time for this."

Says Young, exasperated, "Hey, everybody wants me to laugh. I'm thinking, Hey, I gotta work."

His first three weeks as the starter were nothing but work. He opened up in Super Bowl XXV� against the Giants at the Meadowlands, drove the Niners to the go-ahead touchdown with 13:37 left and ended up losing 16-14. Afterward, he was criticized for not being himself, for not running enough and not putting many points on the board. In fact, he was staying in the pocket as he had been told, running an offense that had been designed around Montana. And hardly anybody mentioned that in Montana's last two games against the Giants the Niners scored 20 points—total.

The next week Young destroyed the Chargers 34-14 while putting up his gaudiest numbers as a pro: 26 completions in 38 attempts and a good par 4's worth of yardage (348). But he seemed sluggish that first half, didn't he?

Against the Vikings, Young threw two touchdown passes, but the 49ers lost 17-14. Three times San Francisco moved inside the Minnesota 20-yard line and got zilch. Boy, this guy can't get it done in the clutch, can he?

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