Young to Remain as Montana’s Backup
After an off-season filled with trade rumors and some personal frustration, Steve Young has agreed to quietly finish out the final year of his contract as the 49ers’ backup quarterback to Joe Montana.
“My deep, darkest feeling is that I’d like to be a San Francisco 49er (starter) before I’m 40 years old,” Young joked Tuesday as the defending NFL champions opened a three-day mini-camp.
“The way it’s going to go this year is, I’ll play a lot and I’ll play very good and I’ll be that much better than I was last year. Because of that, I’ll put myself in the position where I’ll be just too qualified to be in that (backup) spot.”
Young, who will be 29 in October, said he was told by agent Leigh Steinberg “that a number of teams showed interest” in a trade. But, in the end, Young admitted he was won over by some flattery from the 49ers’ management.
The lobbying began when Young and Steinberg met with owner Eddie DeBartolo and subsequently with coach George Seifert. For the coup de grace, offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren made a March trip to Brigham Young University, where Young attends law school. Holmgren also was Young’s position coach at BYU.
“They said they needed me to win another Super Bowl,” Young recalled, summarizing the 49ers’ sales pitch.
Young’s contract, which will pay him $1.1 million this year, expires at the end of the season. He said the 49ers wanted an extension, which he refused. However, with the team preparing to renegotiate Montana’s contract next month, it wouldn’t be surprising if Young were promised some sweeteners in his deal, too.
Montana deferred all mini-camp interview requests until Wednesday.
Following the Super Bowl, Steinberg indicated he and Young planned to meet with Montana to see how much longer he planned to play.
A short time later, Montana, who will be 34 on June 11, said he intended to play anywhere from three to five more years.
By choosing to stay with San Francisco, Young is under no illusion that he will replace Montana as the starter. After all, Montana has led the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles and is coming off perhaps his best season, when he was named the league’s MVP.
“The realities are obvious to everybody,” Young said. “What we talked about was we knew that I was going to be here, but it would be easier. Things wouldn’t be left unsaid.”
It’s best for him, Young said, not to dwell on his role as merely a backup.
“Until he’s a starting quarterback, Steve will always be restless,” Seifert said. “But his competitiveness is his strength and our strength.”