greatest rivalry of the 20th Century. Joe
Montana vs. Steve Young. Two Hall-of-Famers trying to rule the NFL's version of Camelot.
From 1979-1987, Montana ruled with the vengeance of King Arthur. He
led the storied San Francisco 49ers to two Super Bowls and three NFC
Championships. However, in 1986, Montana underwent back surgery (after a week 2 injury). Legendary stories of cocaine used in hotel lobbies and restaurants in the Bay Area were common. Though the stories
were proven to be false, Montana health wasn't. Bill Walsh sensed Montana was banged out like Pam Anderson Lee and looked for a replacement.
Between 1986 and 1987, Young struggled for the Tampa Bay Bucs and went 3-16. However, Walsh watched
tape and liked Young's athleticism. In 1987, the 49ers went 13-2. Montana threw for 31 touchdowns. But Young started 3 games and threw 10 touchdowns. The 49ers lost against in the NFC Divisional Playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings. Montana
struggled mightily and was pulled out. Young was inserted and led two scoring drives. This set-up the quarterback controversy
The gauntlet was set for the '88 season. Young and Montana were fighting for the QB spot. Young was bitter about playing time. Montana was considered wash-up and slow. During the 1988 season, Montana was suffering from a myriad of
injuries. Walsh continued taking Montana out of
games (sometime close) for Young.Young was led them to a 6-5 record. A healthy
Montana managed to closed out the season with a five-game winning
streak and a Super Bowl win.
By 1989, Montana cemented himself as the best quarterback in the NFL history win a 14-2 record in the season (despite new Head Coach
George Seifert). During the playoffs, the 49ers beat their opposition
126-26. Montana threw 5 touchdowns to beat the Denver Broncos
55-10 in Super Bowl XXIII.
However, Steve Young was miserable about his role to Camelot
succeeding Montana. Young was beginning to see his ability go atrophied
(despite throwing 10 touchdowns in both 1989 and
1990). Trade rumors
to Oakland and Kansas City were rampant across the Bay Area. However, they never happened.
In 1990, the King of Camelot
cemented his place in NFL history with another MVP trophy. The 49ers ended up winning 14 games. In the Divisional Playoffs, Montana led the 49ers to a victory over the Redskins.
The 49ers led 13-12 in the NFC Championship against the Giants. However, Montana was knocked out of the game by defensive end
Leonard Marshall. The injury broke his elbow. Steve Young comes in and 49ers' running back Roger Craig fumbles. Giants' quarterback Jeff Hostetler sets up a Matt Bahr field goal and Giants victory.
Montana elbow injury forever relinquish his role as ruler of NFL
Camelot. The 49ers had to make the adjustment. The rivalry
reached a boiling point. Montana was
nursing a severed elbow injury that would keep him out of the whole 1991
season and the majority of the 1992 season. Finally, the heir apparent could rule.
However, the King began
giving the heir apparent verbal jabs and accused him for going to management and trying to sabotage his job.The blood was so bad that Montana was banned from the practice facility and probably took up
flying to see what the 49ers were doing (Montana has a pilot license).
Young became one of the premier quarterbacks in
the league. In 1991, Young won his first of six passing titles with a
101.8 passer rating. However, the heir had to endured more verbal
jabbing. Inconsistent play in 1991, led to fans (or town citizens in
King Arthur) and teammates (the King's men) alike to criticism of the
quarterback. He was accused of being a "pussy quarterback" by defensive
end Charles Haley and not giving All-Pro receiver Jerry Rice the ball
enough. The 49ers finished the 1991 season 10-6 and missed the
In 1992, Young led the 49ers to a 14-2 record and won the NFL MVP, after throwing a
league-leading 25 touchdowns. Many credit this to new Offensive
Coordinator Mike Shanahan. However, by the end of the season, King Arthur was
healing. And threw two touchdown drives against the Detroit Lions.
In the NFC Divisional playoffs, Young struggled against the defending Super Bowl
champion Washington Redskins. However, the 49ers won 20-13. Next up:The upstart Dallas Cowboys. A team that went 13-3. The heir apparent started
the game. Fans were now citing that King Arthur should play. Young went 25 for 35 for 313
yards with a touchdown passed. However, he threw two interception and lost 30-20.
The ruler of camelot was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Young was the undisputed ruler
of Camelot. However,
he would never escaped the shadow of King Arthur. Another NFC
Championship lost to the Cowboys in 1993 didn't help either.
The NFL courts decided to match the heir vs. the King in week two of
the 1994 season in Kansas City. The legions of fans in San Francisco
were cheering against Young and got their wish. The 49ers lost 24-17.
In the 1994 NFC playoffs, the 49ers erased the Bears and the
Cowboys to reach the 1994 Super Bowl. Young set
a Super Bowl record by throwing six touchdowns in a 49-26 whipping of the San Diego Chargers. Montana was
elected in the hall of fame in 2000; Young in 2005. But will never be the best of friends.