Young sees Kaeper­nick sit­u­a­tion a lit­tle dif­fer­ently

Sunday Star - - SPORTS -

— Joe Mon­tana re­cently made head­lines with his take on Colin Kaeper­nick, and if one leg­endary San Fran­cisco quar­ter­back opin­ing on the re­cent ex-49er is good, two is bet­ter, right? Es­pe­cially if the se­cond leg­endary San Fran­cisco quar­ter­back hap­pens to be Steve Young, who, not sur­pris­ingly, didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with his for­mer team­mate.

Asked about Kaeper­nick’s in­abil­ity to find work in the NFL in the wake of his na­tional an­them protests last sea­son, Mon­tana had taken is­sue with the free agent quar­ter­back’s ac­cu­racy, but he was mostly crit­i­cal of the “dis­trac­tions in the locker room” Kaeper­nick cre­ated for the 49ers. “I think changes were nec­es­sary” in San Fran­cisco, Mon­tana told the Sport­ing News, adding, “They needed to clean house, [get] a dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere in that build­ing.”

Mon­tana also echoed oth­ers’ ques­tions about how much Kaeper­nick, who has con­tin­ued his heavy in­volve­ment in so­cial is­sues, is de­voted to foot­ball. Young picked up that theme Fri­day, say­ing, “I’d have to sit down with him, look him in the eye, see what he re­ally wants to do, see how much work he has in him.”

In an in­ter­view with KNBC’s “Murph and Mac” show, Young said, “If he wants to work — the guy can play.” The two-time NFL MVP added that he “can’t imag­ine” Kaeper­nick not want­ing to “get bet­ter.”

Then Young sharply di­verged from Mon­tana’s opin­ion on Kaeper­nick, say­ing, “I’m sur­prised, even with the sit­u­a­tion last year with the kneel-down dur­ing the na­tional an­them, that peo­ple can’t see through that and see, here’s a good player that wants to play and is not toxic in the locker room.”

Young did take is­sue with Kaeper­nick’s quar­ter­back skills, but in a dif­fer­ent way than Mon­tana, who had in­voked the in­fa­mously in­ac­cu­rate Tim Te­bow in sug­gest­ing that Kaeper­nick’s com­ple­tion per­cent­age was too low. For Young, it was more a ques­tion of the six-year NFL vet­eran, who helped the 49ers reach Su­per Bowl XLVII, finding the right “fit” in terms of of­fen­sive scheme.

“He’s the kind of guy who’s go­ing to come off a play fake, see a guy, throw it,” Young said. “If you want him to read through, you want him to find the fourth re­ceiver, the out­let — that’s prob­a­bly not his game.

“So he’s got to find the right spot for him­self.”

Many thought that spot was go­ing to be Seat­tle, where his skills ap­peared to mesh with those of starter Rus­sell Wil­son, and which was the only NFL team known to have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in Kaeper­nick. How­ever, the Sea­hawks signed Austin Davis in­stead, leav­ing Kaeper­nick to pos­si­bly wait for an in­jury, as Mon­tana the­o­rized, be­fore latch­ing on some­where.

In the mean­time, we were of­fered a re­minder that Mon­tana and Young were at the cen­ter of the great­est “quar­ter­back con­tro­versy” in league his­tory, one that lasted six tense sea­sons in San Fran­cisco. While both went on to win cham­pi­onships and elec­tion to the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame, “Joe Cool” was the epit­ome of com­po­sure in me­thod­i­cally dis­sect­ing de­fenses, whereas the more ex­citable Young was apt to use his ex­cep­tional mo­bil­ity to break big plays.

Young even­tu­ally de­vel­oped into one of the most ac­cu­rate passers of all time, and the 49ers ul­ti­mately chose to part ways with the older Mon­tana, who had de­vel­oped a his­tory of back prob­lems. Mon­tana ended his ca­reer with the Chiefs, and in 1995, when Young led the 49ers to the Su­per Bowl, he said he would be root­ing for the Charg­ers be­cause he was “an AFC guy now.”

For his part, Kaeper­nick showed that he was aware of Mon­tana’s crit­i­cism by retweet­ing a post that noted the four-time NFL MVP had crossed the picket line dur­ing the 1987 NFL strike. Young, by con­trast, de­clined to re­turn to the 49ers, which he joined that year in a trade, be­fore the strike ended.

NHAT V. MEYER/TNS

From left, San Fran­cisco 49ers’ Eli Harold (58), quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel dur­ing the na­tional an­them be­fore their NFL game against the Dal­las Cow­boys on Sun­day, Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif.

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