In the past week I've had two separate discussions regarding the Joe Montana-Steve Young debate. I met up with our boy Matt Miller of Mocking the Draft and New Era Scouting for beers here in San Francisco and we cleared up whether we were "Montana guys" or "Young guys." Then yesterday, I got into a discussion with some friends at school about quarterbacks. The question was thrown out, who would you rather have: Joe Montana, Steve Young or Joe Montana. For the purposes of this post, we'll ignore Marino. He may have been a statistical beast, but this debate goes beyond mere numbers (not that we'll ignore statistics of course).
The question is not who do you think was better. Rather, it's this: Are you a "Montana guy" or are you a "Young guy?" I've even posted a poll for you to throw out your vote. It's really quite subjective because they brought different traits to the table and inspired varying degrees of fan support and entertainment.
There are of course the statistics. Feel free to check out Joe Montana and Steve Young and their respective pages at Pro Football Reference. Neither one lit up the statistics gun like Dan Marino, but neither was any slouch. Consider Young put up some seriously gaudy QB ratings in his career. Of course that's one reason I prefer to not discuss the statistics nearly as much. It's hard to compare across careers and places like Football Outsiders are still working on better metrics.
I'd rather think more about what Montana and Young brought to the table athletically and mentally. Young was the more athletic quarterback as he was a truly great scrambling quarterback who could make big things happen with his legs. He had a great scramble against Minnesota and another against Chicago in the playoffs, both of which I can still remember to this day. At the same time, Montana was no slouch. One of his defining moments, "The Catch," came as he scrambled out of the pocket and threw off his back leg, no easy accomplishment for ANY quarterback.
I think for any 49ers fan, it's both a very straight forward question and also a black and white question. While we all liked them both, we are all in one camp or the other. There were plenty of issues that came up when Montana and Young were teammates. However, this is not about who you thought should have been starting in the late 80s and early 90s before Montana left for Kansas City. This is about Montana in his mid 80s prime versus Steve Young when he was wheelin and dealin in the mid 90s.
So where do I fall? Well the two times I was asked in the past week I didn't hesitate to call myself a Steve Young guy. I'm a big Joe Montana fan and obviously he was simply amazing when he was calling the shots in the huddle. However, Young brought something that I don't know if I can describe. Maybe it was a certain charisma. I do know that I definitely think he was the more physically gifted of the two.
So the question becomes, what do you think. Are you a Montana guy? Are you a Steve Young guy? I think it's a black and white question with a black and white answer. I'm certainly curious about what drives other people into the Young and Montana camps.