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Brady/Garoppolo is a nice what-if of Montana/Young

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The 49ers decided to deal Montana instead of Young, that worked out. But what if Montana stayed?

Steve Young Joe Montana commercial

The details surrounding the Jimmy Garoppolo trade are right now fuzzy at best, and given how esoteric the New England Patriots are, details won’t be available any time soon. What is known is this isn’t a Matt Cassel offload that will taint the trade destination. At least not yet.

A tweet came out today from NBC Sports Journalist Ryan Burr suggesting that Tom Brady was the one to be traded after 2017:

Burr is better known for covering golf and basketball than he is the New England Patriots, but there have been several other reports on how much Bill Belichick wanted to continue the dynasty with a second quarterback, akin to Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers and Joe Montana/Steve Young. Patriots owner Robert Kraft said otherwise.

Actually, this sounds like a huge what-if. What if Joe Montana and Steve Young went the other direction?

The Joe Montana/Steve Young quarterback controversy was something that just couldn’t be made up. The moment the media thrust a mic towards Bill Walsh during 1988’s training camp, he announced there was a quarterback controversy, and did everything he could to get Steve Young playing time. In Young’s autobiography, he even states that while he and Montana helped each other and were good teammates with little in common, the one thing they did share was resentment of Bill Walsh.

In the 1988 season, Young and Montana were sharing playing time akin to pitchers in baseball. They would rotate in games, starting one, finishing the next. The experiment ended once Montana had to dig the team out of 6-5 start and save a playoff appearance.

Once Montana’s injury happened however, he was sidelined for nearly two seasons, something that allowed Young time to come in and entrench himself as the starter. Montana returned towards the end of the 1992 season, but the writing was on the wall. To avoid a locker room split, Montana asked to be traded and a deal neared completion. Despite all of this, 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was committed to keeping Montana. So much so, he was on his way to Montana’s house to convince him to stay with the 49ers and void the deal. Hearing of this, Young demanded to be traded, but then Montana was shipped off to Kansas City anyways, the trade complete. Montana had two more seasons with the Chiefs before calling it a career and Young continued the 49ers dynasty with a Super Bowl win.

When reading Burr’s tweet the first thing that stuck out was a weird parallel dimension on what-if Montana was the one kept and Young got traded. The 49ers were rumored to be shopping Young in an offseason, but nothing came to fruition. In hindsight, it was the right move as the team would have gotten two, maybe three years out of Montana had he stuck around, while Young could have revived a franchise or flamed out in a different offensive system.

Given Brady’s greatness, there’s no battling Father Time. Belichick, and the Patriots by extension, know that the the end is drawing near for one of the greatest quarterbacks if not the greatest to play the game. Kraft’s emotions may have gotten in the way though and the 49ers are the beneficiaries.

Sure, holding onto Montana would have been awesome because he was the apparent “face of the franchise”, but the 49ers knew they had to move on, even if it meant damaging relationships with the people that brought them to the promised land. There is the difference in that Montana was coming off a significant injury before getting traded, and there’s a much, much larger sample size of Steve Young. But, if what is going on behind the scenes in New England is true, the Patriots’ future has become the 49ers’ ray of hope.