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MIKE DOWNEY

THE JURY ON JOE : The Kansas City Chiefs Believed They Needed Joe Montana to Reach the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers Thought Steve Young Was the Quarterback for Them. With the Chiefs and 49ers a Victory Away From What Would Be a Classic Super Bowl Showdown, the Debate Still Rages About Who Got the Better Deal. Today's Conference Championship Tests Will Be Strictly . . . Pass or Fail : Neither Guy Is a Bad Pick, but 49ers Made the Right Call

January 23, 1994|MIKE DOWNEY

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Joe Montana. Steve Young. Torn between two quarterbacks, you pluck the daisy petals of your mind. You play Joe. You play Joe not. You play Joe. You play Joe not.

QB or not QB, that is the question.

This has happened before. Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Shelley Long and Kirstie Alley. You have an original and you have a replacement.

Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig. Michael Crawford and Davis Gaines. George Patton and Omar Bradley. By necessity, you must exchange one for the other.

Pete Best and Ringo Starr. Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Dick York and Dick Sargent. Sometimes things change for the better; sometimes not.

Choosing can be murder. Ingrid Bergman had to choose between Paul Henreid and Humphrey Bogart. Lady Guinevere had to choose between King Arthur and Sir Lancelot. One had done so much for her. One could do so much for her.

Devotion. Emotion. Devotion. Emotion.

Jimmy Hoffa expected his job back. Frank Fitzsimmons had other ideas. Fitz enjoyed running the Teamsters. And they weren't exactly suffering without Jimmy.

Loyalty. Logic. Loyalty. Logic.

Coca-Cola gets the heave-ho. "New" Coke is introduced. Research supports the revised formula. Customers prefer the classic.

In with the old. Out with the new.

San Franciscans longed to have Montana back. 49ers felt that Young was, well, Young Montanastein. They considered him the "New" Montana. But customers preferred the classic.

Arguments raged. We owe Joe. Yes, but we need Steve. Joe, don't go. Steve can't leave. Joe was MVP. Steve is MVP. Joe got us where we are today. No, Joe got us where we were yesterday. Steve is better for us today. Yes, but Joe is Joe. Joe is our hero. Steve is our future. Don't forget the past. Don't stop thinking about tomorrow.

Tough call.

But OK, here are 49 reasons why the 49ers should have no regrets, no matter how it must hurt.

1. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a Mike Scioscia to try a Mike Piazza.

2. At the last minute, they did offer Joe his job back. He left anyway.

3. Montana's body is in so many pieces, kids could play with it like Lego.

4. Steve Young is so good, he passes to himself.

5. Young's young.

6. Without him, the 49ers might have beaten the Rams by only three touchdowns.

7. The only thing Young would have done differently with Dwight Clark would have been throwing to the left corner of that end zone.

8. Yes, Joe did have a whole town in Montana named after him. But Steve had a whole college named after his great-great-granddaddy Brigham.

9. Ronnie Lott got the 49ers to all those Super Bowls, too. But they replaced him , didn't they?

10. Missouri needed Montana.

11. Montana's receivers aren't the only ones who know how to spike footballs on banners of Buddy Ryan's face.

12. Joe missed five games in 1993.

13. Joe missed 15 games in 1992.

14. Joe missed 16 games in 1991.

15. Steve threw 29 touchdown passes this season. Joe threw 13.

16. Steve passed for 4,023 yards. Joe for 2,144.

17. It wasn't Young's fault that Dallas came up with Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith just as he was taking Montana's place.

18-48. Steve had to play with Tampa Bay. The poor man's been through hell. Give him a break.

49. With quarterbacks, there are no guarantees. There are only options.

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