Steve Young spoke about Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers yesterday afternoon on the Razor and Mr. T show on KNBR.
Here’s what Young said.
Q: Talk about the 49ers.
YOUNG: Well this is a phenomenal story. I actually don’t care what happens from here. What we wanted to do – and I do care, I’m over stating it – but what I’m saying is, what we wanted to do – we, now I’m we – what they wanted to do this year was set up camp, base camp, to bring back some of the 49ers way and invoke kind of the quarterback-centric system, focused system whereby you tell the quarterback: “Everything’s about you. Not because you’re the most important but because we’re going to call plays that will make you successful, make you comfortable. We’re going to protect, we’re going to figure out ways to get you in a good place, because if you play well everyone plays well.” That was Bill’s philosophy. And that’s back.
We wanted to set up a base camp where we – ah, we! – they looked like they knew what they were doing. And they’ve done it in spades. They go on the road in a game they’re supposed to win, that, to me, the Redskins are kind of fallen backward, and they have to go cross-country for the fourth time, and they just go do it. I was thinking about it before the game, I was like: “So, a nice little 20-10,show that you’re in control…” You almost can predict what the 49ers are going to do! You say, “That’s how they should go handle this one,” and they go do it.
Think about where we were a year ago, two years ago, four years ago, eight years ago. There was nothing positive to predict. You could predict negative. Oh, you could do that every week, but now we’re at a place where we’re a team that I think we can believe in, have faith in. We can believe that they’re going to take care of business. I applaud everyone involved for what they’ve accomplished.
Q: This wasn’t supposed to happen this way with the lockout.
YOUNG: In fact, we thought, “Give them a few weeks just to get to know each other.” And early on when they won but it wasn’t pretty and they lost to the Cowboys , we talked about it. They’d been together for six or seven weeks. What if they were together ten weeks? Or Twelve weeks? But I do believe it’s not going to be smooth sailing. They’re going to get punched in the mouth, but I think we can predict what their reaction is going to be. They’re not going to capitulate to the moment. They’re going to fight and they might get beat, but they’re going to be a tough out, and I think they’re going to be a tough out in January. They’re going to be in January. They’re going to waltz to the division title. So, it’s a lot of fun.
Let’s talk about where we go from here to make it an even greater story, and that’s offensively. Defensively, let’s just keep doing this. Let’s force the turnover. Let’s hold people under three touchdowns. Pack it up when we go on the road and carry it with us. Let’s do all that. Ok, great. Defense.
Now, offensively, is where if we’re actually going to threaten – and we might as well, we’re 7-1, let’s go deep! Let’s do it! – I talked about this a couple week ago, at some point as we have some games to, not waste, but some games to toy a little bit, not toy, what’s the word, we have games that we have to really push the envelope, let’s do it offensively, let’s throw the ball 40 times just once, just to see how it goes. Let’s go no huddle. Let’s go win it with the passing game. Let’s say, “That’s what we’re going to do.” Because if we can develop another kind of set – because we can run it, obviously, we’ve got a great running game, we can pack it – I don’t want to be greedy, but I want it to be useful, because if everybody agrees that they’re more predictable, we know what we’re going to get week to week, then why not? Why say: “Good year. We went to the playoffs. We went one-and-out. But, boy, next year! Look what we can do!” No, we’re here!
Q: Eli Manning is really playing well, isn’t he?
YOUNG: Yeah, he is. There’s certain personality traits that I love, and I think they’re common in the great players I’ve known – Dan Marino, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, my generation, Joe, and then this generation, Peyton and Tom – there’s a lot of differences but there’s one common trait, it’s that over-my-dead-body, that kind of, take it in the context I mean, the assassin. There’s a personality trait that comes out and makes sure that things get done. And Eli, he doesn’t come across that way to me. He’s kind of milquetoast as a personality. He’s kind of: “If it goes well, great. If it doesn’t go well, great.” But what I think’s happened is enough time has gone by and he’s built his own resolve with his own personality. I don’t think he has that trait that all those guys had, but he’s taken his own unique personality and developed his own steely resolve. I think it’s just taken that much time to put it all together. Someone asked him in the preseason, “Are you an elite quarterback,” and he answered, “Yes.” And I applauded him. Eli, good job! If you don’t think you are, then no one else is going to think you are. I don’t know that he would have said that before. So the fact is he is, mostly because he says he is.
Q: Alex Smith is really spreading the ball around. How difficult is that to defend?
YOUNG: This the perfect scenario. As a quarterback this is perfect. You’re 7-1, head of the division. You’ve got a defense that’s handing the ball back to you. You’ve got a running game that people have to pay attention to. They put the extra man in the box. You can put the ball in Frank’s belly and pull it back out and people are going to pay attention. And now you’ve got this committee that’s out there willing to work hard to get open. You’ve got some real star players at tight end. You’ve got people that can really do some stuff.
I feel like with Alex, we worried about him just surviving without getting booed off the field early on. Big mistakes, people wouldn’t put up with it. Now he’s at a place where he can literally take the 40 balls and spread them out and expand the field. And then what will happen is, if we can start to do that and put people back and on their heels, then Frank’s going to run for 150 yards not even trying. Remember the years when we led the league in passing, but we also led the league in rushing and we led the league in defense.
They have a great foundation. It’s almost like an artist with an open palette – you can go create. It’s the perfect, wonderful scenario for Alex. I’m excited for him that he’s in this spot. I hope they give him that opportunity to continue to grow.
Q: Will the Niners beat the Giants?
YOUNG: I actually feel like the 49ers can, should beat the Giants. I don’t want to put pressure – and again, no one cares what I think – but I feel like we’re that good of a team now.
Q: It seems like the best thing Harbaugh does is accentuate the strengths while minimizing the weaknesses of the roster. Would you agree?
YOUNG: You’ve got to add what Bill did, and no Jim does, and that is break down the cultural barriers that keep people from appreciating or loving or respecting each other. What he’s done is he’s gotten into the locker room. He’s done the work not on the field or tactically, he’s done it in the locker room where he’s broken it down and he’s used techniques that Bill used to use to make sure that he integrated everyone from position, from religion, from race to socioeconomic background to geography – all the things that separate people he starts to tear them down so that they’re forced together. They’re forced to have a relationship. They’re forced to interact. There are teams in this league that the older players have no idea who the younger players on the team are. They don’t know their names. Jim has broken that down and that’s what Bill was always great at. To me, that’s half the battle. That’s the easy work to do, but no one does it, and I’ve got to give Jim credit for it.
Q: It really seems like 90 percent of the Niners success is because of Harbaugh.
YOUNG: What’s happened is for ten years we dismantled everything that we were to where it was just flat on the ground. And now Jim is starting to use those things that are now kind of a commodity in the NFL – the 49er way. I see it when I go watch Green Bay play, when I watch Baltimore play, when I watch New England play. That’s not the Bill Walsh tree, but the things that we did, that we introduced, that Bill introduced, that Joe introduced, the way they practiced, the schedule, the meeting times, the speeches, the offense, the techniques, the tactics, the artistry, all that stuff, it’s everywhere now. And that’s what made me crazy that last few years, it wasn’t here! I’d watch the Saints play, I’d watch the Falcons play, all of them had these elements that I was familiar with, that I would say: “That feels good. That looks good. It sounds good.” And then I’d come home and it’s like, “This is a nightmare.” But now, we’re invoking all that good stuff again. It’s relieving, to be honest with you.