Steve Young on reconnecting with the 49ers’ legacy

Steve Young recognized the play: Double Wing, Slot Open, C Left, 200 Jet Lion.

It was a Bill Walsh play. Young ran the play nearly 20 years ago. And the New Orleans Saints ran the play in a do-or-die situation on Monday night against the Falcons.

It worked. The Saints scored a touchdown. The Saints won the game.

Young’s point: Of course it worked.

Bill Walsh’s ideas – from play-calling to practice to travel — are still being implemented, Young said this week on his weekly appearance on KNBR. The West Coast Offense, in various forms, is still thriving. And the best teams – the Saints, Patriots, Colts, Packers –are successfully drawing from Walsh’s revolutionary legacy.

Walsh’s team, however, is not. In the past eight non-playoff seasons, the Niners have cycled through Dennis Erickson (spread innovator), Mike Nolan (tough Ravens-style defense) and Mike Singletary (even tougher 1985-Bears-style defense).

In the process, they’ve completely lost contact with Walsh and the West Coast Offense.

The Steelers, Young said by way of example, have a tradition and legacy they’ve clung to and upheld. What is a Steeler? They know. You know.

Now try this: What is a 49er? Who knows?

“I think this all kind of started when Bill (Walsh) kind of finally left the building in 2003 and (former general manager) Terry Donahue did a nice job of kind of kicking everyone out that had anything to do with the legacy of the 49ers,” Young said. “So by 2003, I looked at the 49ers as an expansion team. They had left the legacy behind. Anything that had happened in the 20 years before that had kind of been washed away.”

Like many fans, which Young, in effect, is, he views this as a crucial moment for the rudderless franchise.

Will they hire a head coach, or general manager, or somebody who “puts a stake in the ground” and declares that the Niners will reconnect with what once made them great?

Not all NFL teams, he said, have such an opportunity. What is a Bengal?

“I want somebody in a position of authority to get a job and say, ‘I might not have been there. I might have not have played for Bill. I may not have coached – but I know what it was. And we are going to embrace it one thousand percent,’” Young said. “To be successful in the NFL, it is very difficult. And if it’s so difficult and you actually have a legacy to hold onto — and not only a legacy but a transformational legacy that changed football forever … Because I watch it every week now. I watched the Saints do it Monday night under pressure. It’s everywhere. Why aren’t we the purveyors of all good things that came out of that?”

At times during the interview, Young – again, like so many fans – sounded frustrated and almost desperate. He believes he has some common-sense advice. He just hopes somebody will listen.

“If we’re going to change now, I’m going to speak up and say ‘OK, now try it. Please,’” Young said. “… I’m not looking for anyone to grab hold of me. Or Joe. Or Jerry. It’s not the people. It’s the usefulness. I think it’s the best chance we have to finally get back to the Super Bowl … If it’s Harbaugh, then, please, Jim, speak that publically. Tell us all that that’s going to be a piece of the puzzle.”

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