Steve Young on the aftermath of the 49ers QB change: “Is Jim up to this?”

Steve Young just spoke on KNBR. Here’s what he said about Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh.

YOUNG: I played a long time, and this is a big boy league, and it’s a tough league, and you get paid a lot of money, and there are huge expectations, and nothing is easy and nothing is guaranteed.

So, in those terms, the basic fundamentals here are: “We’ve got this young kid. We think he’s the star. We think the locker room will rally around him. We think he’s going to be able to handle it. We’ve got a great team that will support him, so that he can make mistakes and still win enough games. We believe he can go the distance, and you’re benched.” That’s what this is all about. This is the big boy stuff.

Alex is going to man up. It’s going to be brutal – I’m sure these are some of the most brutal days of his career. Despite all the things that he’s seen, this is a hard, hard time. To walk into work and see that your job is gone and still stay strong, do the work, be ready to play, not let the resentment get to you, not let the double talk that you’re getting from the building get to you – because they don’t know how to say it. They don’t know how to tell him. You set the record for most consecutive passes without an interception in franchise history, you ran up the most yards the offense has ever had in 49ers history this year, you were 18-of-19 – the best completion percentage in the history of the 49ers this year, we’re 7-2 and running away with the division, but you’re benched. That’s a tough one.

For Colin, can you imagine how much you must mean to this coach and to these guys and to this team? Despite all of that context, you’re the man. Go get it done. We believe in you. Go win a Super Bowl.

Because in many ways, if they go to the playoffs and they lose, they’re going to be in a tough spot, but there’s no turning back. Colin Kaepernick is the quarterback for the 49ers barring him imploding.

They’ll protect him enough him with a great running game, a phenomenal defense, everything about this team that’s going to protect him, put a cocoon around this kid.

And they believe he’s up to being able to get through that and go the distance. Because if they don’t go the distance, there’s going to be a ton of blowback, but I don’t think they care. I think they think: “Here’s the kid that’s going to do it. If we get blowback, we’re going go to the offseason and he’ll get better and better, and off we go.”

And that’s the tough reality for Alex right now. It’s over. It might not be over day to day, and it might not be over game to game, but unless Kaepernick implodes, they’ve made the decision, and it’s a big one, and it’s a precipitous one, and it’s a meaningful one, and it’s a painful one. I’ve been through enough to know that that’s the facts.

Obviously, for Colin, this is unbelievable, and a wonderful opportunity. And for Alex, a bitter, bitter pill. I can promise you that despite all the struggles Alex has had through his career – not many of them his own making – this is by far the most bitter and difficult thing he’s been through.

I thought to myself, “Is Jim up to this?” Bill Walsh was…you have to be very dynamic, very savvy to actually pull it off with your players, to actually maintain that authority that you want to have with your guys.

The players have watched him pounds Alex’s pads before games and develop a relationship with him. Players watch closely. Most coaches lose the respect of their players because at some point they see that it’s not authentic. And the one thing Jim has with them is he’s completely authentic.

And so this one’s a tough one. It’s going to test Jim to see if he can maintain that same authenticity.

Bill Walsh had a really sharp knife. You’d go meet with him, and you’d think things were going pretty good, and you’d leave and blood is dripping down your side. You guys know Bill’s history – he was the one that always got rid of people a year before they were ready. You do that enough, you build up a lot of resentment. But because he was so successful and so sure about it and so consistent – he would look you in the eye and say, “I know you don’t think you’re done, but you’re done.” And then off you’d go bleeding.

Bill was phenomenal, if that’s the word, at dealing with these difficult situations, and I’ve seen a lot of guys fail miserably when they’ve got to these white hot tough spots. It takes away from their authenticity. Jim can’t just go, “Gobble gobble turkey” on this one. He’ll have to work through it, but the good thing is he has a phenomenal locker room. A lot of mature, great young leaders that are going to be around a long time, and they truly do believe in him. He has a lot of built up equity with the guys in the locker room. That’s what he really has going for him.

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