Steve Young spoke on KNBR Thursday afternoon. This is what he said.
Q: Let’s start off with the first half. What did you see that had the 49ers behind for a second straight week?
YOUNG: It was little stuff. It was things that you hadn’t seen before. You got the feeling like, not only the penalties, but the miscues and even the plays getting in. We’ve talked about this for a while. Every play seemed to be running down to the end of the play clock. Balls were just off the tips of fingers. It was just a combination of a lot of things.
Eight quarters of championship play – Atlanta and New Orleans – and three of them, offense and defense, were kind of wasted quarters. It’s just so hard to come back from it, especially in the Super Bowl.
That’s the classic blunder. You go into the Super Bowl and for whatever reason, whether it’s the moment or the game itself, a lot of teams, especially teams that end up losing the Super Bowl in my mind, don’t get started quickly. They get into halftime and they’ve wasted a bunch of time. There’s no rhyme or reason why it happened, but it was just a classic Super Bowl where you don’t get started. Believe me, I’ve been in championship games and wasted quarters, and I regret it and rue the day. That’s what ended up happening to the 49ers. The time that they spent fiddling around ended up costing them.
Q: How about the first play of the game, having an illegal formation penalty.
YOUNG: It was just ragged. It was ragged play from a team that’s never ragged, and that’s the part that’s unnerving. Jerry Rice and I sat together watching the game, and he was just emotional. He was getting fired up. He was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” He was highly emotional.
Every football game happens quickly, but a Super Bowl just flies by, and if you’re not careful it will just leave you behind.
Q: Does the fact that the slow start happened two games in a row give you a clue as to why it happened at all?
YOUNG: It’s details. It’s the little things. It’s the things great teams do without thinking about it. We got penalized way too much.
Did the coaches ask too much, or was the emotion of the game too much? They have to figure out what the root is, but what we saw was kind of ragged football until after the lights went out.
Q: As a quarterback, were you upset with Randy Moss not making an effort on the interception, or was that ball not catchable?
YOUNG: Jerry Rice, literally, we were sitting in the front row of the suite so the drop would have been a precipitous drop, I mean maybe a hundred feet. I had to restrain him. I was watching the ball and I knew it was high because it sailed when it was intercepted. I hadn’t really noticed Randy. Jerry was so fixated on Randy and his lack of effort toward the ball. He had to replay it: “You should have seen what he did.” And he kind of kept telling me how he didn’t even try.
Later on I saw it. It reminded me of Rex Grossman when he threw the interception against the Colts when they still had a chance to win the Super Bowl. They were down four points, and they were driving and he basically threw a little lollipop up, didn’t even look – a little double move – gets intercepted and he starts running it back, and it ends up being for a touchdown. And Rex kind of watches it. The Super Bowl is going by him, not figuratively but literally going away from him, and he’s watching it. In training camp that would frustrate me, but in the Super Bowl that’s maddening.
So I said to Jerry, maybe he thought someone was behind him. But Jerry didn’t buy that one. He was like, there’s no way.
You can’t declare yourself the greatest of all time. Other people do that.
Q: What did you think of the final four plays?
YOUNG: Two minutes to win the football game – that’s another part of the game that’s completely separate – how it’s dealt with, how the plays are called, how you deal with the dilemmas. That is literally just reps. In the ten games that Colin played, did he really have that many end-of-game reps? My brain is saying no.
We’ve asked Colin to do a lot, and it’s incredible in many ways.
Everyone would want to redo those four plays – Jim, Greg Roman. The explosive team that they were, they ran plays that a team that’s not explosive would run, especially the last one.
It wasn’t that the moment got beyond them. It’s that you have to have a lot of reps at that. The guys that are really famous at the end of games are the guys that did this regularly. It was a great learning experience, but that doesn’t help you in the Super Bowl.
When Frank ran to the seven, we all sensed that we were in. We were there, and now it’s just going to go in.
And then that next play, LaMichael for two – you’re putting yourself in a little bit of a jam, and I think that’s where the defensive coordinator for the Ravens really had it. He backed off on second, and then came both times on third and fourth. The Ravens are great tactically at the all-out blitz because they have done it a ton of times and they take every angle at it and they know what they’re trying to accomplish.
They put Colin in a jam. He saw he only had a split-second to throw it, so he decided and threw it. And that’s typical. That’s OK. But if you’ve done it a bunch of times and had these things happen before, then you dictate to teams. That’s what, unfortunately, didn’t get done. But I understand it.
Q: What do you think Jim Harbaugh should learn from this game?
YOUNG: Jim has proven to be a great coach. One of the little things that he can improve on, obviously the team getting out of the gate became something to work at. That’s something we can watch for, especially in the later rounds.
More than anything, I just feel Jim is creating dilemmas where he doesn’t need to with the media. Not giving them a little something. Just suck it up, go out, you know what they want, just tell them a couple of quotes, give them what they want. So people don’t gather more and more reasons to be upset at you. You’re life is so much easier and less complicated when you just do the little things and put up with it. Deal with the hassles a little bit better. It takes more energy to keep avoiding the hassles than to go through them and deal with it. I think that would help him a lot. But Jim is a tough cookie. I can hear him right now, “This is me, and like it or lump it.” Clearly, we’re talking about fringe thing. The meat of what he does is phenomenal. There’s no question.
Q: At the Friday press conference before the Super Bowl, his brother was with his family taking pictures, and Jim was off to the side checking his watch.
YOUNG: It’s physically painful for him, and that’s why I’m not sure it’s going to change. My advice to him would be take a deep breath for 30 seconds, do the things that you know they want, give it to them and move on. What happens is sooner or later if there’s a 6-10 season out there or a retooling, there will be a lot of people that want to get him back. You don’t need that hassle.
Even on the sidelines, I think in the long run the apoplectic stuff will eat you up over time. You can be white-hot, tip-of-the-spear competitive and still manage through those difficult moments that you know you’ve been jobbed.
Q: Do you have any problem with the refs not calling defensive holding or pass interference on the 49ers’ final offensive play?
YOUNG: I was right there. I was standing on the field. It was out of bounds from the time it left his hand. My opinion was it was not even close. So what happened on the field to me was less important. Plus, on a fourth down you know – like the last shot of a basketball game – you’re probably not going to get the foul when you throw the three-point shot up. You’re going to have to get really hacked to get a call. With that context, you’re probably not going to get the call, especially when the ball is headed out of bounds.
Colin had two plays from what I understand, and once he saw the all-out blitz, that was the planned reaction. There’s got to be a better play than just throwing a lollipop up to one guy. That play is really capitulation. In the context, you’d certainly want something more dynamic, the ability to put Colin on the move and see what would happen. That’s part of planning. The 15th time you go through that, you get really good at it. That’s the part that you look forward to with Colin and Jim.
Q: How do you think Kaepernick will do in his first full season as the starter?
YOUNG: You could make a case that this was the season that the 49ers, with Colin Kaepernick, needed to win the Super Bowl, because the window was as wide open as it will ever be for the Pistol to be as much of an advantage as it could be. The question is how much that window will close once defenses start to get used to it. That’s what happens in the league. Tactically, to me it’s something that can get figured out. Something people think it will get closed completely. I don’t believe it. I think it will always be a useful thing as long as you’re willing to put your quarterback at risk and run him.
Think about RGIII. His job got significantly more difficult for next year because of his injury. The team won’t want to put him in that spot. He’s a franchise quarterback. He’s going to have to find other ways to be successful. But they used the Pistol so well. They’re going to have to retreat a little bit. That’s going to force RGIII to play more traditional quarterback, which is a tough job. Delivering the ball from the pocket, full-field reads, dictating to defenses – it’s an art. It’s advanced calculus. It’s going to be a challenge for RGIII.
And Colin, if he’s going to play for 15 years – if I’m wrong, then so be it – but the job in the end, in the long run is to deliver the ball from the pocket. Can I use the Pistol as a bridge to get there? Colin used it as bridge, not only to get there but to take them to Super Bowl and really one play away from winning it. I believe that it will be difficult to use that bridge into the future. In the end, I think Championship quarterbacks will be what we see as more traditional.
Q: How great was the Ravens’ job of killing seven seconds on that punt safety at the end of the game?
YOUNG: That was phenomenal clock management. Every second that could be taken was taken. When they did that, that was a tremendous coaching move. And to have everyone aware enough to tackle them. And the guy was able to run around and literally end the game. That was great clock management.