Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice both live in the Bay Area, and they said they continue to closely follow the 49ers. I asked both Hall of Famers if they were willing to share their vast knowledge with the 49ers of today.
Their answers were yes and yes.
I asked Young if he would like to become a resource for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
“I’m glad you asked that,” said Young, reached by phone at the Super Bowl in
Young did not become the 49ers’ starter until he was 30 years old. He knows better than anyone about the process it can take for a quarterback to be successful. Smith turns 26 in May.
“The body of work is incomplete,” Young said of Smith. “He missed a couple years of experience (with the shoulder injuries). He is still learning the game. He came in during the middle of the year and had success. Then, he basically just held on.
“They went from an I-formation team to a spread offense while he was in there. You can’t do that midseason. I could not stare at Alex too long and really make a lot of judgments because I know that in the middle of that transition it’s chaotic. He needs more of all of it. He played his way into being the guy right now. But he has to have a very productive offseason.”
However, Young said he is limited in how much he can assist Smith. Because the 49ers no longer run the West Coast offense, he would be unable to offer insight into all the aspects of the 49ers’ current system.
“The problem is I haven’t spoken his language,” Young said. “I can teach him some quarterback things, but that’s my frustration. I can’t teach him the things like scheme, routes and reads – all that kind of stuff.”
By the way, Young said he wishes the 49ers would go back to the West Coast offense, so the organization can capitalize on vault of films in the team’s library. All the installation meetings over the years conducted by Bill Walsh and offensive coordinators Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan were filmed.
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Rice was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. He said he still has passion and love for the game. In fact, he expressed that to Mike Singletary. Rice joked that Singletary might have thought he was lobbying the head coach to get a tryout to come out of retirement.
Rice, like Young, said he follows the 49ers closely.
Said Rice, “I think with the 49ers right now . . . Michael Crabtree, also Vernon Davis, what he was able to do. He was a Pro Bowler this year and had a fantastic season. Frank Gore. They’re using the spread offense right now, and I think Alex Smith is still going to be the quarterback, so they did some good things this year,” Rice said. “I think they could’ve won maybe three or four more games and been right there in the playoffs. So, hopefully, next year they can do it.”
I asked Rice if he would like to be more involved with the young 49ers players of today.
“I’d love to be able to go in there and still talk to the players or be a part it where I can work with certain players like that,” Rice said. “But that’s going to have to be up to Mike Singletary and John York to bring me in.”
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