Friday, March 16, 2012

Better, Not Best

In light of Alex Smith finally seeing the aforementioned twirling bright object, a brief appraisal of the relative merits of the 'Niners' greatest quarterbacks, Joe Montana and Steve Young.

You ready? Here it is: Montana is the best quarterback in 'Niners' history, but Young is better.

There's no question that Steve Young is a measurably better QB than Joe Montana. Measurably better. Young is fifth all-time in yards per passing attempt. Montana is 23rd. Young is second in passer rating. Montana is eighth. Young is 18th in postwar player value, meaning he was the 18th best player at any position to have played since 1950. Montana is 31st. Montana is 24th in passing yards/game while Young is 42nd, but Young has a better completition percentage, a better interception percentage and a better TD percentage.

By any measure of the things you want a quarterback to do -- complete passes, gain yards, throw TD passes, and avoid interceptions -- Young is better. So why is he second fiddle to Montana and destined to always be second fiddle to Montana? Because Montana got there first. Montana threw the pass that led to The Catch, and he led the 'Niners to their first Super Bowl win. The fact that he's a Notre Dame kid doesn't hurt, either. You can't quantify it, nor should you try.

The gulf in popular perception is so wide that it can't even be bridged by their vastly different post-football paths, where Young has shown himself to be one of the most thoughtful and well-spoken athletes to ever have received mutliple concussions, while Montana treads a line just north of Pete Rose-dom.

It's unfortunate that Young will always be 1A to Montana's 1 because it needlessly degrades Young's substantial accomplishments, but it makes a case for what "better" really means.

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