Former San Francisco 49ers star Steve Young is out promoting a new NFL Hall of Fame initiative, Fanschoice. The site lets fans vote – and write-in – who they think should be in the Hall of Fame. For now, the fans’ vote doesn’t count. Down the road, who knows. Our Q&A with the Hall of Famer is after the jump.
Young: I said at the Super Bowl last year ‘yes.’ There were some doldrums in the middle of his career, but the story [of where he came from] and what he did taking two teams that were historically doormats, to the Super Bowl … that’s unprecedented. Who is a QB that could take the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl, and actually win one of them? [With Warner] you tend to want to think no on the Hall, but I think you’d be foolish at this point.
Q: Sticking to QBs … taking age into account, who are the top five QBs right now that you would build a franchise around?
Young: Peyton and Tom are the two guys that you’d want to take. They have made it an art form. They’re going to give you that gritty, tough, yet cutting edge performance. They embody so many parts of QBs that we like. That next wave … I’ve said this for 3-4 years – Drew Brees. Whenever I watch him play he does things subtly that show me that he’s like Tom and Peyton and playing ahead of the game. He plays ahead of everybody. He’s underestimated, I think, dramatically. Brett Favre and Warner are kind of in similar situations in their careers and what they are doing. With weapons and protection, you have to put those two guys [in the top five]. They’re not as vibrant as Ben and Eli and Philip, so I give that caveat, and there’s an asterisk next to both. But when they get protected, especially early in the season, they should be up there.
I was more impressed [Sunday] than I have been in a long time with Eli. I thought it was a gutsy, heady win. He’s now the older guy, taking younger players and making them better.
Q: How would you grade your Monday Night Football with the two Mikes last week? Were you pleased? Is that something you’d want to do again?
Young: I [wouldn’t grade myself]. I don’t do that as a profession. As I told the guys at ESPN, if you’re going to have me [be an analyst] once, you have to do it twice. The first time, you’re like, ‘oh, I get it,’ and then you do it one more time. When you do that job, you have to have the mindset, ‘I’m sitting at home, what do I need to hear?’ I tend to get very technical. I want to talk about QBs and protections and defenses and coverages … and I think you can overdo that stuff. Over time, you figure out how to manage that. So it’s a no grade cause I don’t do it enough.
Q: Will there be a 2nd time?
Young: I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve always thought of doing it, and ESPN has thought maybe I should do it, but it hasn’t worked out that way. But it’s a lot more travel and time away from home … I don’t know. I’d welcome other opportunities but I’ve found my niche that I kind of enjoy and I don’t need to be away from home as much.
Q: You suffered a few concussions in your career. Many players are struggling physically just a few years after they have left the game. Carson Palmer told Peter King that “somebody is going to die here in the NFL.” How much concern do you have that prior concussions could impact you down the road?
Young: You don’t know … but I don’t think so. I don’t think I had the numbers or the severity. And also the side effects that I’m hearing are everyday events for a lot of guys that played. I’m appalled hearing the stories … I just never had them. I had a series of very minor concussions that I healed from and got better and never had side effects or lasting effects. I think I’m ok … we’ll find out. But I’m hearing about a lot of guys my age and younger who are suffering dramatically.
Young: It’s hard. The game takes a toll. The league’s insurance and pensions is getting better … it was horrid for many years. I think Gene Upshaw did a nice job to finally figure out how to do retirement. I think it is getting better but it is still far away from what MLB and basketball have.
Q: Are you aware of the statistics on athletes who are broke five and 10 years after they retire? The numbers are staggering.
Young: Of course. Everybody faces the same challenges of budget and how to live your life … bad decisions and bad timing and living not within your means … there’s no secret there. There’s no secret to what puts you in a jam. When you hear the stories and read about them, its amazing that people put themselves in that kind of spot.
Q: Surely you’re aware of athletes on twitter … any thoughts on Rodney Harrison blasting Kerry Rhodes of the Jets and then Rhodes responding on twitter? Any overall thoughts on the media, athletes and new media?
Young: I know about twitter, but I didn’t hear [about Harrison vs. Rhodes].
Whatever. There’s just no way to slow that train down. There’s just too many avenues for communcation. The thing is, now all those forms are very public. Maybe that’s good or bad, you could make the argument … but there are no secrets anymore. I suspect we’re going to see more chaotic communication.
Q: There is a moral obligation that anyone who interviews a former QB between now and the 2010 NFL draft must ask about Florida’s Tim Tebow. So how about his pro prospects?
Young: Do not allow the running and the physicality of his game to fool you. Wipe that out. That means nothing to the negative. It is all positive in my mind. There’s no reason to study him as a possible pro prospect and talk about his running. There’s nothing negative to it.
What you need to talk about is his ability in the pocket to deliver the football accurately and on time. I don’t see anything that tells me he can’t do that. I think there’s a sense that because he does this other stuff, that it somehow obfuscates his ability to play QB in the NFL. I think the kid’s a competitor, a studier, and I think he’ll thrive in some system. I don’t see why he can’t thrive in the NFL. I’ve see the quarterbacking in this league, and Tim Tebow could play QB.
Q: There’s been some talk of Tim Tebow’s political aspirations … how about you? You spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2000 …
Young: [Laughter] I took as many beatings as I’m going to take in the NFL. That’s a rough crowd.