Favre, Montana, Young; Bochy/Sabean Blindness
by Glenn Dickey
Jul 16, 2008

THE CONTROVERSY over Brett Favre’s return recalls the stormy times for the 49ers before the 1993 season, but there are significant differences in the situations.

As I’m sure you recall, the 49ers had won consecutive Super Bowls after the 1988-89 seasons and came painfully close to another Super Bowl the following season, before losing on a late field goal to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game.

From midseason in 1988, when he was almost replaced by Steve Young, Joe Montana had the best stretch of his career, but he was injured in the fourth quarter of the championship game and missed virtually all of the next two seasons, playing only in the fourth quarter of the last game in 1992.

Young played very well in his absence, winning the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 1992, but he couldn’t replace Montana in the eyes of most 49er fans. After all, he did not walk on water. Many fans repeated the dogma, “A starter doesn’t lose his job because of injury,” though coaches who used that phrase were referring to an injury in-season, not one which lasted two years.

In the tumultous 1993 offseason, coach George Seifert announced that Montana would be the starter going into training camp, but Joe asked club president Carmen Policy to trade him to Kansas City. He told Policy he knew that, in Kansas City, they would stick with him even if he had to sit out for a time with an injury or wasn’t able to play at his highest level. If he’d stayed in San Francisco, Young would have been put back in as the starter.

So, Montana was traded to Kansas City, and though Young eventually won over many 49er fans, there are still some who are bitter about that. Ironically, as I learned in a conversation with Young in training camp, he was blissfully unaware of the controversy, because he was immersed in study; he got his law degree from BYU that spring.

The significant differences between the two situations: (1) Montana never tantalized the 49ers with threats to retire because he always wanted to play; 2) Joe was a team player; he understood that football is the ultimate team game.

Favre, by contrast, is the drama queen of football. In recent years, he has kept the organization dangling in the offseason, wondering if this year might finally be the year he retired.

This year, he had a tearful news conference in March when he announced he was retiring. When there were media reports in early June that he might be wavering, Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy called him and asked him if he wanted to come back. Favre reportedly said there was nothing to the reports.

So now, just as training camps are about to open and the Packers have gone through mini-camps with former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback, Favre decides he wants to play, after all. There is no concern about what that might mean for the Packers, or any thought about what they’ve done for him. In Favre’s world, it’s all about Brett.

Though the 49er situation in 1993 was messy, it eventually turned out well for all concerned.

Montana played two years in Kansas City, getting the Chiefs to the AFC championship game in his first season and to the AFC wild card game his second. As soon as he was eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he won an easy election.

Meanwhile, in 1994, the 49ers swept to a lopsided triumph in the Super Bowl, their fifth title, and Young set passing records for the game. Though the 49ers never got back to that lofty perch, he played very well for them until he was blindsided in a game early in the 1999 season and forced to retire because of his multiple concussions. He, too, has been elected to the Hall of Fame.

Favre will join Montana and Young in the HOF one day. He is one of the best quarterbacks of the last 30 years, though certainly not the equal of Montana nor, in my estimation, of Young.

But, I don’t see this situation working out well. The Packers say that, if Favre wants to return, it will have to be as a reserve, and good for them. They know that, if they jerk Rodgers around because of Favre’s selfishness, they’ll probably ruin him for the future. Favre wants his release, but the Packers don’t want him signing with a team in their division – he’d almost certainly go to Minnesota – and I can’t blame them for not granting him his wish. Possibly, they can trade him, though I doubt another team would give up much for what would probably be one season of Favre.

Do us all a favor, Brett, and make your retirement permanent. We’re all tired of your act. Join the community theatre in your home town and satisfy your acting desires that way.

A’S PROBLEMS: Though the A’s have a remarkable baseball operation, headed by Billy Beane with considerable help from Billy Owens (director of player personnel), David Forst (assistant general manager), Eric Kubota (director of scouting) and Keith Liepmann (director of player development), the rest of their operation is more like a minor league team. I’d say Triple-A, but I suspect the Sacramento River Cats are ahead of them in promotional activities.

Earlier in this space, I discussed their promotional shortcomings, but I omitted a significant one: They’re the only club on the west coast without Spanish language broadcasts. Ironically, they were the first on the coast to have Spanish broadcasts, 35 years ago, when Charlie Finley owned the team. Finley was cheap and he was no visionary, but he could see that the Hispanic market was important. It is even more important now, but the A’s are doing nothing to reach it.

REALITY CALLING: Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean must be living in an alternate universe, one which views the current Giants season as a successful one.

Bochy explained his juggling of the Giants rotation to give Tim Lincecum an extra start as an attempt to stay in the NL West race. At the time he made that comment, the Giants were a whopping 16 games below .500! Even after winning Lincecum’s start, the Giants are on a pace to finish 68-94. Even in their pathetic division, that’s not going to get them anywhere near the playoffs. They’re much more likely to finish last in the division.

But, I don’t blame Bochy. Managers are paid to win games, so he’s trying to win as many as possible. It’s really up to Sabean to tell him that his job will be safe if he develops players, not if he wins an extra game or two by playing veterans who are not part of the Giants future. But Sabean can’t do that because he’s still in a “win now” mode, even though it’s four years since the Giants last had a winning season.

LINK TO THE PAST: Hal DeJulio, a member of Pete Newell’s 1949 NIT championship team at USF, when the NIT was the major college basketball tournament, died on Saturday. He was 83. His playing role was less important than the fact that he was instrumental as an assistant coach in recruiting Bill Russell, who became the key player in the two-time NCAA championship teams in the mid-1950s.Services will be held, starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, at St. Isidore’s Catholic Church, 440 La Gonda Way, Danville.

JURY DUTY: I finally escaped in late afternoon Monday after the prosecuting attorney understood my opinion of the judicial system. So, I’ve got my life back.

NEW YORK will host the top tennis stars – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova – in August I the U.S. Open, and tickets are available on TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! Tony Bennett will be at the San Francisco Symphony on Sept. 14, and top names who are touring, such as Billy Joel, Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffet. Madonna is back in the spotlight with her October tour. Just click on the local or national links and everything will come up.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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