What Joe Montana and Steve Young Were Like as Backups

I asked someone who covered the entire careers of Montana and Young -- my dad, Lowell Cohn.
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Eventually, Trey Lance will be the superstar franchise quarterback for the 49ers, the heir apparent to Joe Montana and Steve Young.

But for now, Lance is a humble backup, just as Montana and Young were humble backups on the 49ers at one point in their careers.

I'm curious to know what those two legends were like back when they were in Lance's position. So I asked someone who covered the entire careers of Montana and Young -- my dad, Lowell Cohn. Here's what my dad said.

LC: "We'll start with Joe. You have to remember that he is very quiet. He doesn't put himself out there that much, which is probably a very good trait in a teammate. He was behind Steve DeBerg. I bet Joe understood early on that he was a better quarterback than DeBerg. But Joe would have been quiet. He would have followed the lead of Bill Walsh and he would have respected protocol. That's absolutely how Joe was.

"The only thing was when Joe was very young, he said, 'Whenever we go out to practice, Steve DeBerg has to have the ball first. He has to grab the ball first.' It was a very interesting thing to say. What did Joe mean by that? Maybe that DeBerg was petty.

"Now, Steve Young was a backup for a long time to Joe, I think that was much more complicated. I want to say that neither Joe nor Steve ever said a bad word about the other one to me. Ever. I don't know that they liked each other very much, but they were always very respectful. For example, I once asked Joe how he feels about Steve. This was years after they were retired. He said, 'I treat him with the respect I would treat any former teammate.' Which is a very interesting thing to say.

"Steve never, ever put down Joe. And in Steve's book, which by the way is one hell of a read, he is only respectful of Joe. Said he admired him. On the other hand, I think he thought he should have been the starter sooner. And you know what? God love him. He's supposed to think that. In addition, in his book he indicates that he came to the team because Bill Walsh told him that Joe was on his last legs and that soon Steve would be the quarterback because Joe couldn't do it much longer. And Steve said the first day of practice, Joe ran out the the field and was throwing passes and did not look like he was on his last legs. So the frustration that Steve felt was not toward Joe, it was toward Bill. Bill had 100 different personalities, and he could be wily and not nice. I think Steve at a certain level he got sold a bill goods."