What started as a question about Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate Charles Haley turned into a conversation that dovetailed with the Super Bowl-week piece on what became of the flagship San Francisco 49ers.
Basically, I had just finished speaking with Steve Young for a series on NFC West quarterbacks when I decided to ask him about Haley, his former teammate and a terrific pass-rusher. Haley played for the 49ers from 1986-91 before spending five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. He closed his career with two years in San Francisco. Haley's teams won five Super Bowls.
Young's answer was something I wanted to pass along now that I've had a chance to review some notes:
"(Haley) was the tipping point in my mind for a number of Super Bowls. We let him go after the '91 season and in '92 and '93, we lost against him. I'm not saying that was all it was, but that was a significant shift for a guy wreaking havoc for us and then wreaking havoc on us. It's a painful reminder of some of the mistakes we made.
"There are two things in the '90s that cost us. That was one, and letting Ricky Watters go was two. We suffered running the football and having a threat out of the backfield for the second half of the '90s, where we got to championship games, we got deep in the playoffs every year and I think it really hurt us.
"Ricky was a very good player. People did not appreciate him as much as they should have. We won the Super Bowl (after the 1994 season) and whenever you win the Super Bowl, you get too smart for yourself. 'Oh, we don't really need him.' Well, you know what? We do. You say, 'We'll just plug some guys in and we'll be fine.' Big mistake."
That last thought from Young stands out. We've seen other teams pay for letting key players get away following Super Bowl appearances, including when Seattle did not use the franchise tag for guard Steve Hutchinson. The Arizona Cardinals also expected to maintain recent successes better amid personnel losses.
Originally posted by Joecool: Montana never had this problem. They down graded certain positions while he was there and they still won.
Um, huge fan of Montana that I am, I can't think of any significant examples of such downgrades, certainly not on the O. Perhaps you would care to be more specific?
Montana never had any top level RB in 1979.
Roger Craig only had 2 1000 yard seasons and was a downgrade from Tyler.
Young had Hearst for 2 1000 yard seasons averaging far more per carry than Craig.
Fred Dean only had 1 good year for the 49ers.
Steve Young had Jerry Rice in his prime and didn't only have Watters for one year.
The only year Montana won with sub-par talent surrounding him was 1981 when the league was still playing catch-up with what Walsh was doing on offense. The 1984 team had skill position upgrades including Wendell Tyler, Craig and Russ Francis. Then the team was fading a little before the fabulous 1986 draft came along and fueled the back-to-back run after those rookies developed into maybe the greatest single draft class ever to go along with Rice (1985 Draft) and our other HOF'ers.
Then we started to get too cute for our own good as Young suggested when we ultimately had to travel the mercenary route to get over the hump in 1994.
This fan site is dedicated to the 49ers and their fans. It is in no way affiliated with the NFL or any of its teams. All teams and players mentioned on this site are registered trademarks of the NFL. The use of any team names, words, trademarks, logos or photos have been used for descriptive purposes only. The content and information from other sites is the property of their respective owners. Player and team photos used with permission from USA TODAY Sports Images.