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‘He was so darn smart, it was scary’: Steve Mariucci discusses 49ers’ Hall of Fame QB Steve Young

Jul 14, 2020 at 11:10 AM--

Steve Mariucci became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 1997, where he was gifted a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Steve Young. The two got to work together for just over two seasons before Young retired from the league.

Mariucci won 25 games in his first two seasons, thanks in part to inheriting Young. The former coach turned NFL Network analyst joined 95.7 The Game on Tuesday and shared some of his memories of the quarterback, who now works as an analyst with ESPN.

Fans know about the impressive recall memories of current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. Mariucci shared that Young has a similar mental capacity.

"His brain is going 100 miles per hour, with different thoughts ... On offense, you put up your entire game plan, as you install it, on the grease boards," Mariucci explained to Damon Bruce, Ray Ratto, and Matt Kolsky. "... You're writing the formations and the motions and the plays. Here's the red zones, here's the third downs, here's goal-line, short-yardage, and all that.

"Well, at the end of the week, on Saturday mornings, we would come in and do a review. Steve Young would sit in the middle of the room, and he would, with his rogue memory, regurgitate everything that's written on the board all the way around the room without looking at it. Verbatim, in order, without missing anything. And we would just sit there waiting for a mistake, and it wouldn't happen.

"One time, I tried to put a camera in there to tape this so we could show it on like A Football Life or something, and the camera wouldn't work, for some reason.

"Anyway, it was spectacular. He was so smart. You better remember what you say to him and don't make a mistake because he will remember everything you say. It was a high bar to be coaching any other professional quarterback because he was so darn smart, it was scary."

Things came crashing down in Mariucci's third year with the team. Young, who had been plagued by concussions throughout his career, saw that career end during a Week 3 contest against the Arizona Cardinals in 1999. Fans probably remember seeing Young laying there motionless on the field at Sun Devil Stadium after a violent hit from cornerback Aeneas Williams.

"The first time you realize this could be serious was when I was watching, I was kind of down on one knee, down low, just watching, watching, watching," shared Mariucci. "I kept saying, 'Get up Steve. Get up Steve. Get up Steve. Get up Steve.' And then Derrick Deese starts waving. He says, 'Come out here! Come out here! Come out here!'

"And so the trainers, of course, went out there, and doctors. And I followed. It took him a while to come to. Sure enough, Steve wanted to go back in the game. Of course he wanted to go back in the game. That's what made him tick. I didn't allow him to go back in the game. He was kind of mad at me. He was trying to convince me, 'I'm fine. I've been through this before. Let's go. I can play.'

"I didn't let him do it. Then the next week, I didn't let him do it. I worried about him a lot. His health was more important to me than winning any football game or anything like that."

Young never played another snap of football, and the 49ers went on to win just four games that season. Three years later, San Francisco fired its head coach.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Mariucci below.

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