Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Young cautions 49ers on moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo, evaluates BYU’s Zach Wilson

Jan 7, 2021 at 6:01 AM--

Steve Young knows about regret. The Hall of Fame quarterback joined KNBR on Wednesday and shared the story of the San Francisco 49ers allowing running back Ricky Watters to depart after the team's championship run that ended with a Super Bowl victory during the 1994 season. Watters was seen as a bit of a distraction and someone who didn't quite fit into the locker room mentality that was built.

In hindsight, Young also feels the 49ers never recovered from Watters' departure. At least, not until Garrison Hearst's arrival three years later. Who knows how many more Super Bowl rings Young could have earned had Watters stuck around.

Young used that story as an analogy for the 49ers' current quarterback conundrum. They have a franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, but could that money be better spent elsewhere? Would Kyle Shanahan — and fans — suffer the same regret should another quarterback not work out, or should Garoppolo flourish elsewhere?

"It's the foolishness of thinking that the grass is greener," Young said on the Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks show. "The classic, 'Well, we can fix that. We can do better.' My sense is that Kyle is frustrated and would like to upgrade at quarterback, but the fact is that Jimmy is a good player. We don't know that we've seen the most of Jimmy yet — if he stays healthy and can get better and better.

"So, Kyle's going to make a tough call, and my sense of it when Jimmy got hurt a couple of months ago was Kyle's going to work hard to upgrade the position. But you've got to be careful because then you end up where we were when we said Ricky can go to Philadelphia. Well, that didn't work. That's a bad move.

"It's a cautionary tale because of how much I wish we hadn't let that happen."

There is a chance the 49ers keep Garoppolo and then add a potential quarterback of the future via the draft. Having guided the football program during his collegiate career, Young watches a lot of BYU games. Therefore, he has seen a lot of quarterback Zach Wilson.

This week on BYU TV, Wilson said that he feels he would be suited for Shanahan's system in San Francisco.

"Yeah, I haven't watched a ton of specifics with NFL teams as far as what offenses they're running," Wilson responded when asked to identify potential fits. "One, just off the top of my head, is the 49ers, just because I'm very familiar with what coach Kyle Shanahan does and the system they have in place, and I think I'd fit in well there."

Now, it is important to note that Wilson is expected to be drafted much higher than where the 49ers are slated to pick in the first round — at the No. 12 overall pick. That would require a trade up if Shanahan is as enamored with Wilson as Young seems to be. Young doesn't feel the NFL — or even Shanahan's complex system — would be too much for the incoming rookie quarterback.

"It feels like the more you put on him, the more you broaden the field, it feels like the more he thrives," Young said. "And that's not usual. Usually, it's the opposite, and people have to grow into that space. ... I feel like Zach's got that potential (to get better), that he won't top out real quickly.

"People have questioned his -- I don't know what they've questioned. I don't see anything to really question right now. Everything that they put on him, he seems to answer, and it just feels like, to me, there's no limit to what he can be right now."

Young does acknowledge that Wilson hasn't faced great competition during his collegiate career, so you have to evaluate around that.

"The truth of the matter is ... the college game and the pro game are very similar now," Young added. "And so the offense that Zach Wilson ran at BYU is the offense that he'll run in San Francisco. It will be very familiar to him. It's very familiar if he goes to a number of teams, and that's true for Trevor Lawrence (too). These guys should be able to enter and have success much faster than in the old days."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Young below.

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