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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Young recollects on the 49ers nearly trading him to the Raiders

Feb 16, 2022 at 9:58 PM

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Steve Young in silver and black? It sounds inconceivable. However, it looks like it came close to happening. The then-Los Angeles Raiders trying to trade for Young has always been viewed as one of the biggest trades that didn't happen. There are a lot of those in Raiders history. The San Francisco 49ers reportedly asked for a lot for their backup quarterback.

Young was tired of being Joe Montana's backup. Nothing against Montana, but Young just wanted to get on the field.

The 49ers reportedly demanded a first- and second-round pick in the draft-day deal. They also reportedly wanted wide receiver Tim Brown. The Raiders decided that was too rich a price for Young.

How close did the trade come to fruition? Young joined KNBR's Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks show on Wednesday and looked back at the deal that never happened.

"When George [Seifert] took over and told me to sit down and shut up, that's when I realized, as much as I want to do it here, and as much as that might not be possible, that's when those conversations started," Young said. "So for the next two years, every year, there was a lot of under-the-covers conversations because I could control—I was under contract, but I could agitate for it.

"Al Davis once told me that he had it done. It was after the '89 season. They announced it internally on draft day, and then something—I don't know what ended up happening—it didn't happen. No one ever explained it to me, so I have no details. I remember getting that call."

That wasn't the only time the 49ers shopped Young, who grew impatient waiting for his opportunity. He understood the situation, though. However, Young believed that upon being traded to the 49ers, his time would come sooner rather than later.

"And then in '90, after '89, there was another kind of foray into it," Young continued. "Look, in the end, Joe was the MVP of the league. He was MVP of the Super Bowl. I'm not an idiot. I don't want to just stand here forever. That wasn't what I expected to have happen, but Joe was expanding on his game, doing amazing things. I needed to play. ... That was the hard part.

"And then when Joe's arm got hurt in '91, that gave me an opportunity to at least go play, and that solved it for a little while, and then off we go."

Does Young ever look back and think about what might have been? Does he wonder what his career would have been like had the trade gone through?

"Not really. No, I'm good," Young admitted. "I would have jumped in and swam as fast as I could, and done whatever I could. But I know the full measure of who I was as a player came out of San Francisco. It took some time, but it came out. And it came out in a way that I couldn't imagine.

"So, I can only say how grateful I am to be able to watch, and to learn, and then to go do it. And I owe a lot of people a lot of thank-yous for that."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Young below.

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