If Elvis Grbac is, as San Francisco mayor Willie Brown stated, "an embarrassment to humankind," then fellow 49ers quarterback Steve Young is rapidly on his way to becoming one. Grbac's figure for yards per pass attempt (including yardage lost on sacks) was 5.74 for the season when Brown blasted him after the Niners' Nov. 10 loss to Dallas. But Young, at 5.88, has been scarcely better. In fact, his production has fallen steadily since 1991, when he replaced Joe Montana at the helm. Why has the two-time MVP plummeted toward Grbacian depths? Here are two reasons.
Personnel changes. Jerry Rice is still Jerry Rice, but John Taylor is gone as his complement at wideout. The San Francisco running backs can't turn short passes into big gainers the way ex-Niner Ricky Walters could. And Mike Shanahan, the coordinator of the 49ers' prolific offense from 1992 to '94, is now coaching the Broncos. "All those things play into it," says coach George Seifert.
Injuries. After starting 55 games in a row, Young injured his left shoulder in October '95 at Indianapolis and sat out five straight. Since that injury he has missed all or part of 13 of the Niners' 22 games. In the last month he has suffered the fourth and fifth concussions of his career, prompting his agent, Leigh Steinberg, to say Young, 35, should consider retiring. "Everyone who loves him," Steinberg says, "is concerned."
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