Young may never win over his Bay Area critics, at least not as long as he wears 49er scarlet-and-gold. He finally owns the job that he had on loan the last two years, but he might have gained more in stature if he had been traded. "My mission ever since I got here was to be ready to play spectacular football, not just substitute football," Young says. "Part of the crazy drive about being here and not wanting to go elsewhere, even as Joe kept going and going, was that there is a benchmark of championships here that there is nowhere else. I just want to keep that tradition going. That's the real test for me."
The real test, too, will be living with what has happened over the last two months, living with the knowledge that as far as San Francisco is concerned, he will always be No. 2. "We were dealing with huge emotional issues," says Young. "Here, after all, is the guy who has led them to four Super Bowl wins. I understand how the organization was feeling. Judge the story in its entirety, and you'll see that human beings did in this case what human beings usually do. They were emotional, and they tried to do what they thought was the right thing. I think people are trying to make me out as a bitter or angry man about this, but I'm not. I'm a positive person. All this stuff, it's not negative to me. It's another experience."
Young laughs. "I'll tell you what would be the strangest thing that could happen now," he says. "For us to win the Super Bowl after this stuff happened." Stranger things, Young knows from experience, have happened.