In all sorts of ways, 1994 was a breakthrough season for Steve Young.
He led the San Francisco 49ers to an NFL-best 13-3 record, won a record fourth straight passing title and eclipsed Joe Montana’s team record for touchdown passes in a season and the league mark for passing efficiency and completion percentage.
On Wednesday, Young was named The Associated Press’ NFL Most Valuable Player for the second time in three years. He was selected for the honor in voting by a nationwide panel of 98 sports writers and broadcasters.
“When we’re talking about MVP in the league, that’s supposed to be once in a lifetime. Twice in a lifetime, whew. They’re both very special to me,” said Young, who joined Montana, his predecessor in San Francisco, as a two-time winner of the award. Young also won it in 1992; Montana was named MVP in 1989 and 1990.
“I think it’s just kind of a marker to set in the road,” added Young. “But I don’t want to think it’s the highest point. I just want to continue enjoying the game and learning to be a better player.”
Young was a decisive winner in the MVP balloting, receiving 74 votes to 22 for runnerup Barry Sanders, who last week was named offensive player of the year. San Francisco teammates Jerry Rice and cornerback Deion Sanders received one vote each.
The only other 49er to win the award besides Young and Montana was John Brodie in 1970. Last year’s winner was Emmitt Smith of Dallas.
In the best season of his 10-year career, Young completed 324 of 461 passes (70.3 percent) for 3,969 yards, 35 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. His rating was 112.8, breaking Montana’s previous mark of 112.4, and 22.1 points better than Green Bay’s Brett Favre, the next most efficient passer.
“The 112 rating, I mean that was way out there,” Young said. “But that just goes to show you records are made to be broken.
“I didn’t put that up on the board and say that’s my goal. Because you do that and you defeat the purpose of football, you defeat the sense of the team. One of the things I’ve really learned to enjoy more this year are my teammates, just the relationships with the guys and I think it’s made us a much better offensive team.”
Rice, who became the NFL’s all-time touchdown leader when he scored three touchdowns in the season opener, including the record-breaker on a pass from Young, said time and experience have allowed Young to establish his own identity apart from being Montana’s successor.
“I think he just stopped trying to fill so many shoes and just started being Steve Young,” Rice said.
Young admits he was staggered at first by the prospect of following Montana but has come to accept his lot, deal with it and keep moving forward.
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