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Best of Rivals: Joe Montana, Steve Young, and the Inside Story behind the NFL's Greatest Quarterback Controversy Hardcover – August 28, 2012
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From the Back Cover
Advance praise for BEST OF RIVALS
"Lazarus does a very good job explaining the dynamic of the Joe Montana-Steve Young competition of the 49ers heyday. I was particularly interested in this book because of the stiff competition those two provided to my teams."
--Bill Parcells, two-time Super Bowl winning head coach
"A fascinating look at one of the breathtaking one-on-one battles in NFL history. Young? Montana? Adam Lazarus takes two all-time greats and, against all odds, makes you pull
for both of them. Wonderfully done."
--Jeff Pearlman, author of the New York Times bestseller Boys Will Be Boys
"[Best of Rivals] is a must-read for 49ers fans of all ages. You will smile, cringe, and curse, then you will nod at the enduring lesson that, at some point, even the greatest of the greats will be replaced--whether they're ready or not."
--Jim Trotter, senior writer for Sports Illustrated
"Lazarus did an excellent job of showcasing the character of these two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who had so much in common with their great skills, but were so very, very different in terms of personalities and their approach to the game."
--Joe Starkey, former play-by-play voice of the San Francisco 49ers
"It wasn't just that Joe and Steve won Super Bowls; it was that Joe and Steve were can't-miss theatre. The highs--and more importantly, the lows--of their careers and rivalry are important reading for anybody who loves the 49ers and their rich history."
--Brian Murphy, sports radio host on San Francisco's KNBR
"The ultimate story of pro football's ultimate rivalry, Adam Lazarus pulls us back to a golden era by the Golden Gate when to Niner fans Joe Montana was the nearest thing to a god and Steve Young's only fault was he wasn't Joe Montana."
--Art Spander, Pro Football Hall of Fame writer
"It seems like a fine idea to have two great quarterbacks on your roster, at least until Sunday when only one of them gets to play. Adam Lazarus takes you inside the dynamic but difficult partnership that was the Joe Montana-Steve Young era in San Francisco."
--Ray Didinger, Pro Football Hall of Fame writer
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The general rule is such matters is that it helps to have one person take over the starting job. In other words, if you have two number-one quarterbacks, you have no number-one quarterbacks.
But there was an exception to that rule, and it's the subject of Adam Lazarus' book, "Best of Rivals."
After the 1992 season, the San Francisco 49ers had two star quarterbacks on their roster. Steve Young was arguably the best quarterback in the National Football League at that point. Joe Montana was arguably the best quarterback in the National Football League in history. There's never been a situation like it.
Thus a recounting of the story involving the two men is worth telling for that reason. Two Hall of Famers, one job.Lazarus tells the story here.
The author gives a brief biography of both players first. Montana and Young were both famous in college, but Montana needed little time to achieve pro stardom. Young began his professional career in the United States Football League, bounced to the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs, and finally arrived in San Francisco ... with Montana ahead of him on the depth chart. It wasn't an easy situation for someone used to starting.
From there, Lazarus gives us something of a game-by-game account of the few years that the two men were together. Sometimes two quarterbacks can have a good relationship, but usually one of them is clearly better and deserves to start -- thus, each knows his role. That wasn't the case here, and Montana was always looking over his shoulder at the younger, talented man backing him up.
What's striking in hindsight at how battered Montana was when Young arrived in 1987, even though Montana didn't even have a full decade on the job yet. He spent much of the next few years on the injured list, but was frequently still very effective when he was healthy enough to play. That gave Young a taste of playing time, but never quite enough to be comfortable until Montana started to miss long stretches of games at a time.
Lazarus obviously put in his time at the library for this one, with several quotes brought back from the past to describe games and events. He also talked to as many principals as possible, including Montana and Young. Indeed, Young sounds as if he was more forthcoming on the subject than Montana in hindsight. But the best moments in the book come this way, such as the time Bill Walsh needed about five minutes from his view in the owner's box at the Super Bowl (he had retired at this point) to say that the 49ers would in the game easily and decisively.
"Best of Rivals" works reasonably well. Since much of the detail comes from the games themselves and the accompanying quotes, it's fair to say that this book will be welcomed more than San Francisco fans who wish to review a unique part of their history. They should definitely give it an extra star. The rest of the football world may find that this bogs down just a little in the stories about games from two decades ago, but most will find this a solid enough recounting of the era.
But when I became an adult and then read this book earlier this year, I really saw what time it was with one of the biggest quarterback competitions in the history of the NFL.
Adam Lazarus has this writing gift that lets you the reader REALLY feel bad or good for whatever subject(s) he is writing about. I mean it's like, I really felt bad for Young languishing all them years on the bench as Montana's backup from 1987 to 1990.
Young was this future Hall of Fame quarterback who had otherworldly gifts as a runner and passer, but he had arguably the second best quarterback (I still believe Tom Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history) in NFL history taking all the first team reps in practice and in games for four long years.
If you didn't know jack about the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the legendary Montana and Young competition from 1987 to 1992, then this book will educate you on those subjects BIG TIME.
For me, I knew all the details I needed to know about this story so I was curious as to what the book would provide me. Inside, it's filled with quotes from newspaper writers, film interviews archived over the past 30 years from key figures in the story. From coach Bill Walsh to teammates Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark, this book made you feel like you were living through the entire experience in the locker room in under 300 pages.
It read like a history book to me. And I like that. Instead of a storyline, it was more of pages filled with details on Montana's injury and quotes from teammates on the QB battle. That's what it gave me. But instead of reading through it like a documentary, the book instead gave me facts and details. I learned a lot more about Montana's injuries and it gave me perspective on the challenge the coaches had to deal with for both players.
Would this be a book I recommend for 49ers fans? Absolutely. But is this a must read book for them? Not necessarily.
I think the best way to describe this book is that it gives you the history of the rivalry. Plain and simple, the book takes you back to 1979 and from there, you're watching 15 years of 49ers history unfold before your eyes. From there, you're seeing all the action and emotions from all angles in the quarterback battle.
If you've seen the story before, then you can pass on it. But if you want to go down memory lane one more time and relive the glory and pain of the 49ers and the cornerstone of their success, the book is worth a read. There, the myth and legend of these two quarterbacks' struggle becomes a reality.