Steve Young Wielded Leverage as a Player, But Now Doesn't Want NFL Front Offices to Capitulate


Steve Young wasn’t happy about Jalen Ramsey demanding a trade out of Jacksonville. On ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, he bemoaned the idea of the NFL becoming like the NBA with player empowerment and mobility, and urged front offices to stop capitulating to the demands of their stars.

We saw this in a sense with Tim Tebow last week that you can get a lot of mileage as a pundit going with a pro-institutions take in an environment when a lot of people on television have gravitated toward empathizing with players. It’s tricky because you get like 45 seconds — 90 tops — to make your point before it’s someone else’s turn to talk, so you better make it emphatically.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting Young wrote in his own book about a time where he killed a trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the St. Louis Cardinals:

I get a call from [Bucs coach] Ray Perkins. He said, “Congratulations, you’re a St. Louis Cardinal.” I called [agent Leigh Steinberg]. He told me the Cardinals had offered the Buccaneers their first-round pick for me. That meant Tampa would have the first and second picks overall. Perkins had his eye on Alabama’s All-American linebacker, Cornelius Bennett. I told Lee there was no way I was going to St. Louis. The Cardinals were another team that was going nowhere.

But I didn’t sit back and wait. I immediately called [Bucs owner] Hugh Culverhouse.

I didn’t even give him a chance to say hello. “You traded me to the Cardinals? You tell me I’m your quarterback for life and you send me to the Cardinals? You can’t do that to me!”

After I talk to Culverhouse, Leigh called him and issued a threat. He told him I would retire rather than go to St. Louis. Two hours later Culverhouse called me back and told me he had called off the trade.

Obviously, this is not exactly the same thing. Ramsey is demanding a trade from a team he’s already on while Young was refusing to go somewhere he did not have a connection to yet. But from a broader perspective both of these circumstances are about a player wielding leverage to have some say in where they ply their craft. After doing this, Young wound ultimately up in a far more advantageous situation in San Francisco, where he’d eventually win a Super Bowl.

Jalen Ramsey didn’t choose to play for Jacksonville — he was drafted there — and it’s not just that the team is 0-2 after going 5-11 last year and finishing last in the division. Tom Coughlin has thus far not agreed to pay Ramsey, a top-several player at his position who is on the final year of his rookie contract, a longterm deal. In his mind, why should he stay aboard this sinking ship when they’re not committed to him in the long run?