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Derrick Thomas for Steve Young: The franchise-altering trade that almost was

The April 1993 trade that sent Joe Montana from the 49ers to the Chiefs sent shockwaves throughout the NFL.

But what is lesser known is that the teams in 1992 discussed a trade that would have sent quarterback Steve Young to Kansas City in exchange for edge rusher Derrick Thomas.

The trade talks weren’t widely publicized, and were mostly only reported as footnotes in articles a year later about the Montana trade — the context being bad blood between Chiefs’ general manager Carl Peterson and his 49ers counterpart, Carmen Policy.

Buried in the 15th paragraph of the New York Times article announcing Montana’s trade: “Policy and the 49ers were in no particular hurry to complete a deal, and it did not help that Peterson and Policy feuded last year because of a failed Derrick Thomas-for-Young trade.”


How much different would the teams have been had the trade gone through? In the 1993-94 playoffs, both teams advanced to their conference championship games. Unfortunately, America had to endure a second straight Dallas vs. Buffalo snoozer instead of the favored Montana vs. Young Super Bowl matchup.

Montana’s only game against his former team came Week 2 the next season — a 24-17 Chiefs win. However, the Chiefs’ season — and Montana’s career — ended with a 27-17 wild card loss to Miami at Joe Robbie Stadium.

Twenty-nine days later, league MVP Steve Young and the 49ers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

In 1993-94, would the Young-led Chiefs and the Montana-led 49ers have met in the Super Bowl? Who would have won?

In 1994-95, does still-49er Montana earn another Super Bowl ring with the help of Thomas terrorizing opposing quarterbacks? Does he still retire?

And here’s the big one for Chiefs fans:

Would Young have earned the Chiefs Super Bowl wins in 1995 and 1997?

Despite having the No. 1 seed both years, the Chiefs’ seasons ended with anemic offensive performances at Arrowhead. In 1995-96, the Steve Bono-led Chiefs lost 10-7 to Indianapolis. In 1997-98, the Elvis Grbac-led Chiefs lost 14-10 to eventual champion Denver.

Thomas had no sacks in either game.

My theory:

• The Montana/Thomas 49ers win the 1993-94 and 1994-95 Super Bowls — the first one (and perhaps even the second one) over Young and the Chiefs. Montana retires with six rings.

• Yes, Young and the Chiefs win the 1995 and 1997 Super Bowls.

On a more somber note, the trade might have saved Derrick Thomas’ life. The linebacker was paralyzed Jan. 23, 2000, when his vehicle slid off an icy Interstate 435 in Kansas City.

He died two weeks later in a hospital in his hometown of Miami. He was 33.

Jacob Brower is the president of Archer’s Bow Media. He has covered the Kansas City Chiefs for 15 years. The first regular season NFL game he attended was the Chiefs vs. 49ers in 1994. He can be reached at or C 417-592-3505.

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