NEW ORLEANS -- Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young watches the young multi-dimensional quarterbacks of today's NFL with certain degrees of awe and jealousy.
Young was built for the pistol formation. He once played running back for the Los Angeles Express of the USFL, so he would've been a natural running the read option. And some of the game's young quarterbacks, including Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson, have thrived as passers, too.
But the pistol was invented by former Nevada coach Chris Ault about two decades too late for Young, who threw six touchdown passes in a Super Bowl-winning performance to cap the 1994 season.
"The pistol isn't going to go away, but the job in the long run is going to be to deliver the ball from the pocket," said Young, who never even took a snap from the shotgun formation during his 13 seasons with the 49ers. "This is a wonderful bridge for young players.
"Look what's happened to these mobile guys, my heroes, my guys. There's this bridge now that they can have success, get more confidence, go to the Super Bowl."
Young certainly considers 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as one of his guys. Kaepernick has flashed his sensational running skills -- he rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers' playoff-opening win against the Green Bay Packers -- as well as powerful and accurate passing to lead the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII.
Young, an analyst for ESPN, was at Kaepernick's first start and watched him tear up the Chicago Bears in a 32-7 victory. An hour before kickoff, Young said Kaepernick's job would be to play a "neutral" game -- not make mistakes that would prevent the 49ers from winning.
Kaepernick has done far greater things, as the 49ers have a 7-2 record in his nine starts.
"That's when I got the sense that these weapons, tight formations, and he made not complex reads, but complex throws, you know what I mean?" Young said. "To me, I walk out of the Chicago game going, 'They didn't ask too much of him, but what he threw was beautiful.'
"It was like shockingly good for a young player to make throws and different throws that he made, and that's what I came away with from the Chicago game."
Kaepernick inherited a great situation after taking over for Alex Smith, who sustained a concussion Nov. 11 against the St. Louis Rams, Young said, beginning with a tremendous offensive line. Young said the 49ers feature the best line the NFL has seen in quite some time.
"He's got a lot of great weapons with the best offensive line maybe since the 2000 Rams, and maybe then since the '92 or '93 Cowboys," Young said. "I mean, this offensive line is well ahead of most everybody else. That dictates terms both for Alex and for Colin Kaepernick. And then you've got Frank (Gore) and you have weapons, and Vernon (Davis), and now you have this pistol.
"I'm actually really jealous about the pistol. I think it's such a cool thing."