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Friday, February 16, 2007
Updated: February 28, 11:51 AM ET
What if Leonard Marshall had not drilled Joe Montana?

ESPN.com

The NFL staff has identified plays or events that may have altered the course of history. Each Tuesday and Saturday throughout the offseason, we will be tackle a different scenario and speculate on how things might have gone differently.

The sight of Joe Montana donning a Chiefs jersey following his trade from the 49ers in April 1993 remains one of the strangest images in NFL history. Yet, truth be told, the writing was on the wall since Montana found himself laid out on the Candlestick turf on Jan. 20, 1991.

Joe Montana
Joe Montana was still a magical quarterback with Kansas City.

In the fourth quarter of the 1990 NFC Championship Game, Montana was hit so hard by New York Giants defensive end Leonard Marshall he suffered a bruised sternum, bruised stomach, cracked ribs and a broken hand. Montana missed all of the 1991 season and most of the 1992 season, never starting another game for the 49ers.

His replacement, Steve Young, took his opportunity and ran with it, embarking on his own Hall of Fame career that included a Super Bowl triumph in 1995. Perhaps Young's most remarkable accomplishment was making Montana something he never thought he would ever be in San Francisco -- expendable.

Recovered from his injuries, Montana, who had quarterbacked the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s, headed for Kansas City, where he proved he could still perform at a high level. After leading the Chiefs to consecutive playoff appearances, Montana finally called it quits following the '94 season

But he will always be remembered as a 49er, and it is fair to wonder: If Marshall's vicious hit had never taken place, would Montana, not Young, have retired a 49er?

-- David Mosse

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