As an NFL player, Steve Young had some quirkiness that went against the high-rolling lifestyle of many professional athletes.

Before direct deposit became the order of the day, Young left many of his paychecks uncashed while he sat behind Joe Montana. The reason behind was that in his mind he had  simply not earned his money.

Not like Young did not have alternate sources of income. As of 2015, he receives $1 million per year from his original USFL contract with the Los Angeles Express, which escalates to a $3 million salary when the 43-year contract finally expires in 2027.

By the time his NFL career ran its course in the late-1990s, Young’s salary was definitely worth his weight in gold.

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As in the actual season, the 49ers earned the top seed in the NFC, but dogged by injuries much of the season. Young battled concussion issues, legendary receiver Jerry Rice missed most of the campaign and running back Garrison Hearst also missed the postseason.

Those factors ultimately resulted in the Niners real-life loss in the NFC title game. The sim represents more of a what if scenario had the 49ers been at full strength in January, in this case they slipped pass the Packers 20-14 in a repeat of the actual NFC Championship.

The AFC sim served up surprises, in particular the actual Super Bowl XXXII champion Denver Broncos out of the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Meanwhile Pete Carroll led the New England Patriots to a 14-2 campaign while a spirited AFC Central race saw the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals all qualify for the postseason.

It would be the 9-7 Bengals who crashed the party all the way till Super Bowl Sunday. Cincinnati’s postseason run started with a 30-20 win in Pittsburgh on Wild Card weekend followed by a wild 45-38 victory over the Patriots behind 176 rushing yards and three TD’s from rookie running back Corey Dillon. The sixth-seeded Bengals and fifth-seeded Ravens met for the AFC Championship. Dillon and Baltimore’s Bam Morris rushed for 119 and 144 yards respectively and the Bengals came away with a 33-31 decision to earn the franchises third-ever Super Bowl trip.

The Bengals ride stopped in Super Bowl XXXII. Steve Young (12-16, 196 yards) had an efficient day and Garrison Hearst scored twice in the Niners 27-6 win to repeat as champions.  It would be the Niners fourth world championship in six Super Bowl appearances, and gave coach Steve Mariucci a title in his first year as head coach.

A fun Bengals fact, in their three sim Super Bowls (V, XII, XXXII) they have scored a grand total of five field goals and no touchdowns. But what got Cincinnati this far in the first place?

Most of it was random anomaly, If this sim were run 100 times the guess is the Bengals would win the AFC on perhaps a couple other occasions. The real life team finished 7-9, a juggernaut as far as 1990s Cincinnati squads were concerned. The sim record was only two games better, good enough for a playoff berth.

What the ’97 Bengals did have was Corey Dillon, an early second-round draft choice who ran for 246 yards in one game. When healthy and not in the doghouse and got the carries, Dillon gave the Bengals a punchers chance in any given contest and capable of carrying the team over three games.

In seven years with the team Dillon rushed for more than 8,000 yards and easily remains the teams all-time leading rusher.


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