Top 30 San Francisco 49ers Players All-Time
How do the San Francisco 49ers’ greatest players of all time rank? Let our Top 30 of the franchise’s best help you decide.
Put simply, the San Francisco 49ers are one of the greatest franchises in NFL history. Their five Super Bowl wins and countless Hall of Famers make that very clear. Suffice it to say, there have been some amazing players to don the red and gold over the years.
But how do all of those players stack up when compared against each other? Which ones truly stood out above the pack as the greatest to ever play for the 49ers? Well that’s why we’re here–to determine the top 30 players in team history.
Now obviously this is based on my opinion, factoring stats, awards, rings and overall impact into the equation. There may be several names on this list you don’t recognize, and that’s because many of the men mentioned haven’t played in decades. That’s what happens when you take a look at a team that’s been playing since 1946.
Either way, it’s a great list. Plenty of Hall of Famers, plenty of record holders, and plenty of guys who simply went out on Sundays and gave this franchise everything they had.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 30 San Francisco 49ers players of all time.
30. Abe Woodson, CB/KR
Career Stats with 49ers: 15 interceptions, 29.4 yards per kick return, 5 kick return touchdowns, 9 yards per punt return, 2 punt return touchdowns
If you’re looking for one of the greatest return specialists in 49ers history, look no further than Abe Woodson.
The cornerback/returner combo was an excellent addition in the second round of 1957 NFL Draft. San Francisco immediately found itself a reliable cover man who also happened to be an outstanding returner capable of changing the game in a big hurry.
Woodson handled kick and punt return duties for much of his seven seasons in San Francisco. During that time, he found the end zone seven times while leading the league twice in yards per kick return.
To top it all off, Woodson was a strong contributor at cornerback for the 49ers. Not only was he a reliable option in coverage, but he had a knack for getting his hands on the football–evidenced by his 15 career interceptions. At the end of the day, Woodson brought outstanding value to the table for San Francisco.
29. Merton Hanks, FS
Career Stats with 49ers: 474 tackles, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 10 fumbles recovered, 31 interceptions, 4 touchdowns
While everyone knows who the greatest safety in 49ers history is, Merton Hanks belongs near the top of the list.
During his eight years with San Francisco, Hanks proved to be a bit of a ballhawk in the defensive backfield. On top of making life difficult for opposing receivers, he hauled in 31 interceptions and ran two back for touchdowns. He also scored two more times on fumble recoveries, making his knack for creating turnovers all too apparent.
What make Hanks an even better find for the 49ers is the fact he was a fifth-round pick. It’s not often a pick of that nature makes four Pro Bowls and earns three All-Pro designations during his nine-year career. He also earned one Super Bowl ring in 1994.
The 49ers have had some outstanding defensive backs, and Hanks absolutely deserves a spot among the biggest names on that list.
28. Vernon Davis, TE
Career Stats with 49ers: 441 receptions, 5,640 receiving yards, 55 receiving TDs, 6 carries, 15 rushing yards
When Vernon Davis entered the league in 2006, he was seen as one of a new breed of uber-athletic tight ends capable of victimizing defenses. While I’m not entirely sure he fully lived up to the hype, Davis could certainly make a case as one of the best tight ends of the past decade.
For Davis, it was all about his overwhelming strength and athleticism. Not only was he powerful enough to excel as a blocker, but he could put linebackers and safeties to shame with his skills as a receiver. Just look at his 2009 campaign, when he nearly broke the 1,000-yard mark and scored a whopping 13 receiving touchdowns.
All of that work earned him two Pro Bowl appearances and a second-team All-Pro selection in 2013. The production and awards don’t necessarily reflect what you’d expect from a tight end picked No. 6 overall, but Davis truly was an elite talent at times for the 49ers.
Davis’ time in San Francisco ended ugly, as age quickly took a toll on his effectiveness. He was eventually traded away to the Denver Broncos, but still remains a reliable option at tight end with the physical gifts to be a weapon in the passing game.
27. Jeff Garcia, QB
Career Stats with 49ers: 16,408 passing yards, 113 passing touchdowns, 56 interceptions, 61.4 completion percentage, 88.3 passer rating, 318 carries, 1,571 rushing yards, 21 rushing touchdowns
It amazes me how little respect Jeff Garcia gets for all he did in San Francisco. He may have been an underdog as an import from the CFL, but it didn’t take long for him to prove his worth to the 49ers.
His “rookie” season was a rocky one, but it only took until his second year to entrench himself as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. By the end of his third season in San Francisco, he had become one of only a handful of NFL signal callers to compile back-to-back seasons with 30+ passing touchdowns.
Although his time with the team only lasted five seasons, Garcia earned his place in 49er history. Between his impressive leadership skills, big-play ability in the clutch, and overall production, there’s little to knock him for.
Some discredit him a bit due to his status as a journeyman in the final few seasons of his career. However, if you’re solely looking at what he did in San Francisco, it’s clear as day he’s one of the top quarterbacks to ever play for the franchise.
26. John Taylor, WR
Career Stats with 49ers: 347 receptions, 5,598 receiving yards, 43 receiving TDs, 6 carries, 31 rushing yards, 10.2 yards per punt return, 2 punt return touchdowns
John Taylor is one of those guys who often gets overlooked. Why? Because he was essentially Robin to Jerry Rice’s Batman, which isn’t an easy role to play no matter who you are.
Still, Taylor played the role with gusto, doing little more than torch opposing secondaries when given the opportunity. Especially with teams focused on slowing Rice, it gave the 49ers’ No. 2 receiver a chance to make his own distinctive mark on the game.
Taylor also offered added value as a returner, and there was plenty of it. In 1988, he led the league in yards per punt return, earning one of his two Pro Bowl trips. The other Pro Bowl trip would come as a receiver a year later, after an impressive 1,000-yard season punctuated by 10 receiving touchdowns.
Was Taylor a star for the 49ers? Not entirely. However, the presence of Rice made life both easier and more difficult for him in different regards. Still, he was a prominent playmaker for three of the 49ers’ Super Bowl teams, earning him a spot on this list.
25. Dana Stubblefield, DE
Career Stats with 49ers: 300 tackles, 46.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered, 2 interceptions, 1 pass defended
When the 49ers spent a first-round pick on Dana Stubblefield, they were looking for a pass-rushing superstar to add to their defense. What they got was exactly that.
While he only played in San Francisco for seven seasons, Stubblefield had no trouble making his presence felt. In that time, he racked up an impressive 46.5 sacks and was a true force off the edge. Coupling pure power with surprising athleticism, the Kansas product did little more than shine during his time with the 49ers.
In fact, he earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1993, and ended the 1997 season by winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. Stubblefield also made three Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro during his outstanding 1997 campaign.
Stubblefield had some personal issues after his playing days were over, but we’re focused on the football here. Off-the-field problems aside, the 49ers got ridiculous production out of him during his short seven years in red and gold.
24. Patrick Willis, LB
Career Stats with 49ers: 950 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 5 fumbles recovered, 8 interceptions, 2 touchdowns, 55 passes defended
Before his early, unexpected retirement, Patrick Willis was seen as one of the best inside linebackers in the game. The above stats tell the story of a guy who flew all over the field making big plays and punishing guys who were brave enough to come within arm’s distance.
The killer instincts he showed on the field were impeccable. There simply weren’t many in the game with a better sense of what was about to happen. It also helped that he had the superb athleticism to track down the ball once he figured out where it was going.
In the end, though, I didn’t put him higher because his career felt incomplete. His early retirement not only left the 49ers hanging with an oft-injured NaVarro Bowman to man the middle, but it ripped the heart out of their defense.
Had Willis played more than eight seasons, he’d be much higher on this list. I’m glad he made the decision he felt was best for his health, but my opinion is that it affected his overall value to the 49ers.
23. Justin Smith, DE
Career Stats with 49ers: 414 tackles, 43.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, 5 fumbles recovered, 1 interception, 9 passes defended
By what I can tell, Smith is one of those guys who never got the recognition he deserved. Even when he was busy lighting it up in the NFL, most casual fans had no idea who he even was. I’m sure 49ers fans were very aware of his presence, though.
Smith was one of those well-rounded defensive ends who just found ways to win. He wasn’t a pass-rushing superstar, but he never failed to collapse the pocket. He also wasn’t considered a pure run stuffer, but routinely found ways to clog the rushing lanes and drag down runners for a loss.
It’s not often a jack-of-all-trades type of defensive end comes around like that. That, however, was Smith in a nutshell.
This may be a little high for Smith, especially considering he spent half of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. However, as a proponent for Smith getting the credit he earned, I believe the No. 23 spot is fitting for one of the 49ers’ most reliable, effective defensive linemen in team history.
22. Gene Washington, WR
Career Stats with 49ers: 371 receptions, 6,664 receiving yards, 59 receiving TDs, 5 carries, -1 rushing yard
The 49ers have had some outstanding wide receivers over the years, but one that often gets overlooked is Gene Washington. During his time in San Francisco, he was the top target and didn’t disappoint in that role.
Not only did he lead the league in receiving in 1970, but he earned four Pro Bowl invites as well as three All-Pro honors. His durability also can’t be understated, as he managed to miss only one game during his nine seasons with the 49ers.
While Washington didn’t finish his career with the team (he spent one year with the Detroit Lions before retirement), he certainly made the most of his time in the Bay Area.
Obviously Washington doesn’t quite stack up to some of the 49ers’ other star receivers. Despite that fact, we must give credit where it’s due–the Stanford product was a star in his own right and did nothing but impress.
21. Frank Gore, RB
Career Stats with 49ers: 2,442 carries, 11,073 rushing yards, 64 rushing touchdowns, 342 receptions, 2,883 receiving yards, 11 receiving touchdowns
In my opinion, Frank Gore is one of the most underrated running backs of all time. Obviously 49ers fans know how great he was during his days in the Bay, but football folks seem to overlook how awesome he has been throughout his career.
Put simply, Gore is about as tough as they come. You need a yard on fourth-and-one? Give the ball to Gore. Need a tough catch in the clutch because your wide receivers are being shut down? Gore is your guy. No matter what the 49ers asked for, the Miami (FL) product always found a way to deliver.
He may no longer play for the 49ers, but he’s still a dependable back even as the tread on his tires wears thin. Until the day he hangs up his cleats, Gore will likely be a capable contributor in the NFL.
It’s not very often a running back like Gore comes along. The 49ers enjoyed his presence on the roster for 10 years, and will certainly always remember the dependable production and unwavering competitiveness he brought to the table.
20. Steve Wallace, OT
Career Stats with 49ers: 166 games played
Primarily a left tackle during his days with San Francisco, Steve Wallace was a true pioneer at the position. Sporting a nasty playing style and elite athleticism, he helped develop what would eventually become the mold of today’s all-important blindside blocker.
With the 49ers, though, he was much more than just a prototype. Wallace was a fierce competitor who made life very difficulty for the unfortunate defender lined up across from him. He played every snap with a relentless motor, often to the chagrin of his opponents.
Wallace played on three Super Bowl teams during his time with the 49ers. In that same time span, he also earned one Pro Bowl nod and was named to three All-Pro teams.
Offensive linemen don’t often get a lot of credit for what they do on the field. In the case of Wallace, though, he earned more than enough praise by being one of the best left (and occasionally right) tackles in the NFL at that time.
19. Eric Wright, CB
Career Stats with 49ers: 5 fumbles recovered, 18 interceptions, 2 touchdowns
You know those guys like Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, who are considered the shutdown cornerbacks of their eras? Well that was Eric Wright–he was one of the true shutdown cornerbacks of the 1980s.
The 49ers could always depend on Wright to keep his side of the field in check. For 10 seasons, he was a true playmaker for San Francisco, using his instincts and ball skills to create turnovers and make life difficult for opposing passers.
Not convinced of his playmaking abilities? Look no further than his 1983 campaign, when he hauled in seven interceptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns. The next two seasons were just as impressive, as he earned a Pro Bowl nod in each and a first-team All-Pro selection in one.
Wright had all of the tools teams look for in outstanding cover cornerbacks, even by today’s standards. The 49ers truly had a great one in him.
18. Dwight Clark, WR
Career Stats with 49ers: 506 receptions, 6,750 receiving yards, 48 receiving TDs, 6 carries, 50 rushing yards
Honestly, I don’t think Dwight Clark was as great as some folks make him out to be. Sure, he had some spectacular catches during his career, but it’s almost as if 49ers fans remember “The Catch” and automatically mark Clark as this otherworldly talent.
Now don’t get me wrong–Clark was an outstanding pass-catcher for San Francisco. He obviously had a reliable pair of hands, was a great athlete, and always found ways to make himself a dependable target for his quarterbacks.
During his nine seasons in San Francisco, Clark also had two Pro Bowl selections and was named an All-Pro once.
Just remember–the greatness of a player is a culmination of what they achieved over their career. While Clark definitely made a big impact on this franchise, we must keep in mind that one historic catch does not make a player a superstar. If that were the case, guys like David Tyree should be in the Hall of Fame.
17. Randy Cross, G/C
Career Stats with 49ers: 185 games played
It truly was a long and illustrious career for Randy Cross, a second-round pick of the 49ers back in 1976. The UCLA product immediately caught on as a starter and never looked back.
During his 13 seasons in San Francisco, Cross shined as a versatile option along the interior of the offensive line. Although most of his career was spent at guard, he started and ended his time with the 49ers at center.
In that time, he also earned three trips to the Pro Bowl and a second-team All-Pro selection while earning a reputation as a tough, physical run blocker. Cross also played a key role in three of the 49ers’ Super Bowl victories during the 1980s.
Cross quickly returned to football after his retirement, taking his talents to the broadcast booth as well as starring in commercials for Miller Lite. Still, he’ll be best remembered for his punishing style of blocking the 49ers enjoyed for over a decade.
16. Y.A. Tittle, QB
Career Stats with 49ers: 16,016 passing yards, 108 passing touchdowns, 134 interceptions, 55.9 completion percentage, 70 passer rating, 196 carries, 637 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns
It’s true that all of Y.A. Tittle’s time with the 49ers wasn’t great. Often splitting starts with other quarterbacks, the eventual Hall of Famer certainly had his struggles in San Francisco.
Then again, Tittle also enjoyed plenty of success in the Bay Area as well. As you can tell by the above stats, the gunslinger wasn’t afraid to toss around the pigskin. Many of his franchise records stood for a long time before some of the 49ers’ eventual superstars arrived.
The knock I would put on Tittle is much of his best football came after he left San Francisco. During his days with the New York Giants, he was a bona fide star. I believe it was his overwhelming success in the Big Apple that led to his enshrinement in Canton.
Still, it all started with the 10 years he spent with the 49ers. If it wasn’t for those many years of quality quarterbacking, he may have never had the opportunity to shine with the Giants.
15. Terrell Owens, WR
Career Stats with 49ers: 592 receptions, 8,572 receiving yards, 81 receiving TDs, 21 carries, 162 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
In terms of natural talent, there weren’t many better than Terrell Owens. Unfortunately, his knack for being a self-center diva ended up limiting his career because teams simply didn’t want to deal with his antics.
Still, when you look solely at the production, it’s hard to deny Owens was a superstar. The physically imposing receiver did a tremendous job of running crisp routes, giving his quarterback a big target, and hauling in just about anything that came his way.
Had it not been for his ego, Owens may have stuck around in San Francisco longer than he did. Instead, he was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where his career turned into a string of short stops before ending in his eventual arrival at irrelevance.
Despite all of the off- and on-field issues, Owens can stake his claim as one of the best receivers to ever play for the 49ers. Between the years of 2000 and 2002, he was easily one of the NFL’s top pass catchers. Imagine what could have been if he hadn’t been such a headcase.
14. Dave Wilcox, OLB
Career Stats with 49ers: 12 fumbles recovered, 14 interceptions, 2 touchdowns
Throughout the history of the NFL, truly elite linebackers have been very hard to come by. It just so happens the 49ers found one of them during the third round of the 1964 NFL Draft.
Dave Wilcox didn’t wait long to assert himself as one of the league’s top talents at linebacker. He took over as a starter in San Francisco as a rookie, and never looked back. Before his time with the 49ers was up, he had earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl, four All-Pro honors and an eventual trip to the Hall of Fame.
Nicknamed “The Enforcer,” Wilcox made his mark with tough, aggressive approach to the game and knack for sniffing out plays. Obviously he was no stranger to creating turnovers either, evidenced by the above stats.
From his intimidating physicality to his durability (missed only one game due to injury in 11 seasons), Wilcox paid huge dividends for the 49ers. He cemented his status as one of the best linebackers to ever don the red and gold.
13. Joe Perry, FB
Career Stats with 49ers: 1,667 carries, 8,689 rushing yards, 68 rushing touchdowns, 204 receptions, 1,505 receiving yards, 11 receiving touchdowns
The first of two star running backs for the 49ers during the 1950s, Joe Perry was lightning in a bottle. Known as “The Jet” due to his ridiculous speed for a fullback, Perry was the first African-American player to earn the NFL MVP award.
The damage he did out of the San Francisco backfield was undeniable. He became the first running back in league history to deliver two back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 rushing yards–one was a rare feat at the time. Consistent production was key for Perry, who was second on the all-time rushing list when he hung up his cleats.
Although he didn’t spend his entire career with the 49ers, Perry came back for one more season before calling it quits. You might say it was a sign of his passion for the city and the franchise.
In 13 seasons with San Francisco, Perry earned three trips to the Pro Bowl and was also named first-team All-Pro three times. Suffice it say, the man had little trouble making a lasting impact for the 49ers.
12. Bob St. Clair, OT
Career Stats with 49ers: 119 games played
A third-round pick of the 49ers in 1953, Bob St. Clair went on to become one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever grace the gridiron in San Francisco.
Primarily a right tackle during his career, St. Clair stood out due to his massive 6-9 frame and surprising athleticism. That mix of physical tools and talent earned him five trips to the Pro Bowl, including four straight from 1958 to 1961.
Known as “The Geek,” St. Clair spent almost his entire football career in San Francisco. He played high school football in San Francisco, went to the University of San Francisco (but finished at Tulsa after USF ended their football program) and spent his entire NFL career with the 49ers. I’m guessing he truly enjoyed life in the Bay Area.
St. Clair’s efforts with the 49ers eventually earned him a trip to the Hall of Fame in 1990.
11. Hugh McElhenny, RB
Career Stats with 49ers: 877 carries, 4,288 rushing yards, 35 rushing touchdowns, 195 receptions, 2,666 receiving yards, 15 receiving touchdowns
Upon joining the 49ers as a first-round pick in 1952, Hugh McElhenny decided he didn’t feel like waiting long to emerge as a star. As a result, he earned Rookie of the Year honors during his first year as a pro.
There’s a reason he was nicknamed “The King.” Put simply, McElhenny dominated in just about every aspect for the 49ers. Whether he was running over defenders, making big plays as a receiver or giving his offense great field position as a returner, his impact couldn’t be understated.
When McElhenny was done playing, he had earned five first-team All-Pro honors, six Pro Bowl invites (five with San Francisco), and a first-class ticket into the Hall of Fame.
Many may not know who he was, but McElhenny deserves all of your respect and then some. His combination of speed and power was a unique combination for his time, paving the way for the workhorse backs that have become a rarity these days.
10. John Brodie, QB
Career Stats with 49ers: 31,548 passing yards, 214 passing touchdowns, 224 interceptions, 55 completion percentage, 72.3 passer rating, 235 carries, 1,167 rushing yards, 22 rushing touchdowns
While the stats don’t tell the whole story, there’s no denying John Brodie was one of the best quarterbacks to ever play for the 49ers.
More than anything, Brodie was a do-it-all leader who carried San Francisco through some of its best seasons. Not only was he an exceptional passer, but he did plenty of damage with his feet as well, as evidenced by his career totals of 1,167 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground.
While the NFL was still figuring out how to throw the football, Brodie was doing big things for the 49ers. Although he only made two Pro Bowls and earned one All-Pro selection, the impact he had on the franchise cannot be understated.
Sure, Brodie doesn’t measure up to some of the 49ers’ other star signal callers. Still, he belongs near the top of this list due to his 17 years of service and outstanding playmaking abilities under center.
9. Roger Craig, RB
Career Stats with 49ers: 1,686 carries, 7,064 rushing yards, 50 rushing touchdowns, 508 receptions, 4,442 receiving yards, 16 receiving touchdowns
Roger Craig was known for many things, but what truly set him apart was his effectiveness as a runner and receiver. One of the first true dual-threat running backs, he helped the 49ers usher in an era in which runners were integral parts of the passing game.
To that effect, Craig was the first player to ever accumulate 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a single season. That versatility made him a huge asset for the San Francisco offense, undoubtedly playing a huge part in three Super Bowl wins.
Not many running backs in 49ers history have had an impact like Craig’s. From his unique high-knee running style to his impressive skills in the passing game, there simply wasn’t much San Francisco could ask of him that he couldn’t deliver.
Although he’s yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, there’s no denying Craig was one of the best, most unique running backs the league has ever seen. He began a trend that has stood the test of time.
8. Charles Haley, DE/OLB
Career Stats with 49ers: 326 tackles, 66.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 7 fumbles recovered, 1 interception, 1 touchdown, 1 safety
If you put on the film of Charles Haley, it’s easy to see why many consider him one of the best pass rushers to ever play the game. He was also one of the first true examples of the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker that’s so prominent today.
Based purely on talent, Haley likely deserves to be higher on this list. However, he spent only eight of his 13 NFL seasons with the 49ers, spending the other five with the Dallas Cowboys. During his days in Texas, he was just as elite.
Between San Francisco and Dallas, Haley racked up a ridiculous 100.5 career sacks. He was a nightmare for opposing passers throughout his career, causing headaches for offensive coordinators on a weekly basis.
Throughout his career, Haley earned five Pro Bowl nods and two All-Pro mentions to go along with five Super Bowl rings. He was everything the 49ers could have wanted in an edge rusher, and then some.
7. Bryant Young, DT
Career Stats with 49ers: 614 tackles, 89.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 7 fumbles recovered, 3 safeties
During his heyday, there weren’t many defensive linemen better than Bryant Young. The 49ers’ interior wreckingball wreaked havoc on opposing offenses for 14 years, and helped San Francisco field some of their best defenses in franchise history.
Look no further than the 89.5 sacks he racked up during his lengthy career with the 49ers. That was ridiculous production for a defensive tackle, especially during a day and age in which the NFL focused more on the run than it does today.
Surprisingly, Young only earned four Pro Bowl trips and four All-Pro nods before his career was over. The league rewarded his efforts, though, by naming him to the 1990s All-Decade team.
Apart from the next player on this list, the 49ers may have never had a more disruptive defensive tackle than Young. The first-round pick out of Notre Dame simply couldn’t be stopped no matter what opposing offenses threw at him.
6. Leo Nomellini, OT/DT
Career Stats with 49ers: 174 games played, 13 fumbles recovered, 2 safeties
The 49ers’ first draft pick in franchise history, Leo Nomellini turned out to be quite the get for San Francisco. Throughout the 1950s, the defensive tackle was arguably the most dominant interior force in the pros.
What’s more is Nomellini dominated on the other side of the line as well. He often played offensive talent for the team, earning honors for his work as a blocker on top of his defensive accolades.
His 10 Pro Bowl appearances and six All-Pro nods are further evidence of how big an impact he had for the 49ers. Time and time again, the league acknowledged his elite skills, even naming him to the NFL all-time team as a defensive tackle and enshrining him in the Hall of Fame in 1969.
And the cherry on top? After his playing days were over, Nomellini took his talents to the professional wrestling world. Not that that necessarily provides more value from a football standpoint, but it is further proof that he was a monster.
5. Jimmy Johnson, CB
Career Stats with 49ers: 7 fumbles recovered, 47 interceptions, 2 touchdowns, 1 safety, 40 receptions, 690 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns
There weren’t many players in 49ers history who made as big an impact for so long the way Jimmy Johnson did. The No. 6 overall pick of 1961 got off to a hot start as a rookie, and didn’t slow down until his retirement 16 years later.
What really made Johnson stand out was his versatility and playmaking abilities. During his lengthy career, the UCLA product played cornerback, safety and wide receiver for the 49ers. The majority of his time was spent at cornerback, though, a position in which he was nearly unbeatable.
All of his hard work culminated in an induction into the Hall of Fame in 1990. I’d say it was a well-deserved honor for one of the true shutdown cornerbacks of Johnson’s time.
While most casual fans won’t remember Johnson (possibly because they weren’t alive when he was playing), it’s worth knowing his name if you’re a 49er faithful.
4. Steve Young, QB
Career Stats with 49ers: 29,907 passing yards, 221 passing touchdowns, 86 interceptions, 65.8 completion percentage, 101.4 passer rating, 608 carries, 3,581 rushing yards, 37 rushing touchdowns
Some teams can’t find a franchise quarterback to save their lives. The 49ers somehow managed to follow up one of the best of all time with one of the most dangerous gunslingers to ever play in the NFL.
Not only was Steve Young an elite passer, but he brought a whole new dynamic to the field with his running. Prior to Cam Newton’s arrival to the league, Young held most of the quarterback rushing records. You can even say Young was ahead of his time when it came to playing the position.
And then there are his passing stats, which speak for themselves. I mean, during his time with the 49ers, he had a 101.4 passer rating. That’s just nuts–especially when you consider it wasn’t always so easy to rack up ridiculous passing stats like it is today.
Some folks might even go as far as ranking Young above the 49ers’ other elite quarterback. They may have an argument, but in my opinion Young belongs right here at No. 4.
3. Ronnie Lott, FS
Career Stats with 49ers: 721 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 12 fumbles recovered, 51 interceptions, 5 touchdowns
Put simply, Ronnie Lott was one of the greatest defenders in NFL history. No matter what it took, he’d do everything in his power to help the 49ers win. Yes, he even went as far as cutting off part of his pinky finger in order to avoid missing playing time.
Lott made his impact on the NFL with devastating hits and a knack for creating turnovers. He made receivers afraid to cross the middle of the field, often punishing anyone who dared enter his zone. That tenacious play earned him countless Pro Bowl nods and five All-Pro selections.
It’s no surprise Lott was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility. Then again, I doubt anyone could come up with a reason to not immortalize him in Canton.
There have only been a handful of safeties in NFL history who had the type of impact Lott did for the 49ers. Realistically, there may never be a safety who strikes fear in opponents the way he did during his 10 years in San Francisco.
2. Joe Montana, QB
Career Stats with 49ers: 35,124 passing yards, 244 passing touchdowns, 123 interceptions, 63.7 completion percentage, 93.5 passer rating, 414 carries, 1,595 rushing yards, 20 rushing touchdowns
Let’s be honest–there’s no way around calling Joe Montana one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He’s got four Super Bowl rings, numerous nicknames, seven Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro honors two NFL MVP awards, and three Super Bowl MVP awards. The list goes on and on.
That’s why No. 2 on this list (ahead of Young) seems like a great spot for Montana. I don’t think many 49ers fans would argue his positioning.
Montana was everything you’d want in a quarterback. He had the elite arm talent, enough athleticism to move in the pocket, terrific football IQ and the leadership to get his team over the hump time and time again. All of those abilities helped pave the way for his Hall of Fame induction in 2000.
While Tom Brady would give him a run for his money, Montana could easily stake a claim as the top signal caller in NFL history. It depends on who you’re asking, but I’m sure more than a few folks would designate him as the GOAT.
1. Jerry Rice, WR
Career Stats with 49ers: 1,281 receptions, 19,247 receiving yards, 176 receiving TDs, 84 carries, 625 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs
Was there really any other choice for the top 49er of all time? Absolutely not.
Jerry Rice is easily the best wide receiver to ever grace the gridiron, and probably has a case as the greatest NFL player of all time. No matter what opposing defenses did, there was simply no slowing Rice.
His hands were perfect. Anything that came his way, he caught it. After the catch, he excelled at racking up yards and finding the end zone. The routes he ran were simply outstanding, often leaving defenders wondering what just happened. Do you get it yet? The guy was good.
Rice was a 12-time Pro Bowler, 10-time All Pro, and won the NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP and Offensive Player of the Year one time each. Many of his records may never be broken, forever etching his name in the annals of football history.
There’s no doubt in my mind Rice is greatest player to ever wear a 49ers uniform. Honestly, I don’t think many folks would question that assertion, even with how successful some of San Francisco quarterbacks were.
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