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RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Who Makes the Cut for a 49ers Dream Team?

Jul 21, 2022 at 7:57 PM--

With football closing in fast, it's time to remind ourselves of the storied history that decorates the 49ers franchise.

The 49ers have put some incredible talent on the field over the years. Because of this, it isn't always a simple process to put together a "Dream Team."

Still, there are some assumptions we can make. Despite extraordinary quarterback play from some great names, most would agree Joe Montana is the greatest 49er quarterback of all time. Jerry Rice certainly takes first prize for the greatest wide receiver of all time. Beyond Joe Cool and Rice, there's a lot up for grabs.

So with that in mind, let's start with a few ground rules. Mind you, a lot of this is personal preference. If you have suggestions or adjustments, feel free to mention them in the comments below.

What criteria did I use to choose these players?

1. I chose mostly players I know well. My experience dates to the beginning of the Montana era. I remember those glory years and am biased a bit by what I saw during that dynastic run and beyond. Some of my picks reflect that bias.

2. I tried to choose players from the past whose careers have since ended. I did this so that current players have an opportunity to prove themselves. No need to hastily harvest the greatest ever from a green crop. I followed this rule with one very notable exception.

3. I only chose two teams rather than filling out an entire 53-man roster. It's simpler and tidier this way. I will admit it's impossible to include all the greats in two teams. I did my best to include those who made the greatest impact.

4. I held a bias for players who either began their careers with the 49ers or spent close to half of their careers with them. In my estimation, a player who lasted three or more years, playing San Francisco deserved mention over a player who inked a one-year deal only to jump to a different team the next year.

With that in mind, great players (like Deion Sanders, for instance) didn't make the list because they didn't spend a significant amount of time with the franchise. This is a bit quirky, but I felt it was fair.

5. Hall of Fame players received precedence. Sure, HOF voting presents a bias in and of itself. The great Roger Craig could and should be in the Hall. However, choosing between Joe Perry and Craig, for instance, came down to overall production AND a Hall induction. It may not seem fair, but it's an objective difference that I can place on paper.

Of course, documenting the talent-laden history of the 49ers in one article would never do justice to such a storied franchise. So we will explore this subject in a series of articles, starting with first-team offense. Even then, how could anyone ever capture the spirit of so many decades of great football?

First up, first-team skill positions.

First Team Skill Positions

Joe Montana (Quarterback) - Joe Cool ranks as the undisputed champion at this position. Sure, there was another guy named Steve who was pretty good. However, when it came to winning in the football season afterlife we call the playoffs, no one in 49ers history showed up better than Montana as his four Super Bowl rings attest.

In today's game, Montana's stat line may look paltry. He threw over twenty touchdowns only six times in his career with one of those a thirty-one-touchdown season. Although flirting with the 4,000-yard mark on a couple of occasions, he never reached that important milestone during his storied career.

However, Montana's value isn't found in his stats. It's found in his leadership. It's found in the ice flowing through his veins. It's found in his winning ways that led the 49ers to multiple NFC championships and four Super Bowls during his time with the team. Steve Young could put up a monster stat line. Only Joe Cool could bring the big one home four times.

Frank Gore (Halfback) - Although this position is a little murkier than quarterback, Gore still stands as the greatest 49ers running back of all time just on production alone. In his ten seasons with the 49ers, he churned out 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns rushing. Not bad for a third-round pick who claimed serious injury concerns in college.

As a near shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, his long shadow stretches beyond any other at this position. With 16,000 career rushing yards total in his NFL career, we might even say he stands among the greatest of all time.

Joe Perry (Fullback) - Here's where murky becomes downright muck. For one thing, the position of "fullback" isn't a stable one. Different eras called on backs to perform different duties, so I made the fullback position an extension of the running back stable in general.

However, Perry was, indeed, a fullback, even though he played more like a feature back. His back-to-back one-thousand yards rushing were a first for the fledgling NFL. Not bad for the first black player selected by the 49ers and the first ever in the NFL.

Even with this in mind, some may cry foul that Roger Craig doesn't own this spot. He did sometimes play at the fullback position. To a certain degree, I must agree with the sentiment. Here's my rationale.

Perry was good, really good, with a line of 8,689 yards rushing, 68 rushing touchdowns and a 5.2 yards per carry average while playing for the Niners. When I looked at his production and his Hall of Fame pedigree, I had to give the nod to Perry. Craig placed a very close second though.

Jerry Rice (Wide Receiver 1) - I certainly hope there's no argument here. I'm more than willing to entertain other candidates on almost any other position as "greatest ever." I won't on this one.

Rice is by far the greatest 49ers receiver of all time with an incredible 19,247 yards, 176 touchdowns and eleven 1,000-yard seasons in a row while he was with San Francisco. He's a Hall of Famer, and an all-around good guy.

His output, work ethic and health catapulted him into the stratosphere of greatest receivers ever to trod NFL soil. Rice, alone, is the Zeus of the 49ers pantheon of players. He deserves this title unchallenged.

Terrell Owens (Wide Receiver 2) - Again, I believe this is a safe assumption. Although Owens struggled with attitude problems and bounced from team to team throughout his career, he still put up Hall of Fame numbers and hammered out a great stint with the 49ers.

Don't forget, he played alongside Jerry Rice for a while, competing for catches with the greatest receiver ever to grip the pigskin. Still, Owens thrived in the San Francisco system, securing 592 receptions for 8,572 yards and 81 touchdowns.

And his dance on the Dallas star ranks as one of the more entertaining events in NFL history (unless you root for the Cowboys, of course). Owens certainly owns the rights to the second greatest wide receiver in 49ers history and one of the greatest of all time.

George Kittle (Tight End) – This one will get me in trouble with some. I didn't want to thrust Kittle into this glorious position so soon. He has struggled with injury issues in his short football life. But there are very good reasons why I chose Kittle as the best ever, so, please, hear me out.

The first is existential. In my four decades in 49ers fandom, I had to admit Kittle is the most entertaining and most talented tight end I've watched play in a San Francisco uniform. His acrobatic catches and "angry runs" that often trample defenders under foot are highlights for the ages.

Some may call for Vernon Davis in this spot, but his inconsistent play in his early years, average blocking ability and stone hands, along with that little "bunny hop" he did when catching passes, intensified my bias for Kittle. Davis certainly had his moments, particularly in the playoffs, but Kittle's moments come much more often. His consistent hands and determination after he catches the ball propel him past Davis.

In addition, Kittle deserves this spot based solely on the production and blocking prowess he's already displayed in his young career. In five seasons, he already ranks third most amongst 49ers tight ends in yards, with a 72.1% catch percentage to boot, and is considered one of the top blockers in the league. Kittle also gains extra points because of the tremendous value he has given the team as a fifth-round draft pick.

On top of all this, Kittle is the outspoken leader of this current 49ers culture. This last fact adds intangibility to Kittle's legacy and supplies value to an already superlative career.

All this leads me to one conclusion: Kittle stands as the greatest 49ers tight end of any era despite a strong showing from Vernon Davis.

First-Team Offensive Line

Bob St. Claire (Tackle) - St. Claire was my clear first choice for greatest tackle. No one blocked better than Bob. Although he may have played in a simpler era of football, his athletic prowess would certainly translate to today's game. His play was timeless. He holds a place in the Hall of Fame. He is the best all time.

Joe Staley (Tackle) - Other than St. Claire, I can't imagine rolling with someone other than Staley at tackle. His leadership alone places him in the upper echelon of 49ers players. Of course, he was no slouch in playing the position either, as his six Pro Bowl nods attest.

Randy Cross (Guard) - Cross represents the all-pro pedigree San Francisco collected during the dynasty years. In fact, Cross was such an athletic talent, they moved him to center during his career. He played well enough to protect one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, playing two positions to do so, no less. He was that good.

And who from that era can forget the commercial where no one recognizes him until he bends over? Good times!

Guy McIntyre (Guard) - McIntyre stands as another "dynasty years" great who protected the unflappable "Joe Cool." Rightly so. McIntyre put together a phenomenal career, winning multiple Super Bowls in the process. He stands as one of the greatest guards to ever grace a 49ers uniform.

Jesse Sapolu (Center) - Sapolu may represent the best of the best at center for the 49ers. He anchored the offensive line during the great 80s dynasty, protecting Montana alongside other 49ers greats. If Bill Walsh had that kind of confidence in him, so should we. He stands as one of the greatest 49ers offensive linemen of all time.

Bill Walsh (Head Coach) – Speaking of Walsh, I wouldn't want to roll with anyone else. He was the innovator George Seifert only dreamed of being. And although Seifert, Buck Shaw and Jim Harbaugh all have better winning percentages than Walsh, none of them can brag three Super Bowl trophies like he can. Coach Walsh could bring it home. That's why he deserves this place.

So who is your all-time 49ers offensive team? Share it in the comments. Coming up next, first-team defense.
  • Written by:
    Bill has written for a wide variety of online publications, ranging in topics from academics and education to life management and public speaking. He has also written for regional publications. However, one burning passion drives him more than most others: his obsessive loyalty to the 49ers franchise. Practically born into it, he bleeds red and gold. He also enjoys public speaking and talking about himself in the third person.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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