I'm sure many would've expected this team, the 1984 49ers, to be No. 1 on my list for several reasons.
For one, they're technically the best 18-1 championship team in NFL history, with their lone regular-season blemish being a three-point loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime (the 18-1 New England Patriots don't count, obviously, because their one loss was just a wee bit more significant).
Secondly, they had a scoring differential of 248 points, by far the best of any 49ers team since they joined the NFL.
These 49ers finished second in the league to Dan Marino and the Dolphins in total offense and in scoring and had the top scoring defense in the league.
They won their three playoff games in convincing (but not overwhelming) fashion by a combined score of 84-26, with none of the games closer than 11 points.
But before I get to why I have them ranked second, a quick tangent about their one loss.
I was there. Sorry. You can blame 18-1 on me. It was the first football game I attended in person, and I was quite literally a six-year-old fresh off the boat as an immigrant. I had no idea what I was watching (some would suggest I still don't).
An even worse sin, I'm sure you'd agree, is that I was, technically, rooting for the Steelers because our tickets for that game had been provided by their starting right tackle Tunch Ilkin, whose parents were very good friends with my grandparents.
(Ilkin was selected as the team's all-time starting right tackle and does the color commentary for their radio broadcasts these days. He's a great guy who recently lost his wife of nearly 30 years, Sharon, to cancer, and she was one of the two Indiana State cheerleaders on that Sports Illustrated cover with a collegiate Larry Bird.)
Anyway, by the time of the Super Bowl I had a fairly decent working knowledge of the game and quickly shifted my allegiances to Joe Montana and the 49ers before falling for that other Pennsylvania-based team, the far less successful one, a couple of years later, but that's neither here nor there.
Here's why the '84 Niners are second best in my eyes.
For one, they didn't have Jerry Rice just yet. To me, it only makes sense that the all-time best 49ers team has their all-time best player on it.
Come to think of it, how absurd is it that the defending Super Bowl champions were in position to draft Rice? That's like the '80s Lakers or Celtics drafting Michael Jordan.
For another, that Niners team just didn't have enough star power for me, and they were a total-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts kind of team on both sides of the ball if there ever was one.
Roger Craig hadn't achieved full stardom just yet, and he was still second fiddle in the backfield to veteran Wendell Tyler. People always make the mistake of assuming that 1984 was Craig's 1,000-1,000 year, in which he became the first running back to break a thousand yards both running and receiving (Marshall Faulk also turned the trick for the '99 Rams), but actually he did that the next season.
Craig and Tyler were also two of eight 49ers to finish with between 230 and 880 receiving yards, with Dwight Clark pacing the club with that relatively meager figure.
The defense totaled 51 sacks, but after Dwaine Board's 10, nobody else had more than five. They picked off 25 passes, but nobody had more than four.
Talk about "The team, the team, the team," I bet Jim Harbaugh, then a sophomore QB at Michigan, would've loved the '84 Niners.
Finally, I've got them second because even the betting public at the time wasn't convinced they were definitively the best team in the league that year, never mind one of the best ever. They were only three-point favorites to the Dolphins in the Super Bowl, despite playing basically a home game at Stanford stadium.
That means if it were truly a neutral site game, at New Orleans or somewhere like that, that the line would've been even money. The Niners just didn't have the respect of the people coming into the game, they had to earn it.
Of course Montana easily bested Marino and Co. 38-16 and took home his second Super Bowl MVP award (with Craig scoring three touchdowns), and surprisingly there would be no more rematches, as Marino never again made it to the Super Bowl.
The top 49ers team of all time, however, squared off against a quarterback, and a team, that had been in a few already and would go on to play (and win) a couple more .