San Francisco 49ers: The All-Time Team

Peter PanacyCorrespondent IJune 13, 2013

San Francisco 49ers: The All-Time Team

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    I remember playing video games in the early '90s on Nintendo and Super Nintendo (yes I am dating myself here) and how I loved playing those football games where you could choose your favorite team.  Many games had an option to select "all-time greats" as the team you would play.

    Every player on the 49ers (the team I always chose) was a stud and an outstanding representative of their respective era. They were always dream teams to say the least.

    While my video game-playing days are all but over, I still enjoy looking back at the storied history of the San Francisco 49ers and thinking about the best players who have put on a 49ers uniform over the course of the franchise. Certainly comparisons between recent 49er teams and the teams of yesteryear are difficult to make. The game itself has changed. Styles have changed, records have been broken and there are legitimate reasons to assume that players of the past could not have competed at the same level today.

    Yet we must examine how each individual player impacted the team, and the game for that matter, during the time-frame they played. Exceptional impacts and performance are always noteworthy and San Francisco is fortunate enough to have a deep pool of players who could contend for an all-time team.

    This is the cut however.

    In this slideshow, I select my 49ers all-time team, dating back to 1970 and the modern era. I examine each of the positions, all-time starters, as well as a number of backups who are worth noting.

    It is ultimate "fantasy football" at best, but it is also fun and worth taking a second look at. 

    Here are the all-time 49ers greats put together on a team for the ages.

     

    All statistics and records courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.

The Coaches

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    Head Coach: Bill Walsh (1979 - 1988)

    Offensive Coordinator: Jim Harbaugh (2011 - present)

    Defensive Coordinator: George Seifert (1989 - 1996)

     

    Walsh, Harbaugh and Seifert. That would be quite the coaching trio.

     

    Bill Walsh - Head Coach

    For starters, how could anyone argue with the placement of Bill Walsh as head coach of an all-time 49ers team?

    With a record of 102-63-1 as San Francisco's head coach, plus three Super Bowl titles under his belt, Walsh has to be considered the greatest head coach in franchise history, if not a contender for greatest in all of football.

    Yet Walsh was more than just a successful head coach. He took over the job in 1979, one year after the 49ers suffered a disastrous season, thanks in large measure to the debacle that was Joe Thomas' tenure as general manager.

    With the team in utter disarray, Walsh set to work drafting two players who would become icons in 49er history: quarterback Joe Montana and wide receiver Dwight Clark.

    He also began implementing the new West Coast-style offense that would help San Francisco earn the title, "Team of the '80s."

    Walsh's intelligence and ability to groom young quarterbacks were staples to his success. Not only did he turn a floundering franchise around in only three years time, but also created a dynasty that fans will not soon forget.

     

    Jim Harbaugh - Offensive Coordinator

    Like Walsh, another former Stanford head coach has also made a significant impact on the 49ers franchise: Jim Harbaugh.

    Unlike Walsh, however, Harbaugh had professional football experience as a player, something that has undoubtedly earned him the respect of the current 49er roster.

    Yet there are plenty of similarities between Walsh and Harbaugh. Both were able to turn a struggling franchise around in quick succession. Both were known for being able to develop young quarterbacks and both had the smarts to succeed at the NFL level.

    For Harbaugh, his demeanor and knowledge have helped transform a 49ers franchise that had struggled since the middle of the previous decade into a Super Bowl contender.  His offensive implementations have been vital to the recent surge in production seen by the team.

    While Harbaugh will forever be known as the first 49ers head coach to lose a Super Bowl, one cannot discredit the work he put in to building one of the more dominant NFL teams in recent years.

    For these reasons, he should be slated as the 49ers offensive coordinator on the all-time team.

     

    George Seifert - Defensive Coordinator

    On the defensive side of the ball, it is also hard to argue with the selection of George Seifert who served as the 49ers' defensive coordinator from 1983 to 1988. 

    Walsh personally chose Seifert as his successor when he retired after the 1988 season and Seifert did not disappoint. 

    During his tenure as 49ers head coach, Seifert amassed a total of 98 wins and 30 losses, combined with two Super Bowl victories. Granted, Seifert inherited a team already laden with talent, yet he did not fail to keep that talent working in the right direction.

    Over the course of his head coaching career, Seifert made the right decisions and kept the legacy of the 1980s dynasty alive well into the 1990s.

    Seifert was known for being a hard-nosed coach who would stop at nothing to get the best out of his players. Considering some of the personalities that played in San Francisco during this time, such a task was likely no easy feat. Perhaps those efforts are the direct reason behind the success he enjoyed as head coach.

Special Teams

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    Kicker: Joe Nedney (2005 - 2010)

    Punter: Andy Lee (2004 - current)

    Kick Returner: Dexter Carter (1990 - 1996)

    Punt Returner: Dana McLemore (1982 - 1987)

     

    Joe Nedney - Kicker

    Kicker Joe Nedney was one of the lone bright spots for the 49ers during some of the tougher years in franchise history.

    Playing with San Francisco from 2005 through 2010, Nedney was one of the few offensive weapons that was able to deliver with any consistency over a dark stretch of 49ers offensive woes.

    During that span, Nedney completed all of his 154 extra-point attempts. In addition, he converted 129 of 149 field goal attempts for an 86.6 completion percentage. Nine of 16 attempts were also from beyond 50 yards.

    Kicker Ray Wersching is a close second, having played with the 49ers from 1977 through 1987, yet Wersching had some struggles with his extra-point conversions. While he kicked a total of 190 field goals over that span, his conversion percentage was only 72.8 percent, far lower than that of Nedney.

     

    Andy Lee - Punter

    One of the good things that came out of the 2004 49ers draft class was punter Andy Lee. His impact was immediately felt during his rookie year, a season where San Francisco saw plenty of punting. He punted 96 times for nearly 4,000 yards during the year and still adds to his impressive numbers with the 49ers to this day.

    It may be no surprise that Lee is a three-time Pro Bowler (2007, 2009, 2011).

    If the 49ers needed a punter to pin the opposing offense deep within their own territory, Lee would be the guy to do it for the all-time team.

     

    Kick Returner - Dexter Carter

    While Dexter Carter was initially drafted as the heir apparent to running back Roger Craig, his biggest impact may have been made returning kicks for San Francisco.

    Drafted by the 49ers with their first round pick in 1990, Carter established himself as the most dominant kick returner in franchise history, amassing 4,707 yards and two touchdowns on 217 returns. 

    Nobody else even comes close to that in the 49ers' history since 1970.

    Even though fans may have been frustrated with the fact that he never developed into the running back the team hoped he would be, at least he was able to contribute in other ways, warranting his inclusion on this list.

     

    Dana McLemore - Punt Returner

    The 49ers got a gem when they drafted Dana McLemore in the 10th round of the 1982 NFL Draft.

    Drafted as a cornerback, McLemore was best known for his contributions on special teams. During his four-plus seasons with San Francisco, McLemore posted an impressive 1,531 return yards and four touchdowns on 142 punt returns. 

    Only John Taylor had more punt returns than McLemore, and even he was not able to put up the same numbers in comparison.

The Defensive Line

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    Defensive Ends: Cedric Hardman (1970 - 1979) & Justin Smith (2008 - present)

    Defensive Tackles: Bryant Young (1994 - 2007) & Dana Stubblefield (1993 - 1997, 2001 - 2002)

     

    I would love to see any of these guys playing together on a defensive line. 

     

    Cedric Hardman - Defensive End

    Many young 49er have never heard the name Cedric Hardman, but they should have. 

    Hardman is the franchise leader in sacks, totaling 120 during his career with the 49ers that spanned from 1970 through 1979. Selected by San Francisco in the first round of the 1970 draft, the 49ers got a pass-rushing gem who was known for putting pressure on the opposition's quarterback.

    In all, Hardman played 139 games with the 49ers before moving on to the Oakland Raiders for the last two seasons of his career.

    The next guy on this list would have certainly been impressed with Hardman's efforts.

     

    Justin Smith - Defensive End

    Now most younger 49er fans now know who I am talking about. Justin "the Cowboy" Smith has emerged as one of the current lynch-pins in the 49ers defense.

    When he was initially signed by the 49ers before the 2008 season, Smith had already proven himself as a lofty pass-rusher and an anchor on any defensive line. San Francisco needed a player like Smith and hindsight has shown that signing him was the right thing to do.

    Since then, Smith has posted 247 tackles with the 49ers along with 32 sacks. He has made the Pro Bowl in all but his first season with San Francisco. More impressive, however, is how his style of play changes the way opposing offenses approach the game.

    Offensive schemes often revolve around Smith and what he is doing on the field. That alone is quite an accolade, and makes the decision to put him on this list an easy one.

     

    Dana Stubblefield - Defensive Tackle

    Dana Stubblefield was one of my favorite 49ers back in the 1990s. First, he had 10.5 sacks in his 1993 rookie season. Over the course of the next four years, Stubblefield would add to that total, resulting in him being named to the Pro Bowl three times, as well as a first team All-Pro in 1997. 

    Hard to dislike that at all.

    Stubblefield then left the 49ers and spent a three-year stint with the Washington Redskins before returning to San Francisco for the 2001 and 2002 seasons. With his best days behind him, though, the 49ers would part ways with him in 2003 and he retired a year later.

     

    Bryant Young - Defensive Tackle

    Right alongside Stubblefield on the defensive line for six years was another fan favorite, Bryant Young.

    Again, Young is another one of those players that cannot be left off this list. Young played his entire 14-year career in San Francisco, something that is hard to do in this age of salary caps, big contracts and talent going to the highest bidder.

    The four-time Pro Bowler spent most of his career playing as a defensive tackle, only to switch to the end position later in his career. During that span, Young amassed 512 tackles, 106 assists and 89.5 sacks.

    In addition, Young was more than durable, missing no more than four games during any of his 14 professional seasons, and most of those came at the beginning of his career.

    Young joined the 49ers as a rookie in 1994 when they were one of the league's most dominant franchises. He was there when San Francisco made pushes during the late '90s and into the early 2000s.

    Sadly, he played his last days when the 49ers had become a mired franchise. Yet his leadership and dedication earned him the respect of his teammates and the fans. 

    There is no way he can be left off the all-time 49ers team.

     

    Backups:

    Fred Dean - Defensive End (1981 - 1985)

    Dwaine Board - Defensive End (1979 - 1988)

    Cleveland Elam - Defensive Tackle (1975 - 1978)

    Jeff Stover - Defensive Tackle (1982 - 1988)

Linebackers

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    Outside Linebackers: Charles Haley (1986 - 1991, 1998 - 1999) & Bill Romanowski (1988 - 1993)

    Inside Linebackers: Ken Norton Jr. (1994 - 2000) & Patrick Willis (2007 - present)

     

    The 49er All-Time team features linebackers that consist of both character and characters. From the leadership and determination of Patrick Willis to the controversy of Charles Haley, San Francisco has had its share of dynamic personalities at the position.

     

    Ken Norton Jr. - Inside Linebacker

    The 49ers were in a wild-spending mood when they entered the 1994 season, electing to bring in a number of high-profile free agents that included the likes of defensive back Deion Sanders and linebacker Ken Norton Jr.

    Norton had already put together a solid career in Dallas before being signed by San Francisco. During his first year with the 49ers, Norton totaled 75 tackles and 11 assists, helping a dynamic and dominant 49er defense win their fifth Super Bowl at year's end.

    He backed up his first season in San Francisco with an even better campaign in 1995, resulting in him being selected as a first team All-Pro that year. He would go on to earn another Pro Bowl nomination in 1997 and would eventually retire after 2000.

    Norton's acquisition was a smart move by the 49ers' management. His likable personality and his play on the field easily warrant his position on this list.

     

    Bill Romanowski - Outside Linebacker

    One of the more interesting characters on this list of all-time greats is Bill Romanowski. 

    While he may be best remembered for the numerous altercations on the field, as well as being tied to steroid use, Romanowski also put together quite an impressive NFL career that started with the 49ers when he was drafted in 1988.

    In all, Romanowski enjoyed six seasons with the 49ers, totaling 445 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions. His best year came in 1993 when he had 105 tackles. San Francisco parted ways with him after the season, and Romanowski would go on to have a successful career, albeit marred by controversy.

    Despite the controversies that plagued his career, one has to remember that his aggressive play started in San Francisco and helped earn him the reputation that carried him through that career. For that reason, Romanowski has earned a spot as one of the 49ers' greats.

     

    Charles Haley - Outside Linebacker

    Another 49er who endured a controversial career is Charles Haley. 

    Like Romanowski, Haley began his storied career with the 49ers and was drafted by San Francisco in the fourth round of the 1986 NFL Draft. His rookie season proved to be one of his best, as Haley totaled 59 tackles and 12 sacks despite not being tabbed as a starter.

    Haley would be a part of a vaunted San Francisco defense over the next six seasons, helping the 49ers win two Super Bowls and earning a trip to three Pro Bowls over the same span. Yet Haley's first tenure with the 49ers created problems with head coach George Seifert, as well as quarterback Steve Young. As a result, Haley was traded to the Dallas Cowboys before the 1992 season.

    After a stint in Dallas that saw him earn another three Super Bowl rings, Haley came back to the 49ers in 1998 and helped them make the playoffs in 1999. 

    Although his career was clouded by controversy and numerous on-the-field incidents, his style of play merits inclusion as one of the 49ers' best.

     

    Patrick Willis - Inside Linebacker

    Perhaps no other linebacker in San Francisco history deserves the same level of praise as Patrick Willis. After all, how often does a player make the Pro Bowl in each of his first six years in the NFL?

    Drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 2007 draft, Willis immediately made his impact felt on a San Francisco team that was still stuck in the struggles of the Mike Nolan era. 

    His tenacity on the field, combined with excellent leadership and work ethic earned him the respect of teammates, coaches and fans alike. That respect continues to this day.

    630 tackles and 17.5 sacks add to Willis' highlight reel of a career thus far in a 49ers uniform.  He will likely be considered as one of the greatest linebackers in the game for years to come. 

    Willis is a "no-brainer' addition to this list. Would anyone argue?

     

    Backups:

    Aldon Smith - Outside Linebacker (2011 - present)

    Dave Wilcox - Outside Linebacker (1964 - 1974)

    Jack Reynolds - Inside Linebacker (1981 - 1984)

    Keena Turner - Inside Linebacker (1980 - 1990)

     

Cornerbacks

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    Cornerbacks: Jimmy Johnson (1961 - 1976) and Eric Wright (1981 - 1990)

     

    This one is fairly easy. The reader has to note that I intentionally leave Deion Sanders off this list, not because of his performance during his 49er tenure, but because he was only a one-year "rental" and did not impact the team over a long term. 

     

    Jimmy Johnson - Cornerback

    Jimmy Johnson is another one of those 49er greats that few current fans will easily recall. Yet he should be remembered, and not just for the fact that he holds the franchise-record 47 interceptions at his position.

    Johnson should also be remembered because he was one of the first corners in the modern era to be considered a "shut-down" cornerback, completely isolating opposing receivers and preventing numerous plays from being made on his side of the field.

    Long before the days of Deion Sanders, Champ Bailey and Darrelle Revis, Johnson was tremendous at eliminating his side of the field from offensive game plans.

    Adding to Johnson's accolades is the fact that he had a long career in San Francisco, playing with the 49ers from 1961 until 1976, when he was 38 years old.

    Okay, you might say most of his years were spent before the modern era, before eligibility on this list counts. Well, I counter that by saying that Johnson was selected to the Pro Bowl four times after 1970 including three first team All-Pro nominations during that time.

    In the days of instant access to highlight reels and news clips, it may be hard for fans to find anything that would showcase Johnson's talents. Yet the fact remains that he needs to be on this list. If fans could see him in action, they would not want anyone else starting over him.

     

    Eric Wright - Cornerback

    While he's not as stellar as Johnson, Eric Wright forged his own remarkable career with the 49ers. Drafted in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft, Wright was part of a 49er backfield that, along with fellow defensive back Ronnie Lott, helped San Francisco win its first Super Bowl title.

    Wright's best year came in 1983 when he recorded a total of seven interceptions over the course of the season. Surprisingly, he was not named to the Pro Bowl. Instead, nominations came the following two years and Wright continued to be a recognizable force in the backfield.

    Over the course of his ten-year career with the 49ers, Wright had only 18 interceptions.  Yet he was as good as they came at shutting down receivers and preventing offensive options. He also won four Super Bowls with the team, so he must have been doing something right.

     

    Backups:

    Don Griffin (1986 - 1993)

    Eric Davis (1990 - 1995)

    Tarell Brown (2007 - present)

     

Safeties

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    Safeties: Ronnie Lott (1981 - 1990) and Merton Hanks (1991 - 1998)

     

    Like the cornerback selection, this one is also pretty easy to figure out. How could anyone argue with the selections of Ronnie Lott and his successor Merton Hanks to the all-time 49er team?

     

    Ronnie Lott

    San Francisco must have known what it was doing in 1981 when they drafted Ronnie Lott with the eighth overall pick. It is a good thing they did. 

    Along with fellow 1981 draftee Eric Wright, Lott became part of a backfield that was being renovated by head coach Bill Walsh. During his rookie year, Lott posted 89 tackles and seven interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns. It is no surprise that Lott would be named as a first team All-Pro that year. 

    With Lott and the 49ers rolling, San Francisco would work its way to its first Super Bowl, resulting in one of the greatest years in franchise history.

    Over the course of his storied career, Lott developed the reputation as one of the hardest-hitting safeties in football. I would argue that nobody ever hit as hard before or after Lott. He was just that good. Yet hitting was not the only aspect to his game. Lott was also a ball hawk who wound up tallying 51 interceptions during his 49er career, a record that still stands today among all San Francisco players.

    Lott would leave San Francisco after 1990 and have four more successful years with the Los Angeles Raiders and New York Jets before retiring after the 1994 season.

     

    Merton Hanks

    In 1991, Ronnie Lott was on his way out and rookie safety Merton Hanks was on his way in. The 49ers did not lose a whole lot there. While never receiving the same level of praise that Lott has garnered, Hanks was almost as impressive, helping the 49ers defense remain a pivotal aspect of their game until 1999.

    During his nine-year career with San Francisco, Hanks would total 31 interceptions along with 445 tackles. His 31 interceptions are tied for fourth on the all-time franchise record list. He would also be named to the Pro Bowl four times, including one selection as first team All-Pro in 1995.

    Hanks did a great job in emerging out of the shadow of Lott. He not only made the transformation quickly, but also cemented his own legacy in a 49ers uniform.

     

    Backups:

    Dwight Hicks (1979 - 1986)

    Carlton Williamson (1981 - 1987)

The Offensive Line

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    Center: Jesse Sapolu (1983 - 1996)

    Guards: Randy Cross (1976 - 1988) & Guy McIntyre (1984 - 1996)

    Offensive Tackles: Harris Barton (1987 - 1997) & Joe Staley (2007 - present)

     

    Jesse Sapolu - Center

    As one of the more likeable members of the 49ers, and playing a position that rarely gets a lot of credit, Sapolu earned the respect of his teammates and their fans over the course of a 13-year career spent entirely with the 49ers.

    Drafted in the 11th round of the 1983 NFL Draft, Sapolu would take two years to earn a starting job on the 49ers offensive line. While spending some time at guard, Sapolu would see most of his career at center and he did a solid job of it, eventually being named to the Pro Bowl twice in 1993 and 1994. 

    Even more remarkable was the fact that Sapolu played with a serious heart condition that could have killed him at any point on the field.

    Yet the four-time Super Bowl champion always remained upbeat and hopes that his story will inspire those with similar conditions. He stated:

    I feel like it’s a good thing to let people know what I dealt with during my whole career. Kids with similar heart conditions, they need to know about it. There’s a way they can come back and play with a certain procedure which allows them to fulfill their dreams if they choose to. (via 49ers.com)

    That attitude alone justifies his inclusion on this list. Fortunately, Sapolu also has the accolades to back up the selection.

     

    Randy Cross - Guard

    Randy Cross is another easy selection on this list. Drafted by the 49ers in the second round of the 1976 draft, Cross became a mainstay of the 49ers offensive line that saw both turmoil and triumph.

    Like Sapolu, Cross experienced time at both guard and center, showing the type of flexibility that is crucial to an offensive line.

    During his 13-year career, spent entirely in San Francisco, Cross would be named to the Pro Bowl three times and enjoy three Super Bowl championships, playing his last game in Super Bowl XXIII.

    Not a bad way to end a career.

     

    Guy McIntyre - Guard

    San Francisco's offensive line was one of its greatest strengths during the 1980s, and Guy McIntyre was one of its key components.

    Selected in the third round of the 1984 draft by the 49ers, McIntyre would take four seasons to earn a starting job on the line, but, when he did, he eventually developed into one of the best guards in the NFL.

    He was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was part of three Super Bowl-champion teams during his 49er tenure, which lasted from 1984 to 1993. McIntyre would go on to play three more seasons after he left the 49ers in 1994.

     

    Harris Barton - Tackle

    There was a reason that the 49ers spent their first-round draft pick on Harris Barton in the 1987 draft. Barton was highly touted both before and after college and earned a number of accolades at the University of North Carolina.

    During his first season with the 49ers, Barton impressed so much that he wound up being runner-up for Rookie of the Year. Not bad, considering tackles do not typically receive such awards.

    Barton would spend ten years in San Francisco before retiring in 1997. During that span, he was a part of three Super Bowl championships and earned two trips to the Pro Bowl.

     

    Joe Staley - Tackle

    The newest addition to the list of all-time 49er greats on the offensive line is a guy who deserves to be here: Joe Staley.

    Drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft, Staley had to wait only a few weeks into preseason before being named the starting tackle over the incumbent Kwame Harris. The 49ers have not looked back since.

    Staley has become a stalwart on San Francisco's offensive line and has made it to the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons. It is a reasonable assumption that Staley's best days are still ahead of him.

    San Francisco's offensive line has turned into one of the best in the NFL and Staley is a big reason why. For that reason alone, he is able to force himself onto this list and justifiably so.

     

    Backups:

    Jeremy Newberry - Center (1999 - 2005)

    Mike Iupati - Guard (2010 - present)

    Kevin Gogan - Guard (1997 - 1998)

    Keith Fahnhorst - Tackle (1974 - 1987)

    Steve Wallace - Tackle (1986 - 1996)

Tight End

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    Tight End: Brent Jones (1987 - 1997)

     

    Alright Vernon Davis fans, I hear you. You may be wondering why he is not the starting all-time 49ers tight end, but the reason is simple. Davis is not yet the player that Brent Jones was. There is a definite possibility that he will be at some point, but not yet.

     

    Brent Jones - Tight End

    The 49ers were lucky to acquire Brent Jones. Jones, who was initially drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1986 NFL Draft, found himself on the 49ers' roster a year later, after being sidelined by injury during what would have been his rookie season.

    Jones had to wait until 1989 to get a starting job, but when he did, San Francisco would be in for a real treat. The Bay Area native and graduate of Santa Clara University went on to have a stellar career for the 49ers, amassing 417 receptions for 5,195 yards and 33 touchdowns. He currently has the seventh-most reception yards in franchise history.

    In all, Jones spent 11 seasons with the 49ers, which included four trips to the Pro Bowl.  His accolades earned him a nomination to the NFL's Hall of Fame in 2002.

    All of that may not have been possible if not for the injury that thwarted his first season in Pittsburgh. A car accident, which resulted in a herniated disc in his neck, proved to be too costly for the Steelers to risk holding onto their fifth round draft pick.

    Of the incident and subsequent 49er acquisition, Jones stated:

    It was the best thing that could have happened. You don't think it at the time, but it changed my whole life for the positive. (via mercurynews.com)

    49er fans who saw him play would have to agree.

     

    Backups:

    Vernon Davis (2006 - present)

Running Backs

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    Running Back: Frank Gore (2005 - present)

    Fullback: Tom Rathman (1986 - 1993)

     

    Frank Gore - Running Back

    Here is another selection that is hard to argue. Over his storied career in San Francisco, Frank Gore has seen plenty. He has also done quite a bit for a team that has endured both triumphs and tribulations.

    When Gore was selected in the third round of the 2005 draft, the 49ers were taking a chance on a former University of Miami running back who had a history of injury problems. The franchise was also rebuilding, and would spend years trying to revamp a team that had fallen from grace in the NFL.

    During those first few years, few 49er players had as much impact on the team than Gore.

    As one of the team's offensive stars, Gore was not only a legitimate running threat in the San Francisco ground game, but was also a favorite passing target for then-quarterback Alex Smith.

    Despite being on bad teams for the first few years of his career, Gore would press on and continue to deliver a top-option out of the backfield. After the 2008 season, Gore would become the first 49ers running back to rush for at least 1,000 yards for three straight seasons.

    As the 49ers began to improve toward the latter part of the decade, Gore started chasing down the franchise all-time record holders for rushing yards: Roger Craig and Joe Perry.  He has now passed both and stands as San Francisco's all-time leading rusher with 8,839 yards. 

    Adding to those numbers are 51 rushing touchdowns, combined with 315 receptions for 2,631 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. 

    If you hold a 49ers franchise record, especially at such a demanding position, you deserve to be on this list.

     

    Tom Rathman - Fullback

    This is another no-brainer. Tom Rathman was as solid as a fullback could be.

    Drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 1986 draft, Rathman would wind up being the lead blocker for Roger Craig for three years and wind up winning two Super Bowls with the team.

    Yet Rathman was more than just a lead blocker. He was also a decent offensive weapon for the San Francisco offense, totaling over 1,900 rushing yards during his 49er tenure.  Rathman also hauled in 294 passes for 2,490 yards during the same span.

    While fullbacks generally do not receive the amount of praise given to other offensive players, it is hard to leave a player like Rathman off this list. He was a great blocker as well as a solid offensive weapon.

     

    Backups:

    Roger Craig - Running Back (1983 - 1990)

    William Floyd - Fullback (1994 - 1997)

     

Wide Receivers

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    Wide Receivers: Jerry Rice (1985 - 2000) & Terrell Owens (1996 - 2003)

     

    The first person on this selection should be the first player selected on any all-time NFL team.

     

    Jerry Rice - Wide Receiver

    As previously stated, Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver to have ever played the game.  Yes, Randy Moss, I hear you, and yes, Randy, I still disagree with you 100 percent.

    Coming out of Mississippi Valley State, Rice was a highly-touted receiver, yet for some reason, a number of teams passed on him. When the 49ers traded up to the 16th overall pick in 1985, two receivers, Eddie Brown and Al Toon had already been drafted. While both Brown and Toon would go on to have decent careers, the clear winner of the 1985 draft were Rice and the 49ers.

    Rice had an immediate impact during his rookie season, attaining 49 receptions for 927 yards in an offense that already featured Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. Once Rice started his second season, he was off to the races and would impact the game of football perhaps more than any other player at any time.

    Fans and experts know his statistics. I would not be surprising anyone there. 1,281 receptions for 19,247 yards and 176 touchdowns during his fabled San Francisco career. He smashed records, setting them higher than almost anyone could ever achieve. Some records, like his 22,895 career receiving yards, may never be broken.

    What is perhaps even more impressive is how Rice would be selected to the Pro Bowl in 1986 and not miss another Pro Bowl until an injury thwarted his 1997 season. Rice would also be named first team All-Pro in all but one of the seasons over the same timespan.

    Rice would also win three Super Bowls with the 49ers and earn Super Bowl MVP honors in Super Bowl XXIII.

    There is no doubting Rice's impact on the game of football. The NFL awarded Rice with the number one selection in The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players. Yet Rice's legacy expands beyond the game itself.

    Former teammate Ronnie Lott summarized it pretty well by saying:

    If Michael Jordan was the standard for hard work in basketball, then Jerry Rice is the standard for football. Most people didn't think he would have the impact that he did on this game. But he came into the league trying to make a team. Jerry always told me that he never played the perfect game. In his mind, that's a lofty deal. A lot of people would take a few of his games as perfection. (via usatoday.com)

    It does not get much better than that.

     

    Terrell Owens

    This was a selection that I had to think about.

    Okay, I cringed a little.

    I am pretty sure that when most people think of Terrell Owens, they think of all the controversy that has surrounded his career. They think of his showboating, him dancing on the star in the middle of the field at Texas Stadium, calling out various quarterbacks and spitting in the face of cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

    Yet if we can separate the attitude from the talent just for a moment, we can also recall the fact that Owens was one of the most productive receivers to ever wear a 49ers uniform.

    When San Francisco drafted him in the third round of the 1996 draft, they were hoping to get a receiver that could complement the aging Jerry Rice and provide another target for quarterback Steve Young.

    In 1998, Owens began to come into his own hauling in 67 passes for 1,097 yards and 14 touchdowns during the season. While dropped passes were an unfortunate part to his early game, Owens was emerging as a solid receiver. 

    During the playoffs, the 49ers faced the Green Bay Packers in the Wildcard Game and Owens, who had struggled with dropped passes throughout much of the game, hauled in the eventual winning touchdown pass from Steve Young in the waning seconds of the game to give the 49ers a 30-27 victory.

    The catch has since been referred to as "The Catch Number Two," taking a spot behind the initial "catch" from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark against the Dallas Cowboys during the 1982 NFC championship game.

    During his 49er tenure, Owens would amass a total of 592 receptions for 8,572 yards and 81 touchdowns. His receiving yards and touchdowns place him second on the 49ers' all-time leaders list behind Rice.

    Yes, there are the controversies, and many of them occurred with the 49ers. However, one cannot deny that Owens was a legitimate threat on the field and a guy who never took a play off even if the ball was not thrown in his direction. On the sidelines and off the field however, Owens was a different story.

     

    Backups:

    Dwight Clark (1979 - 1987)

    Gene Washington (1969 - 1977)

Quarterback

11 of 11

    Quarterback: Joe Montana (1979 - 1992)

     

    Joe Montana

    Having a quarterback like Joe Montana makes the tail-end of the 49ers' all-time team easy to complete. I could write another biography here, much like I could with one of his favorite targets, Jerry Rice, but I wouldn't be adding anything new. Montana's legacy is that well-known.

    What makes Montana's case intriguing, though, is the fact that he was not an overly-touted prospect coming out of college during the 1979 NFL Draft.

    While enjoying a successful collegiate career, during which he was known as "Joe Cool," Montana was not deemed a top-tier quarterback, and many felt that he did not possess the tools to enjoy success at the NFL level.

    One of the main reasons behind Montana's third-round draft selection by the 49ers is that many other teams felt his arm strength was only par at best. Yet new 49ers head coach Bill Walsh, who had started implementing the West Coast offense into San Francisco's system saw something worthy of Montana and elected to draft him during the round.

    A 1990 article written by Paul Zimmerman for Sports Illustrated sums this up perfectly. It reads:

    When the 1979 draft was approaching, the NFL scouts got together and started putting down numbers for Montana. One combine gave him a grade of 6 1/2 with 9 being the top of the scale and 1 the bottom. Washington State's Jack Thompson got the highest grade among the quarterbacks -- 8. Montana's arm was rated a 6, or average. "He can thread the needle," the report said, "but usually goes with his primary receiver and forces the ball to him even when he's in a crowd. He's a gutty, gambling, cocky type. Doesn't have great tools but could eventually start." The dumb teams believed the report. The smart one has won four Super Bowls. (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

    Everything one needs to know about Montana coming out of college into the NFL is stated right there.

    Montana would make his debut in 1979 but would come into his own in 1981, leading to the 49ers' first Super Bowl Championship. By the time Montana would left San Francisco en route to a two-year tenure in Kansas City, he had won three more Super Bowls, two NFL MVP awards, three Super Bowl MVPs and set a number of records.

    There would be plenty of famous moments, including the famous "catch" to Dwight Clark in the waning seconds of the NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys in 1981. There would be the "John Candy" comeback moment against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

    In all, Montana would complete 2,929 passes out of 4,600 attempts for 35,124 yards and 244 touchdowns over his 13-year 49er career. 

    Simply put, Montana was the best there ever was and probably the best there ever will be. 

     

    Backups:

    Steve Young (1987 - 1999)

     

     

    Peter Panacy is a featured columnist covering the San Francisco 49ers for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.