Unprecedented 1994 Niners Were Illustrious

A shell of my former selfCorrespondent IMay 13, 2009

29 Jan 1995:  Quarterback Steve Young #8 and wide receiver Jerry Rice #80 of the San Francisco 49ers cheer after victory over the San Diego Chargers at Super Bowl XXIX at the Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida.  The 49ers won 49-26. Mandatory Credit: Si

Bill Walsh was gonzo. Ditto for Joe Montana.

With the "Chosen One" and the "Prodigal Son" departed for greener pastures, the 49ers weren't looked upon as a serious threat as they were for 10 straight years.

After all, arguably the best quarterback ever to take an NFL snap was currently engulfed in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform—quite the criminal sight.

As Rolling Stones headman Mick Jagger once said, "It's all about letting yourself go."

He continued on saying, "...as long as you can get yourself back."

That's exactly what this different version of the San Francisco 49ers did—they pressed forth without looking back. They built for the future; they built for that season.

Inking the extraordinary Deion Sanders was one of the first steps toward reclimbing the mountain. After electrifying Atlanta for five seasons, Sanders brought his showboat of skills and most obviously speed to the team by the Bay.

Also, San Francisco brought in Ken Norton Jr. and Gary Plummer and drafted William Floyd and Bryant Young, who would go on to be one of the most celebrated and adored 49ers in the history of the franchise.

This team's blueprint was evident and already sporting an offense that featured artistry at every position, the Niners seemed poised for a deep run—Steve Young, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Brent Jones, Ricky Watters, and the list goes on.

Even a young Ed McCaffrey was the No. 3 wideout for Young and the 49er offense.

The immensity of the star power this team held wasn't what made fans gush or opposing teams fearful; it was something else.

This team had something to prove and that was the crux of the matter—the state of things.

Resiliency was tested right out of the gates. Young and Co. traveled to Kansas City take on Montana in the second week of the regular season.

San Francisco lost, 24-17, and finger-pointing began. Most pointed toward Young's inexperience, some even called for a Montana to be traded back.

The Niners ran into a slap-in-the-face loss at home at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, with an absurd score of 40-8, a game in which Young was benched after a heated argument with head coach George Seifert.

A wake-up call was needed, and it worked wonders.

The team went on to blaze out 10 straight wins en route to a 13-3 record. It wasn't the record that bloated the Niners' portfolio, the records and awards for the 1994 squad came—and in waves, too.

Leading the league in touchdowns scored (66) coinciding with with an NFL-leading 505 points scored, the 49ers were the definition of a polished team.

A slew of 49ers were chosen to the 1995 Pro Bowl, but it was the San Francisco's three stars of the season that shined brightly.

Young, after overcoming a shaky first five games of the season, was named the 1994 NFL MVP after throwing 35 touchdown passes and having a stellar passer rating of 112.8.

Wide receiver Jerry Rice led the league in receiving yards with 1,499, to go along with 112 receptions on the year—he was also selected to the Pro Bowl.

Lastly, Sanders was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after hauling in six interceptions.

San Francisco ran through the Chicago Bears in their NFC Divisional Playoff and had a date with their perennial rival, the Dallas Cowboys, winners of back-to-back Super Bowls in the NFC Championship.

The same story of the 1992 and 1993 wouldn't be replayed, and the 49ers marched through to Super Bowl XXIX after besting the Cowboys, 38-28.

Buoyancy defined this team, and that's what made their one of the best ever. A "Dream Team" of sorts needed to be assembled to beat the likes of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, and the Niner organization knew that.

The definition of a rivalry was the 49ers-Cowboys for a good two straight decades and that's exactly what made this team and victory so sweet for San Francisco fans.

Like Ali and Frazier trading knockout uppercuts, these two teams continued to jab left and jab right until one fell—a ceremonial state of the National Football League that made professional football worth watching.

The Super Bowl was a Varsity-JV outing. The 49ers were the obvious superior team against the under-matched San Diego Chargers—and it showed. Young broke a Super Bowl record with six touchdown passes en route to the 49-26 win.

The 1994 Niners are on the next level for a variety of reasons. Football was made fun again.

An eclectic mix of conservative and outspoken players made for a perfect mixed drink and raising the Lombardi Trophy, after no one believed it could be done, put the cherry on top.

800 words later and I still hadn't mentioned Merton Hanks' ball-hawking skills mixed with "The Rubberneck" dance.

That's how jovial and masterful this team was.

Sanders once said, "I just think I can make plays, you know that, everybody knows that. I think fans want to see that. I gave everyone a commercial last year. I want to give them a movie."

What a way to deliver in his one-and-only season in San Francisco.


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