With preseason about two months away and major pro football news being in short supply, what better time than now to take a nostalgic look at some of the greatest to ever don the 49er red and gold?
Surely it's not the first time this subject has been debated on B/R, nor will it be the last. But considering the amount of talent that has gone through San Francisco, the topic of greatest players in franchise history will probably always be debated.
This list only includes players who spent a good portion of their careers in San Francisco and could go into the Hall of Fame as 49ers.
Larry Allen is probably the greatest offensive lineman to ever grace a 49er huddle, but he belongs to the Niners about as much as Roger Craig belongs to the Minnesota Vikings.
With that said, here's a look at the lineup of arguably the greatest 49ers offensive players ever and their backups, some of whom were Pro Bowlers and even a few Hall of Famers. Let the debating begin...
Let's get the least suspenseful selection—which has nothing to do with the other men to line up under center for the 49ers—out of the way first. This is the least suspenseful pick only because "Joe Cool" is widely considered the greatest QB in NFL history.
Eight Pro Bowls, three-time All-Pro, four Super Bowl Victories, and three Super Bowl MVPs leave Montana in a class all his own. His ability to perform under pressure and pull out last minute victories made Montana a legend in the sport.
He beats out backup Steve Young, a Pro Football Hall of Famer like Montana, based on the number of Super Bowl titles.
While the 49ers were renowned through the 80s and 90s for their innovative passing offense, the franchise is surprisingly deep in rushing talent.
One of the toughest choices to make for this list is probably at RB, especially considering that their current back could eventually go down as the best in team history.
Roger Craig gets the nod for the overall skill set he brought to the position and how he transformed it. The first player to rush and receive for 1,000 yards each in a season, Craig was one of the best weapons any team in football had in the 80s. He was part of three Super Bowl championship teams and a four-time All-Pro Selection.
Backup Joe Perry is already a Pro Football Hall of Famer who was considered a fullback but ran at the pace of a traditional tail back.
Other backups: Frank Gore, Garrison Hearst, Hugh McElhenny.
The current 49ers RB coach, Rathman was one of the most complete fullbacks football has ever seen. On an offensive roster full of stars, he managed to rack up 2,020 yards rushing and over 320 receptions in his career.
Of course, his bruising style of play was what he was most known for, as he built his reputation paving running lanes for Craig and protecting Montana in the pocket—when he wasn't out running patterns himself.
Backup: Fred Beasley
No explanation needed for the greatest receiver in football history.
In fact, Rice owns so many receiving and scoring records, a case could be made for him being the greatest overall football player ever.
The 13-time Pro Bowl selection is a certain first ballot Hall of Famer when his eligibility is up.
Owens is a six-time Pro Bowler and second in the league all-time in receiving touchdowns behind only Rice, yet his legacy may be marked more by what he has done off the field than on it.
Owens was drafted by San Francisco in 1996 and quickly unseated J.J. Stokes as the heir-apparent to Rice. In Rice's last game as a 49er, Owens stole the spotlight when he set the NFL record for most receptions in a single game with 20.
He also was on the receiving end of "The Catch 2" in the playoffs against Green Bay, a tremendous reception that sealed a 49er victory.
He's now on his fourth NFL team, and at each stop along the way he has alienated teammates, including quarterbacks. But his talent and game-breaking ability is undeniable.
Backup WRs: John Taylor, Dwight Clark
Three-time Super Bowl champion Brent Jones was one of the premier players at his position through the late 80s and early 90s.
A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Jones excelled as a blocker and receiver on some of the more prolific offenses in not only 49ers history, but that of the NFL as well.
Backup: Russ Francis
Nicknamed "The Greek," St. Clair is a San Francisco native who played his entire career for the 49ers. An impressive nine-time All-Pro selection, he was a member of the NFL All-Decade team of the 1950s.
After retiring, St. Clair served as mayor of Daly City, CA from 1958-61 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. His #79 jersey has been retired by the 49ers.
In a toss up, Wallace gets the nod for the other tackle spot over former teammate Harris Barton. Like Barton, Wallace was a two-time All-Pro selection and played on three Super Bowl championship squads.
He edges out Barton based on having played in almost 30 more games than him, and Wallace's five career fumble recoveries to Barton's two.
Honestly, it's a toss up as to who starts and who is the backup.
As a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro selection, McIntyre is possibly the best interior offensive lineman the 49ers ever had. A member of three Super Bowl championship teams, McIntyre is one of the most revered linemen in 49er history and could be a Hall of Fame candidate down the line.
A member of all but the first of the 49ers Super Bowl teams, Sapolu was a versatile lineman who excelled at both guard and center.
Drafted in the 11th round by San Francisco in 1983, Sapolu far exceeded expectations by earning two trips to his native Hawaii as a Pro Bowler, and was twice selected as an All-Pro.
Backup: Jeremy Newberry (primarily a center, but too talented to leave off the list)
A career Niner, Cross was a member of the 49ers' first ever Super Bowl championship team in 1982, and one of the players that helped set the standard for the decade of dominance that followed.
Cross' accomplishments were defined by threes: Three-time All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler, and three-time Super Bowl Champion, with the Super Bowl in 1989 being his final game.
Post football, Cross has had a successful career as a broadcaster and radio host.
Backup: Forrest Blue
A member of the 49ers from 1977-87, Wersching played a pivotal role in Super Bowl XVI, when he tied the record for field goals in the title game with four.
All-Pro in 1986, Wersching was the 12th player in NFL history to record 1000 points, and today ranks second behind Rice in all-time 49er scoring.