The 49ers winning legacy began in 1981 and lasted all the way until 2002. There were a few good years in the 70’s under Dick Nolan that caused all aged Niner fans to forever hate the Dallas Cowboys, but otherwise the Niners saw hard times for 20 years before 1981 and continually since 2002.
What’s the difference?
Normally when talking about good football we would think about playing tough, being able to play all 4 quarters, not turning the ball over, minimizing mistakes, and having talented players. Outside the latter, coach Singletary is just the coach to bring all of these things to our team, but still we are not winning. As for talent we have Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook, Vernon Davis, Takeo Spikes, Patrick Willis and yet 49Niner’s players, coaches, and fans are banging their collective heads against the wall. But if you look at the legacy era you see we are missing a very key piece of the puzzle.
Besides great running and an all around tough team we are missing a deadly tandem of superstar wide receiver and superstar quarter back. All of the Niners’ legacy teams had them. In we started (1981) with Montana and Clark, Montana and Rice, Young and Rice, and in 2002 we finished with Garcia and Owens. The long ball threat is key. Lengthening the field opens up the passing routs underneath and stretches the running game.
Over the past 21 years we had some of the NFL’s greatest QBs and WRs and we have taken it for granted. We have given credit to Walsh, Seifert, Mariucci and even Eddie Bartolo (much deserved credit), but none of their brilliance or leadership would have been recognized if not for the sheer world class talent of just a few men who sustained a dynasty over 20 years.
Joe Montana: 2,929 of 4,600 passes for 35,142 yards*, 244 touchdowns*, 123 interceptions*, 35 300-yard passing games*, 7 400+ yard passing games*, 8-time Pro Bowler & 3-time First-Team All-Pro, NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP, 4 time Super Bowl Champion, and Hall of Fame inductee (and on and on and on).
Dwight Clark: career 49Niner, 506 catches for 6,750 yards and 48 TDs, 2-time Pro Bowler & 1-time First-Team All-Pro, 2 time Super Bowl Champion, on the receiving end of “The Catch”, and later became a 49Niner executive.
Jerry Rice: 1,281 catches for 19,247 and 176 TDs*, all-time leader in most major statistical categories for wide receivers, 13-time Pro Bowler & 10-time First-Team All-Pro, MVP, 3 time Super Bowl Champion, Super Bowl MVP, and Hall of Fame inductee (and on and on and on).
Steve Young: 2400 of 3648 for 29,907*, 221 TDs against 86 interceptions*, holds the NFL record for highest career passer rating, 7-time Pro Bowler & 3-time First-Team All-Pro, 3 time Super Bowl Champion (once as starting QB), Super Bowl MVP, and Hall of Fame inductee (and on and on and on).
Terrell Owens: (TO only played about half of his career with SF so his stats will be cumulative. TO is an active player and has never won a Super Bowl.) 1,061 catches for 15,721 yards and 151 TDs. He one of only 3 NFL WRs to amass 150 career TD receptions (Jerry Rice and Randy Moss are the others). He’s a 6-time Pro Bowler & 5-time First-Team All-Pro and a likely candidate for the HOF.
Jeff Garcia: Garcia is the least famous or celebrated among the list I have included here, but his passing stats place him within the top twenty of all-time football quarterbacks. He has completed 2,264 of 3,676 for 25,557 yards, he has 161 TD passes vs 83 interceptions, and is a 4-time Pro Bowler.
So, a winning recipe for the success is simple. Replace our current lifeless and extremely inconsistent quarterbacks (Smith and Carr) with the next NFL quarterback legend. (Heisman winner Troy Smith is waiting in the wings, but NFL scouting reports have not been favorable.)
Team this new star with his world class long ball receiver counterpart (who is presently not on the 49Niners). Then combine these elusive future greats with a world class running back (that we have) and an otherwise disciplined and tough team and we are once again world champs. Plainly put… get the next world’s greatest QB and WR and we are back in business. It’s simple.