Dating back to their founding in 1946, the San Francisco 49ers boast a rich history that includes five Super Bowl titles. As the franchise begins its quest for a sixth Super Bowl, the 2012 edition of the 49ers will try to join a quintet of other special squads that captured the ultimate goal: the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Before Saturday’s NFC Divisional Round matchup with Green Bay takes place, 49ers.com takes a look back at those five Super Bowl teams which help gave the 49ers one of the most celebrated winning traditions of any franchise in professional sports.
The Quest for Six is highlighted in the following video, which mixes highlights from 2012 and past Super Bowl seasons to help you sharpen your game. Be sure to join the Quest for Six and share the video with your friends, family and fellow 49ers Faithful.
In his second year at the helm of the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh is vying to join other great coaches like his former mentor and friend Bill Walsh and George Seifert as championship leaders. With a talented roster that features a league-best nine Pro Bowlers and one of the most highly-regarded coaching staffs in the NFL, San Francisco is eager to earn its way to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
But first, sharpen your understanding of the team’s storied history by learning about the championship seasons of 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994.
1981 – Super Bowl XVI Champions
Using lots of short passes in the innovative scheme, Walsh led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl win despite Ricky Patton leading the team with just 543 rushing yards. That’s because they had a third-year quarterback named Joe Montana who led the team to the title in his first full season as a starter.
Walsh guided the 49ers to a 13-3 record in the regular season and the NFC West title, before Montana turned in the first – and perhaps most – iconic play of his Hall of Fame career.
Thirty one years ago today, Montana faced a 3rd-and-3 from the 6-yard line with less than a minute left on the game clock. On a play called “Sprint Right Option,” Montana booted to the right sideline before tossing a high pass to Dwight Clark, who made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone. The touchdown catch for the ages gave the 49ers a 28-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game.
Two weeks later, San Francisco claimed a 26-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Detroit in Super Bowl XVI. The contest was marked with another iconic moment in the second half, when the 49ers held strong on one of the greatest goal-line stands in football history to secure the win.
Montana would be named Super Bowl MVP and earned a Pro Bowl invite, along with Clark, guard Randy Cross, defensive end Fred Dean, safety Dwight Hicks and rookie Ronnie Lott.
1984 – Super Bowl XIX Champions
San Francisco entered the year with a bitter taste in its mouth after losing the NFC Championship game 24-21 to the Washington Redskins in 1983. But there was no stopping this 49ers team in the 1984 playoffs.
The team featured an eye-popping 10 Pro Bowlers: Cross, tackle Keith Fahnhorst, Hicks, Lott, Montana, center Fred Quillan, linebacker Keena Turner, running back Wendell Tyler, safety Carlton Williamson and cornerback Eric Wright. By the end of the regular season, the 49ers toted the top scoring defense in the NFL (14.2 points per game) and the second-best scoring offense (29.7 points per game).
The 49ers steamrolled their way to the Super Bowl, defeating the New York Giants 21-10 in the Divisional Round before shutting out the Chicago Bears 23-0 in the NFC Championship. That led to the 38-16 victory over Dan Marino and the Dolphins at Stanford Stadium, in the second Super Bowl victory of the Walsh era.
1988 – Super Bowl XXIII Champions
Montana and Walsh were still going strong in their 10th season together, before the Hall of Fame coach called it a career following his third Super Bowl win. Walsh left the NFL on top, wrapping up his Hall of Fame run with a 92-59-1 career record.
Once again, the 49ers and Bengals met for a chance to claim the Lombardi Trophy, but San Francisco emerged victorious with a fourth-quarter comeback from Montana in the 20-16 victory.
The offense featured a host of weapons, including receivers Jerry Rice and John Taylor, who caught a game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl with just 34 seconds left. Rice was named a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler for the third straight year with 1,306 yards and nine touchdowns before earning the Super Bowl MVP with an 11-catch, 215-yard, one-touchdown performance.
The running game was also boosted by first-team All-Pro Roger Craig, who rushed for 1,502 yards and nine touchdowns, and fullback Tom Rathman, the team’s current running backs coach.
1989 – Super Bowl XXIV Champions
Seifert joined Walsh’s staff as the defensive backs coach in 1980 and held that position for three seasons before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1983. Seifert guided the defense for six years before taking over for Walsh following Super Bowl XXIII.
Montana cemented his legacy as one of the greatest in NFL history after leading his team to the fourth Super Bowl victory of his career. The 1989 playoffs were marked by a three-game run of domination for the 49ers, as they defeated Minnesota Vikings 41-13 in the Divisional Round before routing division foe Los Angeles Rams 30-3 in the NFC title game.
That set the stage for Super Bowl XXIV in New Orleans, when the 49ers throttled the Denver Broncos 55-10 in what still stands as the greatest margin of victory in Super Bowl history.
Montana joined Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw as the only players in NFL lore to win the league MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same season. The 49ers quarterback turned in arguably the finest performance of his career, going 22 of 29 for 297 yards and five touchdowns.
1994 – Super Bowl XXIX Champions
While Seifert was still at the helm of the 49ers in his sixth season as head coach, there was a new signal-caller under center. Steve Young, who had taken over as the full-time starter for the 1992 season, was well on his way to his status as a Hall of Famer.
Young, 33, was named a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler for the third straight season after putting together the most efficient year of his career. The dual-threat option completed 70.3 percent of his passes for 3,969 yards, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a passer rating of 112.8, which still stands as one of the best single-season marks for any quarterback in NFL history.
The 49ers earned a trip to Super Bowl XXIX with a 38-28 win over Dallas in the NFC title game, following two seasons of losing to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship. San Francisco entered the Super Bowl as 19-point favorites and didn’t disappoint.
Young eclipsed Montana’s record of five touchdown passes by throwing six, three of which went to Rice, en route to being named game MVP.