Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young Named Best in NFL History to Wear Their Numbers


Images of the 49ers players who were named the NFL's all-time best to wear their respective jersey numbers.

Monday's Niners Daily covers the 14 San Francisco 49ers alumni who were named the best to ever wear their respective numbers.*

Sports Illustrated recently released a comprehensive rundown of the best players in NFL history by jersey number. Chris Burke covered numbers 0-49 while Doug Farrar took 50-99.

It should come as no surprise that the 49ers, a team whose rich history includes five Super Bowl wins, are so well represented on the list. Some of the names are no-brainers, but others might be lesser-known names in the football world getting the well-deserved recognition.

Here's who made the cut.

#8 Steve Young - QB

Burke: "Probably our first real bit of controversy. Would you rather have Young or Troy Aikman under center? Both won a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP. Both are in the Hall of Fame. But Young's numbers across the board - including as a runner - are astounding."

Notes: Young made seven Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro three times and won three Super Bowls in 13 seasons with the 49ers. His 29,907 passing yards rank third in franchise history and his 221 passing touchdowns rank second. Young's QB rating of 101.4 in those 13 seasons tops all other 49ers signal-callers. As Burke eluded to, Young's 4,239 career rushing yards and 43 touchdowns on the ground are absolutely ridiculous.

#16 Joe Montana - QB

Burke: "Still the choice for many when asked to pick football's greatest quarterback. Montana was as clutch as they get—he was named Super Bowl MVP in three of the 49ers four title wins under his leadership. The Hall of Fame added Montana in 2000."

Notes: Montana also played 13 seasons in San Francisco and won four Super Bowl rings. Montana went to seven Pro Bowls with the 49ers and was named All-Pro three times. The quarterback's 35,124 passing yards and 244 passing touchdowns rank first in 49ers history.

#37 Jimmy Johnson - DB

Burke: "Think of Johnson as the Richard Sherman of his era - quarterbacks preferred to avoid him rather than test him. Johnson made them pay when passes headed his direction, too, picking off 47 passes for his career. Another contender for No. 37: Hall of Fame contender Rodney Harrison."

Notes: Johnson spent the entirety of his 16-season NFL career playing in the 49ers secondary. He was named All-Pro four consecutive seasons from 1969-72 and made five Pro Bowls. Johnson's 47 career interceptions rank second in franchise history. Of those 47 picks, Johnson returned three for touchdowns.

#42 Ronnie Lott - S

Burke: "Lott led the league with eight interceptions in 1991, his first season with Oakland. The 10 years before that in San Francisco defined his career, however. A 10-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro and 2000 Hall inductee, Lott could play - and dominate from - any position in the secondary.​"

Notes: The Hall-of-Fame safety spent a decade of his NFL career in San Francisco, winning three Super Bowls, making nine Pro Bowls and being named All-Pro five times. Lott ranks second on the 49ers all-time tackle list behind only Patrick Willis. His 51 interceptions and five pick-sixes, however, are the most in franchise history.

#46 Tim McDonald - S

Burke: "A few more solid, overlooked players shared the No. 46. McDonald, who started 187 games and earned six Pro Bowl bids from 1987–99, is one. Another: Raiders tight end Todd Christensen. He twice led the league in receptions (1983 and '86) and caught 461 passes for his career."

Notes: McDonald spent the last seven seasons of his 13-year career with the 49ers. Although his tenure in San Francisco wasn't as long as some of the others on the list, McDonald still made three Pro Bowls in a 49ers uniform and ranks sixth among the franchise's all-time leaders in tackles. McDonald's three interceptions returned for a touchdown are tied for second in 49ers history.

#80 Jerry Rice - WR

Farrar: "By the end of his 20-year career, Rice was a 13-time Pro Bowler and 10-time first-team All-Pro with 1,549 receptions for 22,985 yards and 197 touchdowns, and he claimed every NFL record he possibly could. He also holds nearly every postseason receiving record."

Notes: You knew the G.O.A.T would be on this list. He's the NFL's all-time leader in receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and receiving touchdowns (197). Enough said.

#97 Bryant Young - DT

Farrar: "The 49ers won the last of their five Super Bowls in Young's rookie season, and the first-round pick played an important part with six regular-season sacks and another in the playoffs. He was top 10 in sacks in two different seasons and end his career with 89.5. Only Warren Sapp, John Randle and Trevor Pryce have more career sacks among full-time tackles."

Notes: Young wore a 49ers uniform for the duration of his 14-year career. B.Y. made four Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro once. What's most impressive is that Young's 89.5 career sacks are the most in 49ers history, 33 more than Charles Haley's 66.5.

7 other players on the list to wear a 49ers jersey

2 David Akers - K; #21 Deion Sanders - CB; #26 Rod Woodson - DB; #57 Rickey Jackson - LB; #84 Randy Moss - WR; #91 Kevin Greene - LB; #95 Richard Dent - DE

Akers spent two seasons in San Francisco from 2011-12, making 73 of his 94 field-goal attempts. Akers was named First-Team All-Pro in 2011 ... Sanders spent the 1994 season with the 49ers and was named First-Team All-Pro that season. Prime Time posted six interceptions while his 303 interception return yards and three pick-sixes led the league ... Woodson was in San Francisco in 1997 and posted three interceptions in 14 games ... Jackson finished his career with the 49ers from 1994-95. He posted 13 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception in those two seasons ... Moss also ended his career in San Francisco, playing one season in 2012. He caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games ... Greene played with the 49ers in 1997, recording 10.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown ... Dent only played two games with the 49ers in 1994 and posted two sacks.

What do you think? Did the Sports Illustrated duo get it right? Are there any 49ers who deserve to be on the list? Let your voice be heard in the comments.

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