The San Francisco 49ers have a proud history. Compiling a list of five greatest teams in franchise history is no easy task, but we’re going to give it a sincere go. It would be easier to have three or five teams tied for the fifth-place spot simply in order to get all the teams that deserve to be on the list on it.
That’s the coward’s way, though. Nevertheless, let’s look at the five greatest San Francisco 49ers teams in their history.
The 1996 season for the 49ers was a special one, but it ended way too early in the playoffs. The 49ers offense was good, but the real strength of their team was on defense. The defense gave up only 257 points all season long, which has only been topped once in the 49ers franchise history.
Steve Young was strong for the 49ers, but he dealt with injuries which could have been a reason the team didn’t reach quite their potential. If Young was healthy, the sky was the limit for the 1996 team. Even though he was still very good while playing hurt, it just wasn’t the same Steve Young.
Against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, Steve Young missed most of the game, leading to a 35-14 loss. If Young wouldn’t have been hurt, maybe the 49ers would have another Super Bowl victory. It’s a bit of conjecture, and injuries are obviously a part of football, but this what-if is a huge one in San Francisco lore.
The most recent team on this list was the 2012 49ers team. Even though the 49ers couldn’t get the job done in the Super Bowl this was still one of the most special teams in 49ers history. When most think of the 2012 season, Colin Kaepernick is the first thing that comes to mind, but some forget about how good the defense was. Linebackers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith were all named to the All-pro first team.
In the Super Bowl, the 49ers fell behind early, but a power outage seemed to spark them. They came all the way back, though they couldn’t get the last five yards, leading to the loss. Even without the Super Bowl victory, it was a special season.
This team overachieved in several ways, making it a fan favorite for many football players inside the Bay Area and out.
The 1989 season was the Joe Montana show. Montana ran the west-coast conference with all kinds of success. He finished the season with a 112.4 passer rating which at the time was a record. During the regular season, the 49ers lost two games, but that was only by a combined five points.
As impressive as the regular season was, the postseason was when they flexed their muscles. They beat the Minnesota Vikings 41-13, the Los Angeles Rams 30-3, and the Denver Broncos 55-10. The Super Bowl win might arguably be the most impressive Super Bowl win in NFL history.
It’s worth noting, as a polite caveat, the top three teams on this list all could be number one.
The 1987 49ers team would be one of the best team’s in NFL history, but they didn’t win the Super Bowl, which knocks them down just a bit.
The offense was elite, leading the NFL in scoring and yards gained. The defense wasn’t very good though and they gave up the most yards in the NFL.
But here’s where things get all-time fantastic. On offense, Jerry Rice was the star of the show catching 22 touchdowns. There were only 12 games played that season because of the player strike, which makes the stats even more impressive.
In the playoffs, the 49ers were upset by the Minnesota Vikings, one of the more shocking upsets in NFL history. The 49ers had rested a lot of starters heading into the game, and that hurt the 49ers.
It sucks the season couldn’t end with a Super Bowl, but it doesn’t take away what they did during the regular season.
The 49ers 1984 team is one of only three teams ever to win 18 games in a season. Montana was the star of the show for the 49ers, throwing it for 28 touchdowns, a career-high at the time. The 1984 team also had a strong running team led by Wendell Tyler who rushed for 1,262 yards.
The 49ers played the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl, and it was a blowout victory. The 49ers put up 38 points and that led to a blowout victory. Montana threw for 331 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also rushed five times for 59 yards and a touchdown.