The San Francisco 49ers have a wealth of postseason experience and titles in the Super Bowl era. The Bay Area franchise has won five championships, cementing the legacies of multiple Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Here are the best gunslingers in the history of the West Coast franchise.
5. Jeff Garcia
Jeff Garcia had the shortest 49ers career than any other quarterback on this list, but he showed some elite play under center for San Francisco. A three-time Pro Bowler with the team, Garcia initially played professionally in the Canadian Football League before joining the NFL’s Niners as Steve Young’s backup, having to step into the starter’s role when Young was injured in 1999.
After two bumpy seasons, Garcia and the 49ers 12 and 10 games in consecutive seasons, losing in the wild card in the first year and then losing in the divisional round to eventual-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002-03.
Garcia left the 49ers possessing the fourth-most passing yards and third-most touchdowns tossed in franchise history.
4. John Brodie
John Brodie took over quarterback duties from the next man on the list and wound up having the honors of leading the 49ers through the AFL-NFL merger. Despite the lack of postseason appearances (only reaching the playoffs twice as the top passer on the team, losing in the conference championship both times), Brodie was a mainstay for San Francisco, to this day compiling the most games as a quarterback at 201.
Brodie threw the second-most passing yards for the Niners along with third-most touchdowns across nearly a decade and a half of being the face of the west coast organization.
3. Y.A. Tittle
The first Hall of Famer so far on this list, Y.A. Tittle guided the 49ers for a decade, dominating the 1950’s as a key face of the NFL. A seven-time Pro Bowler (four with San Francisco), Tittle became a legend with the Bay Area organization along with joining the New York Giants at the end of his career in what would become a familiar ending for Niners QB’s.
Tittle was a high interception tosser in an era dominated by the running game, throwing 15 or more picks in five seasons with San Francisco. At the same time, Tittle also ranks fifth all-time in San Francisco’s passing yards records, tossing the sixth-most touchdowns and second-most picks.
Tittle along with Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, and John Henry Johnson made up San Francisco’s iconic “Million Dollar Backfield.”
2. Steve Young
The first overall pick of the 1984 NFL Supplementary Draft, Steve Young’s NFL career and tenure with the 49ers was a very interesting one. Coming out of the USFL, Young joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, turning in two insignificant seasons on a very bad team before the 49ers traded for the southpaw out of BYU to back up Montana in 1987.
In the ensuing years, Young became a stable backup to Montana, starting a grand total of 10 games before having to become the starter while Montana was on the mend during the 1991 season. Young became the full-time starter for San Francisco the next season, leading the team to a 14-2 record before losing in the conference title game in a season he was named MVP.
After that, Young would be incredibly interrogated by the public to see whether he could successfully fulfill the successor role to Montana, who joined Kansas City by 1993. Young, after another season of falling one step short of a Super Bowl appearance, proved the skeptics wrong in 1994-95, winning San Francisco their fifth title that season along with earning his second league MVP distinction.
Young retired and became a Hall of Famer soon afterward. His number is retired by the 49ers and he holds the second-most touchdowns thrown and third-most passing yards in franchise history to date.
1. Joe Montana
There can only be one. Joe Montana is the unquestionably best quarterback in 49ers history—and maybe the history of organized football, too, only rivaled by NorCal native Tom Brady.
Montana, 64, was enshrined into Canton as a Hall of Famer back in 2000 as an eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time league MVP, and four-time Super Bowl champion—giving the 49ers their first titles. Montana also has set the high watermarks for 49ers passing records, such as passing yards and touchdowns.
At the time of his retirement, Montana’s performance was a benchmark for all other NFL quarterbacks (including Young).
Montana will forever be associated with the 49ers and their dynasty years in the 1980s. His number is retired by the franchise and he’s the greatest quarterback for San Francisco, period.