The San Francisco 49ers have one of the most storied franchises in the NFL, so creating a Mount Rushmore for them shouldn’t be hard.
The four that I have selected are each known as one of the best ever at their respective positions. Jerry Rice is known as one of the best wideouts ever, and his first quarterback, Joe Montana, is also widely viewed as one of the all-time greats. Many consider Ronnie Lott to be one of the toughest players ever, and when it comes to coaches and influence on the game, few have had the affect that Bill Walsh has had.
Walsh surely deserves to be on the 49ers’ Mt. Rushmore. He is primarily responsible for the franchise becoming one of the best. The West Coast Offense was designed by Walsh and many of its concepts still exist in the NFL today.
Walsh also had an acute eye for talent. He drafted Montana in the third round and had the instincts to trade up past the Dallas Cowboys to draft Rice. He went 102–63–1 with the 49ers, winning ten of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles, three NFC Championship titles, and three Super Bowls.
He was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984. In 1993, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Walsh was nicknamed “The Genius” for both his innovative play calling and design. He always knew what play to call at just the right time. One way he was able to get a good read on how things would work was by regularly scripting the first 10-15 offensive plays to start each game.
It allowed him to test out the opposing defenses and see how they were going to play in certain situations that were dictated in the scripted plays. In the ten years during which Walsh was the 49ers’ head coach, San Francisco scored 3,714 points (24.4 per game), which was the most of any team in the league during that span.
Another factor for Walsh is the legacy that he has left behind. Take a look at the Bill Walsh Coaching Tree:
Walsh was the genius behind the wins, but Joe Montana was the one doing the work on the field.
Montana is surely a player that should be on the 49ers’ Mt. Rushmore. He has given the 49ers some of their most memorable moments, whether it be “The Catch” in 1981 or the 92-yard game-winning drive in the 1988 Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals. The 49ers were an abysmal franchise before Montana and Walsh arrived in San Francisco. “Joe Cool” was known for his ability to remain calm under pressure. He led the 49ers to 31 come- from-behind-wins.
Montana holds many postseason records including: most career touchdown passes (45), games with a passer rating over 100.0 (12) and is second in passing yards (5,772). He also has had games with 300-plus passing yards (6, tied with Kurt Warner).
In his four Super Bowls, Montana completed 83 of 122 passes for 1,142 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. That earned him a passer rating of 127.8. Montana is the only player ever to win three Super Bowl MVP awards. Lastly, he holds the record for most Super Bowl pass completions (83) and pass attempts (122) without throwing an interception.
Jerry Rice developed great chemistry with Montana. There is no need to bother going to the stat sheet because Rice simply owns almost every receiving stat the NFL uses. The thing that made Rice stand out was his work ethic. He went through great extremes to make himself into the player that he was.
This included running “The Hill,” which was a long trail that he would often run to stay in shape. This kind of training allowed Rice to become more explosive and helped him run all of his routes very well.
It’s not often that a player can dominate a position the way that Rice had. He was a key part in three of the five 49ers’ Super Bowl championships. Defense after defense was designed to stop him. Rice is the gold standard by which 49er wide receivers are measured. His aura on and off the field was exactly what the 49er franchise was all about.
Ronnie Lott is the final piece to the 49ers’ Mt. Rushmore. He was on the 1981, 1984, 1988 and 1989 Super Bowl teams. For the most part, Lott was the catalyst of the 49ers’ defense. A lot of his bone-jarring hits moved the crowds at Candlestick Park. During his rookie year, Lott gained the respect of his team and often times was the one getting the team up when he was not feeling their vibe. Lott had the tip of his left pinky finger amputated after the 1985 season when it was crushed by tackling running back Timmy Newsome. When it came to guys who where willing to put it all on the line, it doesn’t get much tougher than that.
My version of the 49ers’ Mt. Rushmore includes Lott, Rice, Montana and Walsh. Each of them are among the best of all time.