Pro Football Talk is putting together a Mt. Rushmore for every NFL team, as well as asking readers to vote on which four figures they think should be honored. They’ve completed this task for every NFC team including the San Francisco 49ers, one of only three teams (along with the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) where PFT’s list matched the four players chosen by the voters.
Even if you haven’t seen the articles I’m talking about, you probably have a good idea who made the 49ers’ Mt. Rushmore: Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh and Ronnie Lott. The best quarterback, the best playmaker, the best coach and the best defensive player. It’s a testament to those players that their inclusion on this fictional monument is devoid of anything resembling a controversy, but it also makes this exercise kind of anticlimactic. Without arguments, what good are lists like these?
That led me to start thinking about putting together several Mt. Rushmores based on position/role. But where to start? I decided on wide receiver because … I don’t really know. Sounded like a good idea, I guess. Maybe that’s because the 49ers have been so thin at the position in recent years and I just spent a minicamp watching rookies, journeymen and A.J. Jenkins competing to show who could do the most damage during a 2013 season where Anquan Boldin is sure to face two defensive backs at once fairly often.
Rice clearly makes this list, which leaves three spots for the 49ers WR Mt. Rushmore. Here are the candidates, years and numbers are from their time in San Francisco only.
Billy Wilson (1951-60): 407 receptions, 5,902 yards, 49 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: First-Team All-Pro (1957); led league in touchdowns in 1953 with 10; led league in receptions three times
R.C. Owens (1957-61): 176 receptions, 2,926 yards, 20 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: sweet nickname (Alley Oop)
Gene Washington (1969-77): 371 receptions, 6,664 yards, 59 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: 3-time First-Team All-Pro; led NFL in yards in 1970; led league in touchdowns in 1972
Freddie Solomon (1978-85): 310 receptions, 4,873 yards, 43 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: 2-time Super Bowl winner; First-Team All-Pro (1980)
Dwight Clark (1979-87): 506 receptions, 6,750 yards, 48 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: 2-time Super Bowl winner; led NFL in receptions (1982); First-Team All-Pro in 1982; “The Catch”
John Taylor (1987-95): 347 receptions, 5,598 yards, 43 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: 2-time Super Bowl winner; First-Team All-Pro in 1988 (Pro Football Writers, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News); Second-Team All-Pro in 1989 (AP); 97-yard catch in 1991 is the longest in franchise history
Terrell Owens (1996-2003): 592 receptions; 8,572 yards, 81 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: 3-time First-Team All-Pro; led NFL in touchdowns twice; holds franchise record for receptions in a game (20); really pissed off the Cowboys that one time
And just for the hell of it …
Jerry Rice (1985-2000): 1,281 receptions, 19,247 yards, 176 TD
Awards/Accomplishments: Hall of Famer; 3-time Super Bowl winner; 10-time First-Team All-Pro; four 100-catch seasons; led NFL in receptions twice; led NFL in yards six times; led NFL in touchdowns six times; all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns
No Michael Crabtree, because he hasn’t played long enough. Unless your nickname was Alley Oop, you need to have better career numbers than J.J. Stokes to sit next to Rice.
If you base this on stats, the 49ers’ WR Mt. Rushmore should probably include Rice, Owens, Clark and Washington. But man, it sure would be nice to knock Owens off the list and insert either Wilson or Taylor. Wilson had fantastic numbers considering his era, and Taylor was one of my favorite 49ers as a kid — a strong returner who also happened to make the game-winning TD catch in the most exciting Super Bowl in franchise history.
But regardless of what you think of him, Owens wasn’t all that bad of a guy through *most* of his 49ers tenure and he was an absolute beast on the field. So I’m going to hold my nose and include him with Rice, Clark and Washington, even though he’s completely insane.
Let me know who you’d put on your 49ers’ WR Mt. Rushmore, and stay tuned for our next one: cornerbacks.