Sacks are funny. People are always in awe of sacks when they happen, but they’re often dismissed as a vanity stat. It’s true, hurries, hits and other assorted forms of quarterback pressure are important. However, there’s a reason why guys who accumulate 10 or more sacks in a season invariably make a good deal more money than guys who don’t hit that total.
Maybe that’s because “sack” is such a great word in the context it’s used in for football. To say you just “sacked” someone sounds like you didn’t just bring them down, you also squashed a little bit of their will.
The 2011 San Francisco 49ers already have three guys with at least 4 sacks after Ahmad Brooks went crazy and sacked Colt McCoy twice on Sunday.
Aldon Smith: 6.5
Justin Smith: 4.5
Ahmad Brooks: 4
Seeing as back in 2007 the 49ers’ top 3 sackers (Bryant Young, Patrick Willis and Marques Douglas) notched only 13.5 sacks in an entire season, the 15 sacks from Smith, Smith and Brooks, LLP look pretty good. And if they stay on the same pace for the rest of the season (a huge if, obviously), their totals will look like this:
Aldon Smith: 15
Justin Smith: 10
Ahmad Brooks: 9
34 would be a pretty impressive total. How impressive? Let’s take a look at the 49ers’ best 3-man sack totals since the statistic was kept for individual defenders back in 1982, because there’s really nothing better than looking back at Niners history from the early-80s on.
Unfortunately, sack numbers weren’t kept in ’81. I know passing numbers were pretty meager back then compared to now, but the first Super Bowl team gave up 16 passing touchdowns while intercepting 27 passes during the regular season. As much credit as the four great defensive backs got on that team, getting Fred Dean midseason to go along with Dwaine Board and Lawrence Pillars made Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Dwight Hicks and Carlton Williamson look even better.
While that team went into suck-mode in 1982 for whatever reason, the 1983 team (one of the great forgotten squads in Niners history, a team that got robbed in the NFC Championship game against the Redskins) had one of the best sack-trios in franchise history:
Lawrence Pillars: 4
Okay, they had the best sack duo in Dean and Board. But for the purposes of this post, Pillars gets to piggyback. Yay, Pillars!
The Niners had some good pass rushing groups in the late-80s, such as the 1989 group:
Charles Haley: 10.5
Pierce Holt: 10.5
Kevin Fagan: 7
And the 1990 defense was even better at getting to the QB (Haley really was a beast):
Dennis Brown: 6
But the period when the Niners had the best pass-rushing trios was 1996-98.
Roy Barker: 12.5
Bryant Young: 11.5
Chris Doleman: 11
Dana Stubblefield: 15
Kevin Greene: 10.5
Since then, the Niners have only had three guys combine for 20 or more sacks two times: 2000 (when Young, Brentson Buckner and Julian Peterson combined for 20.5) and 2002 (when Andre Carter, Chike Okeafor and Stubblefield combined for 21.5).
Teams can’t count on three guys to do all the work when it comes to tackling opposing quarterbacks before they pass the ball, and the Niners have gotten 6 sacks from guys other than Smith, Smith and Brooks, putting the entire team on pace for 48 sacks this season. That would be the most sacks for the 49ers in a single season since 1998 (51). They also collected 54 sacks in ’97.
The other times the 49ers have accumulated 50 or more sacks in a season were all from 1983-86, when the Niners averaged 55 sacks per year — including 60 in 1985 when they had six guys with at least 4 sacks. Too bad the Bears had to go and have an iconic team that year, overshadowing what was a very good 49ers defense.
Chances are Smith, Smith and Brooks won’t beat Stubblefield, Doleman and Greene as the best sack trio in team history, but Aldon’s got a good shot at ending up with the most sacks of any rookie in Niners history, ahead of Haley’s 12 sacks in 1986. Aldon’s already ahead of fellow rookie Von Miller by half a sack this season; if he beats Haley’s mark he’ll have a great shot (especially since he’s on a much better team than Miller) at earning the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award … and a ton of money throughout his career.