Getting named to the Pro Bowl is nice, but the players chosen NFL First-Team All-Pro are in another class. Pro Bowlers are among the best in their conference. Players named to the All-Pro team are the best at their position. 44 different San Francisco 49ers have been named All-Pro, led (not surprisingly) by Jerry Rice, who did it 10 times.
As the 49ers continue to soar up everyone’s power rankings this season, it’s not surprising that certain players were considered All-Pro candidates at the midseason point. However, it’s not a given that a team on pace to go 14-2 will have even one All-Pro. The 1984 49ers went 15-1, won the Super Bowl and are considered by many to be one of the top three or four teams of all time, didn’t have one on their roster.
No matter what the 2011 49ers’ record ends up being, they probably won’t share the same fate as the ’84 squad … when it comes to having zero All-Pros, that is.
If you look at some of the major “Midseason All-Pro” lists you’ll find several 49ers. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports picked Ray McDonald. Michael Lombardi has Patrick Willis on his team. Both John Clayton and USA Today’s Jarrett Bell have Willis, Justin Smith and Andy Lee, and Peter King shares the same list except he swapped out Willis for NaVorro Bowman. Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly named Bowman, Lee and Mike Iupati. Along with Smith and Willis, Pro Football Focus was the only site I saw that picked Carlos Rogers, but I admit I got tired of searching after a while (especially after a certain major news network’s site wanted me to cycle through a 25-page slideshow to see their midseason all-pro team … no thanks).
Even if the Niners finish 15-1 this season they almost surely won’t have seven guys make the first-team squad, so we won’t be seeing McDonald, Willis, Smith, Lee, Bowman, Iupati AND Rogers make the cut. But with the momentum they’ve built and their record, it seems probable that several 49ers will earn this prestigious honor.
Which teams had the most First-Team All-Pros? Glad you asked…
1972: Forrest Blue, Jimmy Johnson, Ted Kwalick, Gene Washington, Dave Wilcox
1995: Eric Davis, Merton Hanks, Ken Norton, Rice
1990: Charles Haley, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Rice
1989: Mike Cofer, Lott, Montana, Rice
1987: Michael Carter, Lott, Montana, Rice
1957: Marv Matuszak, Leo Nomellini, Y.A. Tittle, Billy Wilson
1994: Rice, Deion Sanders, Steve Young
1971: Blue, Johnson, Wilcox
1970: John Brodie, Johnson, Washington
1954: Bruce Banducci, Nomellini, Joe Perry
1953: Hugh McElhenny, Nomellini, Perry
That 1972 team that looks totally stacked? They went 8-5-1 during the regular season and lost their first playoff game, 30-28 to the Cowboys at Candlestick. Brodie started that game, and the team went 2-3 during the five games he started during the regular season. The other nine starts at QB went to Steve Spurrier.
Only one of the six teams with four All-Pros won a championship (1989, and one of the players chosen was Cofer, who missed 2 PAT attempts and failed to make more than 2/3 of his FG attempts in a season for the rest of his career). The number of All-Pros a team has doesn’t necessarily show they have the best team, but it does show that there are talented players on the team who are at the top of their game. If I had to predict I’d say that Smith, Willis and Lee are the ones who end up representing the 49ers on the All-Pro team … but there’s still a lot of season left.