3 Players Who Deserve More Credit for the 49ers' Dynasty in 1980s
By Michael Luciano
Names like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Bill Walsh instantly spring to mind whenever the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s are mentioned, as well they should, but those 49ers teams were as complete as you'll find in the modern era, as they beat teams down in literally all three phases of the game. These three 49ers might live in the shadow of Montana, Rice, and Walsh, but their contributions to the team's reign at the top of the NFL shouldn't be forgotten.
3. C Jesse Sapolu
Montana needed to have a lot of time in the pocket to chuck deep balls to Rice, Dwight Clark and John Taylor, and the 49ers offensive line provided that in spades. Sapolu, a two-time Pro Bowl center who played until the end of the Steve Young years, is the o-line's representative on this list, but fellow studs like right guard Randy Cross and right tackle Keith Fanhorst also deserve a mention. None of those 49er linemen are in the Hall of Fame, but if paving the way for elite running and passing games on one of the NFL's greatest dynasties doesn't prove that unit's quality, we don't know what will.
2. RB Roger Craig
You could make a very strong case that Craig is the biggest Hall of Fame snub in history, regardless of era and position. That 49er offense wasn't an Air Raid scheme, and the running game led by Craig and fullback Tom Rathman frequently set the tone. In his first seven seasons in the league, Craig topped 1,150 yards from scrimmage every year, twice topping 1,500 yards. In 1985, he became the first player to record 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season. A four-time Pro Bowler and three-time champion, Craig was without a doubt the most versatile offensive weapon on so many great 49ers teams.
1. SS Ronnie Lott
Wait a second! A 10-time Pro Bowler that is almost universally regarded as the best safety of all time doesn't get enough credit? Indeed. The 49ers under Walsh were always thought of as a graceful, finesse team centered around Montana throwing poetic deep passes to Rice. No one who went over the middle against Lott, the leader of a 49er defense that, on multiple occasions, allowed the fewest points and yards in the league, thought the 49ers were a finesse team. That defense is full of Hall of Famers and was led by George Seifert, but it will never truly get the credit it deserves as a whole. Still not convinced? Lott chopped off part of his finger rather than miss playoff games. That should allow him to get all the accolades he wants.