A list of the San Francisco 49ers greatest quarterbacks is a longer list than most. Since they were founded in 1946 as a member of the All-America Football Conference, San Francisco has a rich history of players at the position. Getting into the Hall of Fame is no easy feat and a lot of teams are lucky if they have one quarterback from their history make it to Canton. Three players from this list of 49er’s greatest quarterbacks have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another remarkable stat from one of the most decorated franchises in league history.
Since the merger in 1967, the 49er’s have won five Super Bowl titles, seven NFC Conference Championships, 20 Division Championships and have made the playoffs on 26 separate occasions. A franchise that is full of history and one that is used to winning. A team as successful as this has a host of stars on their roster but the most important as always is the quarterback.
Through the years, San Francisco has been lucky to have quite a few greats play for them, none more so than the 49ers greatest quarterbacks listed below. Let’s have a look.
49ers Greatest Quarterbacks
First up on our list of 49ers greatest quarterbacks is the man who steered them from the All-American Football Conference into the NFL in 1950. After being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1942, Frankie Albert went on to play for the Los Angeles Bulldogs in the Pacific Coast Football League for one year in 1945. After that, he made the move to the San Francisco 49ers.
The 5-foot-9, 166-pound left-handed quarterback played seven seasons for the 49er’s and is credited as having invented the bootleg play. A play that is utilized by the majority of quarterbacks to this day. During his career as a quarterback with the 49ers, he totaled 10,795 passing yards on 831 completions. He had a touchdown to interception rate of 115-98 and finished his career with a passer rating of 73.3%. Not great statistics compared to quarterbacks of today but it was a running game back then.
Despite his statistics, he does have some records that will never be broken. In 1948 he led the AAFC with 29 passing touchdowns and followed that the year later with another 27. Once again the hights in the AAFC. He finished up with 88 in the AAFC in total which is the record for the most ever. To go with his records he was voted an all-American twice (1940,1941), voted to the second team All-AFFC three times (1946,47,49), and voted to the pro bowl in 1950. This is partly why he’s considered one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
After his playing career was over he was hired as a scout and coach for the 49ers. In 1956 he was named the head coach and after three seasons finished with a record of 19-16-1.
Sadly, Albert passed away in 2002 but his playing career led him to be voted into the Professional Football Researchers Association Hall of Very Good in 2007.
Just like Frankie Albert, John Brodie played college football at Stanford University. In the 1957 draft, San Francisco selected Brodie with the third overall pick. During his first four years as an NFL quarterback, he was lucky to play behind Y.A. Tittle, another one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks. In the 1961 season, Brodie became the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and would go on to set records and win numerous awards.
Throughout the 1960s, Brodie was among the leading passers in the league but his best statistical performance came in 1965. He led the league with 3,112 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He was voted to the pro bowl and at the end of the season was named the NFL Comeback Player Of The Year.
As a result of his stellar year, he was in high demand around the league. The Houston Oilers led the way in trying to lure him away from California but Brodie decided to stick with his 49ers and would go on to lead the league in passing again in 1968. In 1970 however, he had one of the best statistical seasons for a quarterback, solidifying his claim as one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
Finishing with a league-leading 24 touchdowns and a league-low eight sacks, Brodie would be voted the MVP for the 1970 season. He was voted first-team All-Pro, NFC Player of The Year, and to go with the touchdown record that year, he also had the passing yards record and the passer rating record.
On his retirement in 1973, there were only two quarterbacks ranked higher than him in passing yards (Johnny Unitas and Fran Tankerton). He finished his career with 214 touchdowns and 224 interceptions. Brodie would go on to play professional golf on the Champions Tour and even be featured in the US Open.
Despite his league-leading career, Brodie has never been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it could be down to his high number of interceptions. Nevertheless, he did make it to the San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame and his number 12 jersey has been retired. Well deserving of his place on a list of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks and maybe a spot in Canton will open up soon. He’s more than deserving of being considered one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
Next up on our list of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks is the predecessor of John Brodie. Y.A. Tittle joined the league in 1947 and despite being drafted by Detroit Lions he chose to play for the Baltimore Colts. He earned Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Colts. However, in 1951 he became a San Francisco 49er. He would lead the San Francisco offense until 1960 when he was traded to the New York Giants.
Tittle is credited with coming up with the “Alley-Oop” play. Linking up with R.C Owens, Tittle would throw the ball high in the air where only Owens could get it and he would come down in the endzone for a touchdown. Tittle completed 1,226 passes as a 49er for 16,016 yards. He finished with 118 touchdowns and 134 interceptions. This was the start of Tittle’s journey in becoming one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
During his time in San Francisco, he would earn four trips to the Pro Bowl and in 1957 was voted All-Pro. With Brodie emerging, the 49ers elected to trade Tittle to the New York Giants where he would go on to set more records and win more awards.
In 1971 Tittle became the first quarterback on this list to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is joined there by the rest of his “Million Dollar Backfield” which was made up of Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry, and John Henry Johnson. Tittle earned his place as one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
The 49ers greatest quarterbacks list goes on and the next up is Steve Young. Young took the mantle from Joe Montana as San Francisco benefitted from having one Hall of Fame quarterback after another. After starting his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Young was traded to San Francisco to serve as a backup to Montana. During his first three years, he only featured in a handful of games, but when he did feature he was excellent.
In 1991, following an injury to Joe Montana in the previous season, Young was named as the starting quarterback for San Francisco. In his first year as a starter, he failed to shine as he fell to a 4-4 record and was then lost to an injury in his ninth outing. In 1992 however, Steve Young would go on to prove how good he could be, leading to him becoming one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
After a rocky start to the year, Young would lead the 49ers to the NFC championship game. On that run, he amassed 3,465 passing yards, 537 rushing yards, 25 touchdowns (league-leading), and a 107 passer rating. He was named the NFL MVP for his performances. Just in time as Montana was due back from his injury.
At the start of the 1993 season, the San Francisco 49ers had a decision to make on which quarterback to roll with. Luckily for Steve Young, Joe Montana requested a trade and was moved to the Kansas City Chiefs. After earning the starting role, Young once again led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game. Once again though his chances at a Super Bowl were scuppered by the Dallas Cowboys.
In 1994 Steve Young would finally make it to a Super Bowl. After watching Joe Montana win four Super Bowls as the main man it was finally Young’s chance at a title. In the NFC Championship Game, the 49er’s finally managed to get by the Cowboys and advance to Super Bowl XXIX and face the San Diego Chargers. Steve Young dominated in this game as he became the first player ever to finish a Super Bowl game as the leader in passing and rushing yards.
Steve Young finally had his Super Bowl title and to go with it he was named the regular season MVP and the Super Bowl MVP. Making him only the seventh player in history to be named both. This is why he’s considered one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
Young played until the 1999 season and then retired due to suffering numerous concussions. Young is well-deserving of his place on the list of 49ers greatest quarterbacks as during his time in California, he racked up 29,907 passing yards. He added 221 touchdown passes and only threw 86 interceptions. Young’s superstardom was crowned however when Mike Shanahan developed him into a dual-threat quarterback.
He finished his career with 3,581 rushing yards and 37 rushing touchdowns. He earned seven Pro Bowl selections to go with his two NFL MVP awards and of course his Super Bowl accolade. In 2005 he became the second player on this list to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the San Francisco 49ers have retired the number eight in honor of one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
Was there ever any doubt who would be at the top of this list? Joe Montana is not just the 49ers greatest quarterback ever, he may be the greatest quarterback of all time. Montana started his NFL career with the 49ers in 1979 after being selected 82nd overall. It wasn’t until the 1981 season that Montana was named the starting quarterback and his rise to number one in the 49ers greatest quarterbacks list began.
In 1981 Joe Montana led San Francisco to a 13-3 record and his first trip to the Super Bowl. He completed 14 of 22 passes and added a passing and a rushing touchdown as he led his team to victory. The Cincinnati Bengals had no answer for Montana as he earned his first Super Bowl title and his first Super Bowl MVP title.
In 1984, Joe Montana became the first quarterback to lead a team to a fifteen-win season. In his two playoff games, he outscored his opponents 44-10 before playing the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. In the Super Bowl Montana would set the record for most passing yards with 331. Montana would earn his second Super Bowl title and his second Super Bowl MVP award.
In 1988 Montana would earn his third trip to the Super Bowl and again face the Cincinnati Bengals. In Super Bowl XXII Montana had one of the best games of his career. He had 357 yards and two touchdowns but found himself trailing 16-13 with three minutes to go. Then “The Drive” happened. Montana marched his offense 92 yards, completing eight out of nine passes, and threw a touchdown pass to John Taylor to win the game. This solidified Montana as one of the 49ers greatest quarterbacks.
1989 would prove to be a highly successful year for both the 49ers and Joe Montana. Montana would earn the NFL MVP award after he racked up 3,521 yards and 26 touchdowns. He only threw 8 interceptions giving him the highest single-season passer rating at the time. After leading his team to Super Bowl XXIV Montana would earn his fourth Super Bowl title and his third Super Bowl MVP award.
After the emergence of Steve Young, Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993. As a 49er Montana finished with a record of 100 wins and 39 losses, 35,124 yards, and 244 touchdowns. His abilities as a field general and leader were key to the San Francisco 49ers winning four Super Bowl titles in nine years. His number 16 has been retired in San Francisco and his place at the top of the list of 49ers greatest quarterbacks will never be in doubt.
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