There may not be a player more synonymous with 49ers football than Jerry Rice. So, when he speaks about the team it’s bound to get attention. This year, Rice has been vocal about his belief that this year’s 49ers team may be good enough to make it to the Super Bowl.
With San Francisco’s 9-1 record, his prediction doesn’t look as ridiculous as it could have prior to the season. Rice knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl with his former team. But can the San Francisco 49ers prove him right?
Jerry Rice: ‘The man with the hands’
The 49ers drafted Rice with the 16th overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. Over the next 16 years, he became one of the most legendary wide receivers to ever play the game. Rice spent much of his rookie season coming off the bench, but he was not only a full-time starter by year two but an All-Pro player and a Pro Bowler.
By his fourth NFL season, Rice was a Super Bowl champion. By 1994, he had three championships. In his 16 seasons with the 49ers, the wide receiver accumulated over 19,000 receiving yards for 176 touchdowns.
This made Rice a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame and one of the biggest names not only in San Francisco but in pro football. To this day, Rice is held up by the 49ers’ faithful fans, and they certainly like what he has to say about their team this season.
Rice’s optimism about the 49ers
Rice first started speaking boldly about his former team’s potential success early on in the season. While he drew some scorn from fans and other pundits, the 49ers responded by winning nearly every game played over the first 10 games of the season.
The former wide receiver was sold on Kyle Shanahan’s coaching, Jimmy Garoppolo’s arm, and the overall toughness of the 49ers’ roster. “I don’t want to jump the gun,” Rice said, “but I’m starting to feel it a little bit. These guys are looking really, really like contenders.”
Going on ESPN’s First Take to discuss the 49ers, Rice snapped back at Stephen A. Smith, a man who’s vocally stated his displeasure with Garoppolo throughout the season. Rice had none of it and doubled down on his prediction.
“Hear me right now,” Rice told Smith via The Mercury News, “they’re going to win the Super Bowl.”
The Niners’ 9-1 record entering Week 12 could lend credence to Rice’s prediction, but a look at their upcoming schedule will make people pump the brakes on their excitement.
The 49ers’ season moving forward
Rice will likely double, triple, and quadruple down on his assertion until he is proven right or wrong. The team’s hot start was often besmirched by naysayers pointing out that many of the teams San Francisco beat were much worse teams. While this assertion was true, the 49ers have a chance to prove themselves heading into the last six games.
The team’s game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12 will kick off the home stretch, where four of their final six games are against teams with similar Super Bowl aspirations. After the Packers, the 49ers will face Lamar Jackson and the rising Baltimore Ravens. Then, they’ll see Drew Brees’ seasoned New Orleans Saints.
After two weeks of more beatable competition in the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams, the team will face their biggest rival and the only team to beat them through the first 10 games, the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers have a tough road to prove Rice correct, but if they’re as good as he claims, they will beat the better competition.