The San Francisco 49ers will forever be associated with prolific scoring and championship football. Bill Walsh and his West Coast offense revolutionized the game by replacing the run with the short pass. From there, playmakers were free to shake tackles and rack up chunks of yardage. In fact it was Jerry Rice who popularized the idea of “yards after the catch.” The quarterback, of course, was always the heart and soul of the San Francisco attack. The top two 49’er signal callers of all time will be obvious to all football fans, as Joe Montana and Steve Young waged war against each other, in the most epic quarterback controversy in the history of the game. From there, names like Jeff Garcia, Alex Smith, Y.A. Tittle, and even Steve Bono, may come to mind.
3. Colin Kaepernick
At 27 Colin Kaepernick has already thrown for 8,415 yards and 50 touchdowns while also racking up 1,576 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground. In other words, over just two and one-half seasons as a full-time starter Kaep has quickly emerged as one of the better dual threat quarterbacks in the shotgun spread era — providing San Francisco with some chance to salvage even the most broken play for significant yardage.
First seeing game-time action relieving Alex Smith in 2012, Kaepernick was declared the full time starter by midseason and Smith, the first overall pick of the 2005 draft, was left to pack his bags for Kansas City. Later that year, Colin Kaepernick had put it all together, shredding the Green Bay Packers for 444 yards and four touchdowns in the Divisional Playoffs.
On paper, Kaepernick has already vaulted himself into the top-ten rankings for every significant passing statistic in franchise history. Most importantly, he has gone 25-14 as the starter, en route to appearing in two NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. With so much accomplished so early, the QB will be able to focus on improving further as a pocket passer while his team rebuilds and defenses become more adept at quickly adjusting to the option-read attack.
2. Steve Young
As a young quarterback, Young was a raw athlete, who would often times simply take off and run instead of going through his reads and checking the football down to a secondary target. As an guiding light for Kaep, Young developed his pocket presence as a traditional quarterback over the course of his career, before retiring as one of the most accurate passers in the history of the game.
In 1987, Bill Walsh spent pennies on the dollar to get Young from Tampa Bay after the fiery lefty was prematurely declared an outright bust. Of course, Young didn’t really have the keys to the kingdom until 1993, but we’ll get to that in a second.
In any event, Steve Young quickly emerged to lead the league in completion percentage, through five separate seasons. In 1994, Young put together one of the best statistical records of all time, completing 70% of his passes for 3,969 yards and 35 touchdowns. He capped off this epic season in Super Bowl XXIX, when he blitzed the San Diego Chargers for 325 yards and six touchdowns, en route to claiming MVP honors.
1. Joe Montana
Considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time, the legend of Joe Montana began in 1982, when he shook off the pressure, drifted towards the sideline, and threw up a prayer towards the back corner of the end zone. From there, Dwight Clark dragged across the back line, leapt into the air, and came down with a fingertip catch to take the NFC Championship. The Catch put an end to the 1970’s Cowboys run and marked the beginning of a 49ers dynasty.
In all, Joe Montana made four trips to the Super Bowl through the 1980’s, winning all four. In Super Bowl XXIII, Joe Cool marched the 49ers 92 yards down the field, for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. In doing so, Montana picked the Bengals apart with a series of short passes, before hitting John Taylor for six on a quick slant, with 34 seconds left on the clock.
For the following postseason, Joe Montana completed 78 percent of his passes for 800 yards, eleven touchdowns, and zero interceptions, before throttling the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. Against the Broncos, Montana went over the top for 297 yards and five touchdowns to claim his third Super Bowl MVP award.