Best ever Forty Niners team?

Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Wed Oct 27, 2021 12:16 pm

With all-due-respect to that very 13-3 "Catch" of a team that swept Landry's Cowboys and Gregg's also-12-4 Bengals, and also with respect to the team seven years later who, yes, started 6-5 but were basically, already, next year's installment right after (and even-more-so in the playoffs), it looks very much like the only candidates are...'84, '89, or '94.

I've always opined that the '89 Forty Niners are at least the NFL's best-ever team since 1980 - the year I started following. Many here have steered me hard toward '84. And they've gained much ground with me as of late. An excellent case to be made with them, always seemingly beneath the shadow of the following year's juggernaut who also finished 18-1. Once I saw the '92/'93 Cowboys as a better team. Thanks to some of you (especially pointing out the [yes Dallas had #22, but] overall rushing stats), I see the '84 Forty Niners now as better than either of those two Jimmy teams. But simple 'star'-power (Rice, etc) is what places the '89 version ahead of '84 with me. For the longest time, and in this order, I've placed the '89 Forty Niners, '85 Bears, and '84 Forty Niners as the 'Holy Trinity' of '80s teams; more times than not in a 1-2-3 sequence but depending in which way the wind blows, either 1-2a-2b or even 1a-1b-1c!

It seems like the '94 version gets lost in the Historic shuffle. Or at least I've been guilty of it. Is it the bias of wanting a Montana team to be the best-ever Forty Niners team? Or a Bill Walsh team (which '89 has been very, very much treated as) having that honor? Ronnie Lott instead of Deion? Craig instead of Watters? A simple '80s-instead-of-'90s? The uniforms, perhaps?

Starting with myself, I've been one to easily forget that they not only had a 'good' (“but nothing special”) defense to complement that attention-grabbing OFFENSE, but really they had a great defense! Very great, perhaps! And, no, not just Deion being added on which is a huge understatement. Without naming every name, simply look at that defensive roster! Is it also the whole front office "buying" a defense in the off-season that also may be a reason this team is pushed aside? This D, I'd think, had more overall speed than '84 or '89!

For the longest time, I've declared the '94 AFCCG as my "worst" Steelers memory. This, of course, because of my wanting to see that 4-0 vs 4-0 Super Bowl of "the Ages". I always strongly felt that the 'Burgh at least gives San Fran a good game if not, just maybe, pull off the win. Yes, the game would have clearly had the obvious Hype going in! It may have broken a record for most-watched-SB-ever! And, yes, Lloyd/Green & Co would have made it tough for Young and that O, Woodson holding his own vs Rice if having to cover him one-on-one, etc. However, San Fran still would have scored on them - #8 and #80 still making key plays, Ricky Watters may have very well been a problem.

The question is, even if the 'Burgh holds San Fran to - say - 21 or 24 pts, is Neil O'Donnell able to top that? Sadly, very likely not! And, no, not just the whole also having to throw away from Deion (field cut in-half) in such an event (maybe throwing two INTs to Eric Davis instead). And even if he would have managed throwing for a sizable amount of yards, would it have automatically translated to scoring TDs? Barry Foster (and Bam) and that O-line keeping that SF offense off the field? Quite a few run-defenders would have had a say in that - and not "just" Ken Norton, Jr (serious understatement as well)! Steelers still "show up", I think, in such a hypothetical. But not as close as I once - up until recently - may have (perhaps biasedly) thought. They lose by 10, maybe 14.

The point is, this San Fran installment should be wedged well into the argument at least! Even if I continue to see '89 as the "best" since (at least) 1980. Away from that '94 defense I just shined light on, back to that offense...they were indeed a Machine once that close win over Detroit (still recovering from the Eagles) was out the way! They SWEPT Dallas who, despite no longer having JImmy, were still extremely championship-caliber! Just one year removed from back-to-back as opposed to two as the case with '95. Dallas "shot themselves in the foot" beginning of that '94 NFCCG, I would always say. Perhaps, but maybe it's a bit of BOTH - San Fran's defense making that 21-0 lead happen as well!

That '89 team, however, will be tough to supplant. Yes, the entire NFL besides them was relatively weak compared to other seasons, especially the AFC. And Dan Reeves, in an otherwise arguable-at-least HOF-career, sadly coached his worst games in the Super Bowl. But beating Reeves, 55-10, with Elway and Wade at his disposal is still beating Dan Reeves with Elway and Phillips, 55-10! And not to mention blasting (for a second-straight-year) that Floyd Peters #1 defense and then a rival Robinson Rams team who normally won at Candlestick, 30-3! Really can't downplay that!

And, yes, that amazing rushing attack and also suffocating defense of '84 who steamrolled through the playoffs concluding with a domination of Marino and Shula - their one loss of the campaign a real close one that could have easily gone the other way...

Let the Debate begin...
Last edited by 74_75_78_79_ on Wed Oct 27, 2021 8:55 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby Brian wolf » Wed Oct 27, 2021 1:05 pm

Its a tough call between the 1984 and 1989 49er teams. The way the 49ers dismantled the Giants, Bears and Dolphins, not to mention become the first 15-1 team ever, the 1984 team with its overrall depth gets the nod for me, simply because the Rams and Broncos were far weaker teams though Montana had his best season in 1989. Yes, the Rams could have swept them that year but by playoff time, everybody on the planet knew who would win between Montana and Everett ...

My big mouth likes to stir the pot on this site and I have no problem telling people what I think of the 1994 49ers ... The NFL-Networks turned their backs while the Niners were "allowed" to put an All-star free agent line-up on defense with one overall goal -- Keep the Dallas Cowboys from winning three consecutive world championships-- Even with a 21-0 lead and the Cowboys not fully awoken during the NFC Championship game, by the end of the game, the Niners needed key, pass interferences on Michael Irvin, to not get called, so they could survive the Cowboys' comeback. Did Dallas take them too lightly ? Did Switzer not have them ready to play ? Were the Niners simply a better team, or got away with home cooking on crucial penalty calls and non- calls ? Probably a little of everything but credit to the 49ers and Steve Young to give the League what they desperately wanted ... A new champion.
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby Bryan » Wed Oct 27, 2021 1:56 pm

Brian wolf wrote:Its a tough call between the 1984 and 1989 49er teams. The way the 49ers dismantled the Giants, Bears and Dolphins, not to mention become the first 15-1 team ever, the 1984 team with its overrall depth gets the nod for me, simply because the Rams and Broncos were far weaker teams though Montana had his best season in 1989. Yes, the Rams could have swept them that year but by playoff time, everybody on the planet knew who would win between Montana and Everett ...

My big mouth likes to stir the pot on this site and I have no problem telling people what I think of the 1994 49ers ... The NFL-Networks turned their backs while the Niners were "allowed" to put an All-star free agent line-up on defense with one overall goal -- Keep the Dallas Cowboys from winning three consecutive world championships-- Even with a 21-0 lead and the Cowboys not fully awoken during the NFC Championship game, by the end of the game, the Niners needed key, pass interferences on Michael Irvin, to not get called, so they could survive the Cowboys' comeback. Did Dallas take them too lightly ? Did Switzer not have them ready to play ? Were the Niners simply a better team, or got away with home cooking on crucial penalty calls and non- calls ? Probably a little of everything but credit to the 49ers and Steve Young to give the League what they desperately wanted ... A new champion.


The 84 team could have gone undefeated, as their loss to Pittsburgh had a late Steeler TD setup by a bogus PI and Wersching missing a FG at the end of the game that would have tied it up.

I wasn't a fan of that 1994 team...the best team money could buy. It was like the Steinbrenner Yankees simply overpaying for annoying all-stars. That whole era of the NFL was kind of like the dark ages to me. I didn't like the Cowboys, I didn't like that Niners team, I didn't like having to watch the Bills in the SB every year. I didn't even bother watching the 2nd Cowboys-Bills Super Bowl.
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby Brian wolf » Wed Oct 27, 2021 2:14 pm

You should have watched that SB Bryan. The Bills had a 13-6 lead at halftime. Everyone talks about the Thurman Thomas fumble that was returned to tie the game but what killed Buffalo was an interception by Jim Kelly -what else was new? -that enabled Dallas to run Emmitt and take over the game ...
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby Oszuscik » Wed Oct 27, 2021 4:14 pm

Brian wolf wrote:Its a tough call between the 1984 and 1989 49er teams. The way the 49ers dismantled the Giants, Bears and Dolphins, not to mention become the first 15-1 team ever, the 1984 team with its overrall depth gets the nod for me, simply because the Rams and Broncos were far weaker teams though Montana had his best season in 1989. Yes, the Rams could have swept them that year but by playoff time, everybody on the planet knew who would win between Montana and Everett ...

My big mouth likes to stir the pot on this site and I have no problem telling people what I think of the 1994 49ers ... The NFL-Networks turned their backs while the Niners were "allowed" to put an All-star free agent line-up on defense with one overall goal -- Keep the Dallas Cowboys from winning three consecutive world championships-- Even with a 21-0 lead and the Cowboys not fully awoken during the NFC Championship game, by the end of the game, the Niners needed key, pass interferences on Michael Irvin, to not get called, so they could survive the Cowboys' comeback. Did Dallas take them too lightly ? Did Switzer not have them ready to play ? Were the Niners simply a better team, or got away with home cooking on crucial penalty calls and non- calls ? Probably a little of everything but credit to the 49ers and Steve Young to give the League what they desperately wanted ... A new champion.


I was born in the late 80's and didn't start following football until the 1996 season, so I obviously didn't get to experience the 1994 49ers. Very interesting comment by you though, did everyone at the time pretty much view San Francisco as a "bought" team? And how do you mean the 49ers were "allowed" to put together an All-Star line-up?

Even with limited knowledge of that '94 team I did always view that championship as the "black sheep" of the 49ers dynasty. Just looking at their roster... Deion Sanders, Richard Dent, Charles Mann, Rickey Jackson...
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby Brian wolf » Wed Oct 27, 2021 4:30 pm

The League has never liked dominant teams ... they want parity so point spreads are more complicated. With the Cowboys being the dominant team, the League knew that either SF, Buff or Pitts needed to end it as far as a three-peat and they let it happen. The Niners had too many expensive stars to keep under a salary cap and the NFL knew it IMO ... Yes, I was a Cowboy fan and probably somewhat, delusional ... haha
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby Brian wolf » Wed Oct 27, 2021 5:36 pm

Whats interesting was also the 1995 SF team, where Elvis Grbac came in relief of an injured Steve Young and beat the Cowboys in Dallas. With the Cowboys struggling toward the end of the season and Young returning, I thought the 49ers could possibly repeat but then they lost their last regular season game to a Bobby Hebert-led Falcon team and were upset by a determined Packer team in the playoffs. At that time, that was the best game Brett Favre had ever played. I was much happier to see the Pack over the 49ers but it would have been different had SF beaten the Falcons and got home-field advantage.
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby GameBeforeTheMoney » Wed Oct 27, 2021 7:37 pm

It's a really tough call between the 89 and 84 Niners.

The 89 team, I remember this, they lost to the Packers with Don Majkowski at QB. I remember the game was at Candlestick, the Packers were driving, and Majkowski threw an interception. It might have even been returned for a touchdown. A penalty wiped it out and I think that might have been the drive that the Packers scored the GWTD. It was a long time ago, but I remember watching the game on television. So, they were really close to being at least 15-1.

Again, it's really hard to say, but the 89 team had Tom Rathman and Roger Craig had a much greater impact on the offense. Charles Haley and John Taylor were on the 89 team and I don't think they were on the 84 team. Hard to say which is better, but really for players who defined the 49ers in that era, they were either not on the team in 84 or didn't reach their full potential at that time.

Never thought of the 94 team as a "bought" team. Free agency didn't start until 93, so that really wasn't a thought for me as a fan at the time.
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby sheajets » Thu Oct 28, 2021 12:18 am

GameBeforeTheMoney wrote:It's a really tough call between the 89 and 84 Niners.

The 89 team, I remember this, they lost to the Packers with Don Majkowski at QB. I remember the game was at Candlestick, the Packers were driving, and Majkowski threw an interception. It might have even been returned for a touchdown. A penalty wiped it out and I think that might have been the drive that the Packers scored the GWTD. It was a long time ago, but I remember watching the game on television. So, they were really close to being at least 15-1.

Again, it's really hard to say, but the 89 team had Tom Rathman and Roger Craig had a much greater impact on the offense. Charles Haley and John Taylor were on the 89 team and I don't think they were on the 84 team. Hard to say which is better, but really for players who defined the 49ers in that era, they were either not on the team in 84 or didn't reach their full potential at that time.

Never thought of the 94 team as a "bought" team. Free agency didn't start until 93, so that really wasn't a thought for me as a fan at the time.


The ultimate collection of mercenaries is the current Bucs team. But hey with Brady at the helm, a good coach, and every top playing wanting to go there...it's working. Wherever Brady goes success and impossibly good luck follows

I remember thinking a bit that way about the 94 Niners but only regarding their defense. Deion Sanders, Ken Norton, Rickey Jackson, Toi Cook, Charles Mann, Tim Harris, Tim McDonald. They did bring in a lot of savvy veterans around 93/94...nothing wrong with it. They were pulling out all the stops to get past the Cowboys
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Re: Best ever Forty Niners team?

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:38 am

One of the top bullet-points of that '89 squad is they being 8-0 on the road! Those eight, of course, being part of that 19-game road win-streak that began late the previous year in conjunction with they suddenly becoming juggernaut-caliber once again. Streak would end on the opening Monday Nighter in '91. Starting with the Steel Curtain, most Dynasty teams, and not just in football but sports in-general, were better at home than on the road. Of course its based on theory, but Bart flying his team first-class, booking them the best hotel rooms, etc, may have played a part motivation-wise. Either way, the main reason of course being they were simply an Awesome team during that run.

I don't really have much memories at the time of '94 getting all that much gruff about "buying" their defense. It simply became the nature of the beast by then - and didn't Dallas "buy" at least one more year by acquiring #21 themselves? I remember the following year, '95, Miami actually getting called out for such a thing. Remember their supposedly big acquisitions? In what would turn out to be his final season, I remember Shula responding, paraphrasing, "When San Francisco does it, it's called smart business decisions. But when we do it, its buying a team!"

End of day, money may buy regular season wins and high playoff-seedings at best, but it almost never assures finishing on top! Look at how the Yankees built their '96-thru-'00 Dynasty - they did it like a small franchise, through the farm system (Yankee-haters generally respect that '96 team). Then once George became more involved again, the '00s, he simply paid big bucks for these big acquisitions. Much regular season success, every year picked to win-it-all, but always coming up short - most times not even winning the Pennant! Look at the '03/'04 Lakers - and with Phil Jackson coaching mind you...add the Mailman and Payton to Shaq & Kobe and you know how that turned out! Its team-chemistry that does it. Yes, much money spent for that '94 Forty Niners D, but it worked - previous weaknesses covered! It didn't work for Miami the following year. The money wasn't spent on what they truly needed.

I'll still place '89, and then '84, above '94 if however not by much. But, again, is it because of all those subconscious (don't want to be sacrilege) reasons I offered on this thread's first post ("buying" included), or do I really truly believe with no bias that each were truly a better team? I'll say the latter for now. But the door is simply wide-open and off-the-hinges for '94 to gain significant future ground.
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