The SF 49ers have appeared in seven Super Bowl games, and a few of those squads were purely dominant. But which one was the best overall?
With Super Bowl LV just around the corner, it’s always a good time to look back through SF 49ers history and cherish just how much a championship pedigree the franchise has had over the years.
Yes, the Niners’ last two appearances in the Super Bowl have resulted in heartbreak. And one can only wonder what might have been if San Francisco pulled off some extra victories in a handful of their NFC Championship losses over the years, too. Perhaps fans would be talking about six, seven or even more Super Bowl championships instead of the five, which stood as an NFL record until the Pittsburgh Steelers surpassed that number with a sixth championship in 2009.
Nevertheless, each one of the SF 49ers’ Super Bowl squads was special in its own way. The 1981 squad was special, earning the franchise’s first-ever championship while fans got to see an up-and-coming quarterback, Joe Montana, establish himself as one of the league’s best under another up-and-coming head coach, Bill Walsh. The 1988 version of the Niners was special, too, as it solidified San Francisco as the dynasty of the decade after the franchise secured its third championship.
In all truth, though, the SF 49ers boasted three of the league’s best historical Super Bowl teams, and one might argue the teams from 1984, 1989 and 1994 stood atop the rankings in terms of all-time greats from the Niners’ championship years.
Out of those three, which one was truly the best? Niner Noise takes a look.
No. 3: 1994 SF 49ers
Regular-Season Record: 13-3
Won Super Bowl XXIX vs. Chargers 49-26
Before the NFL’s salary-cap era kicked in, it was clear San Francisco was going all-in on its bid to finally thwart the Dallas Cowboys after losing back-to-back NFC Championship games the previous two years.
The SF 49ers already had star power, boasting quarterback Steve Young and wide receiver Jerry Rice. But even those two weren’t enough to get over the Dallas hump those two seasons prior. So, what did the Niners do?
Well, big moves included purging former Cowboys linebacker Ken Norton Jr. while also adding perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Deion Sanders, whose efforts in 1994 would secure him Defensive Player of the Year accolades.
To this date, no other San Francisco squad surpassed 500 points scored during the regular season aside from the 1994 squad, and the SF 49ers finally pulled off the playoff win over the Cowboys en route to walloping the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Young tossed a then-record six touchdowns during the game with Rice being the beneficiary of three of those scores.
Sanders had predicted to Rice before the game the Niners were going to have their way with San Diego, and the cornerback was absolutely correct. The final score made the game seem closer than it actually was.
In terms of lopsided matchups, this victory was arguably the biggest.
No. 2: 1989 SF 49ers
Regular-Season Record: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XXIV vs. Broncos 55-10
Winning back-to-back Super Bowls is tough, but San Francisco remains one of only a handful of teams to accomplish this feat.
And it did so in dominant fashion by beating the Denver Broncos in a lopsided 55-10 affair.
True, the SF 49ers had already established themselves as the team of the 1980s. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and running back Roger Craig were among the best offensive weapons in the entire NFL, but one figured the Broncos’ top-ranked defense from the regular season would be capable of putting up a fight.
Well, not so much.
It didn’t seem like the Super Bowl’s outcome would be such a one-sided affair, at least not during the regular season where the Niners’ point differential was only plus-189 — the lowest out of any of these three Super Bowl squads.
But when considering just how San Francisco steamrolled through the playoffs by a combined score of 126-26, all one needs to do is admit this team was built purely to win a Lombardi Trophy.
While a purely dominant squad, especially in the playoffs, the 1989 SF 49ers squad solidified the reputation of Super Bowls being the expectation level for the franchise after securing its fourth in the decade.
No. 1: 1984 SF 49ers
Regular-Season Record: 15-1
Won Super Bowl XIX vs. Dolphins 38-16
While many could tout the 1989 Niners squad as the best in franchise history, and others could make a claim the 1994 team was the best to do it, it would be hard to usurp the 1984 San Francisco team as the best one to ever win a Super Bowl.
For starters, the 15-1 regular-season finish remains a franchise best in terms of win-loss records, and this group was the first team in NFL history to win 15 regular-season games.
It’s a bit weird to think of the SF 49ers winning Super Bowls without Jerry Rice, yes, as he’d enter the league the following year. But by this point, Joe Montana had already established himself as a perennial NFL MVP candidate, and the Niners were dominant on both sides of the ball, securing the No. 2 scoring offense that year with the No. 1 scoring defense, too.
Speaking of that defense, it boasted five Pro Bowl players: defensive backs Ronnie Lott, Dwight Hicks, Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright to go along with linebacker Keena Turner. And San Francisco had a regular-season point differential of plus-248, which remains a franchise record.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise San Francisco throttled quarterback Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX by a score of 38-16 with Montana tossing three touchdowns with Montana taking home game MVP honors.
True, the 1989 and 1994 squads were awfully good and should be considered towards the top of SF 49ers Super Bowl teams.
Courtesy of Peter Panacy | @peterpanacy