Joe. Jerry. Ronnie. Steve. Bill.
Any 49ers fan’s ears will perk up if you mention those names. Not only are they the creme de la creme of the ’80s and ’90s glory days of the scarlet and gold, but they are all members of the gold jacket fraternity in Canton. Sadly, those glory days are increasingly becoming ancient history to the 49er faithful.
After another “there’s always next year” season, the San Francisco 49ers stand precariously on the edge of hope and despair. The worst case scenario is they are the newest version of “the team that never was.” That being said, these 49ers resemble that emerging dynasty of the early ’80s.
An offensive genius coach, a golden boy QB, a versatile backfield and a handful of young talent. Of course, none of this has been proven where it matters. So, questions remain. Will any current 49ers ascend to the level of the greats? Is Jimmy or Jerick or George or Kyle, Hall of Fame talent? Who are the Hall of Famers on the current 49er roster?
Sure, Richard Sherman earned his Hall of Fame accolades beating up on the 49ers and will surely be enshrined as a Seahawk, but, today he is a 49er.
Sherman is a scary combination of big, smart and mean. While many seem to believe that Sherman has lost a step in the last few years, he is still a shutdown corner. This season, he allowed 25 catches on only 40 targets, showing no signs of slowing. There are certainly many quantifiables (32 interceptions, the most since 2011) that will land Sherman in Canton, but what sets him apart is his mastery of the a few intangibles.
Cornerbacks can no longer rely on intimidating receivers with physicality alone. Sherman more than makes up for that with trash talk. He gets in everyone’s head and often under their skin. While he has claimed in an interview with SI that there is a method to his madness, he also knows how to hold a grudge, admitting to Peter King that a part of his decision to join the 49ers was in his vengeful nature.
It shows in his play. You always get the sense that he takes his job very personally, famously feuding with friends and foes alike.
Furthermore, Sherman is a student of the game. He views watching tape as a hobby and admits to watching tape on an iPad in bed. His studying translates to big success in games, seeking to bait quarterbacks into throwing passes exactly where he wants. That sort of unwavering commitment gives Sherman the edge on the field and is the reason he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Every facet of football under values kickers and the Hall of Fame is no different. Only four kickers and one punter have been enshrined in the hallowed halls of FOOTball. Just to make an even finer point, two of those kickers also played other positions. (George Blanda was also a QB and Lou Groza was an offensive tackle).
Sadly, a good kicker is only appreciated when faced with the harsh reality of a bad kicker. Ask the Chicago Bears if they miss Robbie Gould. DOINK DOINK! In fact, Robbie Gould holds the record for most points scored by a Chicago Bear in the 98-year history of the team. Robbie Gould is atop the list beating out Walter Payton by 457 points.
Gould joined the 49ers in 2017 and continues to rack up points and has become even more accurate. In his two seasons with the 49ers he has a 96% field goal percentage, he made 85.4% of his field goals in his 11 seasons with the Bears. Currently, he is second on the all-time field goal percentage list behind Justin Tucker and he is eight percentage points ahead of the most accurate HOF kicker, Morten Andersen. Perhaps we will see a glut of kickers from the current era being inducted into the HOF, but given the status of kickers in the NFL, they will continue to overlook just how important the foot is to football.
In an alternate universe where no NFL careers could ever be longer than 2 seasons, George Kittle would be on his way to Canton.
In only his second season, George Kittle holds the single-season record for the most yards by a tight end. Currently, the HOF honors eight tight ends with Tony Gonzalez entering this fall. Chances are there will be many more going with more and more dynamic playmakers at the position.
Kittle’s ceiling is sky high and will look even more achievable with a good consistent quarterback at the helm of the 49ers. It is easy to compare him to the other ends dominating the game currently, but what makes Kittle unique is his ability to break tackles and evade defenders. The guy is down right slippery. He led the league in yards after catch with 870 yards, 301 yards more than the next tight end, Travis Kelce. What is scary about Kittle is he has room for improvement and he knows it.
Kittle tells the San Francisco Chronicle, “Coach Shanahan said that out of all the tight ends he’s ever had, I do a lot of things really, really well,” Kittle said. “But I’m still third (among that group) in route running. So that’s one of the challenges he gave to me. And that’s certainly one thing I’ll focus on this offseason.” If George Kittle continues on this career trajectory he will make it to the Hall of Fame in the current universe in which he resides.