The voting is in and people seem to prefer we go with two general safety positions, instead of a free safety and a strong safety. We all know who the #1 all-time safety will be. However, I'm a big fan of voting so we'll hold off on naming him and let you guys vote on the #2 safety. Given that we're almost finished with the roster (two safeties, coach, any other suggestions?), might as well get some voting in.
The 49ers have had a strong history of quality safeties, particularly in the last thirty years. I know a lot of people would have liked to see Taylor Mays drafted and join that group, but that won't be happening this season. Here's hoping that Dashon Goldson could be that guy, because Mark Roman certainly is not.
Merton Hanks (1991-1998): I'd like to think everyone remembers his "funky chicken dance." Unfortunately I couldn't find video on YouTube, so you'll have to settle for a picture. If you can find video, please post it. Hanks was primarily known for that, but in reality he was a phenomenal safety, finishing 5th on the 49ers all-time INT list, and second among safeties. Equally important was that Hanks knew he was the man at that position. Hanks didn't have an especially long career, but from 1994-1997, he was one of the best free safeties in the NFL, going to the Pro Bowl all four seasons, earning all Pro honors once and finishing with 22 interceptions in that stretch.
Tim McDonald (1993-1999): McDonald combined with Merton Hanks to form a veteran duo in the defensive secondary, that was as good as any in the league. McDonald was in his prime when the 49ers signed him away from the Cardinals and in his seven seasons with th 49ers he finished with 20 interceptions, good for 13th all time. That's especially impressive given that he was a strong safety, a position that doesn't always end up with the high INT numbers and often slightly less athletic than the free safety. McDonald was named to three Pro Bowl squads during his time with the 49ers. One interesting note unrelated to his 49ers career is that he was one of six safeties named to the 1999 Walter Camp All-Century college football team (along with Ronnie Lott, among others).
Dwight Hicks (1979-1985): Hicks sits right behind Merton Hanks as sixth all-time on the 49ers INT list. Although I was only two at the time, many people might remember him for a key early interception against the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI after the 49ers had already turned over the ball. In seven season with the 49ers, Hicks returned three of his 30 interceptions for a touchdown. And oddly enough (or maybe not?), he's even got a MySpace page. I'd imagine it's real, since how many people would imitate Hicks on the Internet? Since the end of his NFL career, Hicks has actually developed into quite the character actor.
Mel Phillips (1966-1977): Consider this the old-timers division. Phillips spent 12 seasons with the 49ers and now is the secondary coach of the Dolphins. He is listed as having 12 interceptions, but some of those older numbers are a little less reliable.
Tony Parrish (2002-2006): Parrish only spent 4+ seasons with the 49ers, but it's easy to forget how much of a badass he was in that limited time. In his four full season with the 49ers, Parrish had 22 interceptions, enough to put him eighth on the all-time list. He actually had 16 interceptions in his first two seasons, along with a pair of forced fumbles and 125 total tackles. I was actually quite excited when the 49ers signed Parrish and for the first couple of seasons, he paid huge dividends.