I know Niner Nation is a huge fan of Justin Smith, or cowboy as many like to call him, but is he the greatest lineman to wear #94 as a Niner? If he played the entirety of his career here, it would be an easier question, but given his 5 years of service for the franchise, is he without question the best? Who else is in the mix? My candidates are Dana Stubblefield and Charles Haley. All three had great seasons with the 49ers and hopefully after this season, all will have Super Bowl rings with the 49ers.
Stubbs was aided by the great line play of Bryant Young, but also had a great resume, recording 15 sacks in a year as an interior lineman, winning Defensive Player of the Year (1997) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (1993) honors. He went to 3 Pro Bowls and was considered for All-Pro honors in 4 seasons.
Charles Haley was an a relentless pursuer of QBs, tallying double digit sacks in four of his seasons (3 Pro Bowls) with the Niners. He also had two seasons of All-Pro considerations.
Now Mr. Smith has been honored by a Pro Bowl selection in 4 consecutive years, as well as 1 All-Pro and many All-NFL teams given by writers. Although his stats may not be as high as the other two candidates, we all know how important he is to what has been the best defense in the NFL the last few years. As much as I love Willis, Smith has been the anchor of the D.
Interestingly enough Pro Football Reference has them ranked 47th (Stubbs), 52nd (Haley), 53rd (Smith) in Approximate value for the franchise (link below). Although this is a good starting point I think it is too stat driven.
To show how their calculations require some fine tuning, Jerry Rice being number 1 is fine, but no way Joe Montana is 5 in franchise Approx. Value. So some adjustments must be made for putting the franchise on the map, winning SB's and intangibles.
My fandom wants to say Justin is number 1, the numbers seem to indicate Stubblefield. Do Smith's intangibles propel him ahead, or does he need a couple more years in a Niner uniform?
Your thoughts appreciated!