First off, congratulations to Merton Hanks for winning our #2 safety vote rather handily. Hanks took home 55% of the vote with Tim McDonald coming in second at 25%. I'm a big McDonald fan, but the numbers don't lie when it comes to the man with the awesome neck.
That brings us to our #1 safety. As with our #1 wide receiver, there was never any doubt who it would be. Sure I could have opened it to a vote, but I honestly can't think of a single argument for anybody BUT Ronnie Lott. The man was Mr. Everything for the 49ers and now sits rightfully enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Lott was the 8th overall pick in the 1981 draft, a draft that netted the 49ers Lott, Eric Wright and Carlton Williamson. In 1984, all three of those guys made the Pro Bowl. 'Nuff said. Lott actually started his career as an All-Pro cornerback, before moving over to free safety five seasons into his career. I think that move worked out ok.
The story that personifies Ronnie Lott is the amputated pinky finger. in 1985, during the season finale against Dallas, Lott collided with Cowboys RB Tim Newsome and crushed much of his left pinky finger. He came off the field but did get back on. Originally I thought the pinky was amputated right there on the sideline, but as Lott himself clarified, that happened in the offseason. In their first round playoff game the following week, Lott had his fingers taped up and played through the pain of the crushed finger. Either way, that's quite the bad-ass.
Even if the pinky story had never occurred, the stats and accolades are sufficient to back up this selection. Lott was 10-time Pro Bowler, 6-time first team All-Pro and was named to the Hall of Fames 1980s all-decade team. He's the 49ers all-time leader in interceptions, and ranks sixth on the all-tiem NFL INT list. He's also first in postseason interceptions. His 10 interceptions in 1986 ranks first in the 49ers single season record book.
The free safety position has joined wide receiver and quarterback as positions that have generated numerous headaches recently. That is due to the truly all-world level of talent at those positions. I don't think anybody will argue that Mark Roman is getting a bad rap simply because he is playing a position held by one of the true greats. However, I do imagine it makes it easier to jump to criticism of anybody in that spot that isn't performing well. It's been a blessing to have such great players, but obviously it creates a burden as well. While Taylor Mays apparently won't be the next great safety for the 49ers, let's hope we can find him somewhere in this offseason.