We wrapped up our inside linebacker vote with Gary Plummer getting a lot of the popularity vote to run away with the spot. Upsetting to some, but such is a democracy. Today we move on to the first of our two cornerback positions. When we last ran this ballot I included Deion Sanders on the CB #2 ballot to account for his limited time with the franchise. However, given our new Gary Plummer rule that was applied to Patrick Willis, Prime Time is no longer eligible for this contest. While I do still think he put together one of the most dominant seasons in franchise history, this is about the longer term impact of the player.
The 49ers cornerback position has a fairly storied history of great performers, many of whom might not be listed in this ballot. One of our all-time safeties, Ronnie Lott, started out as a cornerback and actually went to 4 Pro Bowls at corner. Due to his time at safety, he's not on this list. Eric Davis put together six solid seasons with the 49ers, but I decided to go with his successor for reasons listed below.
Jimmy Johnson (1961-1976): Aside from one year as a wide receiver, Johnson played in five Pro Bowls over his 16 year Hall-of-Fame career and is #2 to Ronnie Lott in interceptions. Johnson is recognized as one of the best man-to-man defenders in NFL history and definitely was the precursor to Deion and Champ in shutting down his entire side of the field. He spent time at safety and wide receiver, but is primarily remembered as a cornerback, and a great one at that.
Kermit Alexander (1963-1969): Alexander spent seven seasons with the 49ers amassing an impressive 36 interceptions, a rate of just over 5 per season. As impressive is that he came out of college as a running back and was the outstanding offensive player at the Hula Bowl. Mix in some quality kick and punt return stats and you've got one heck of a player. Also, I just noticed he recovered 23 fumbles in his career. Nothing on Johnson for that, but Alexander is the franchise leader there by a safe margin.
Lowell Wagner (1949-1953): Wagner was with the team in its last year in the All-America Football Conference and then the first four years in the NFL. Although the team struggled a bit early on, Wagner was a highlight, snagging 31 interceptions in just five full seasons with the team.
Eric Wright (1981-1990): No vote would be complete without Wright. While not a ball hawk like some of these other guys (7 of his 18 career INTs came in a single season), Wright was a very solid corner who is on the short list of 4-time Super Bowl winners.
Don Griffin (1986-1993): I'll be honest, I don't remember a whole heck of a lot about Griffin. He is 9th on the 49ers INT list and was the successor to Eric Wright at right CB, and a fitting successor he ended up being. Eric Davis (our other option here) was solid, but 2/3 of his interceptions came after his 49er days.