Later tonight, NFL Network will be airing their Top 10 49ers at 6 p.m. PT. I think we can safely assume one of two guys will be at the top of that list: Joe Montana or Jerry Rice. The 49ers have some all-time greats throughout their history, but I would be surprised if it wasn't Montana or Rice.
The question then becomes, which of the two will it be? Montana has the Super Bowl glory and the postseason records, while Jerry Rice put up the greatest wide receiver stats in NFL history. I think you could reasonably place either in the top spot, but my guess is Montana gets top billing.
Quarterbacks generally get the love over wide receivers in these kinds of lists, and when you drop in the four Super Bowls, it could cinch it. It really comes down to how you want to define greatness. Montana stepped up when it mattered most, so it's reasonable to argue for him. Rice put up monster numbers his entire career, and just the body of work from after he turned 30 is amazing.
Who do you think gets top billing tonight? Aside from Montana and Rice, I think the top five is almost assuredly going to include Steve Young. I'm sure Ronnie Lott will get some love. Beyond that, do you go with older guys like Bob St. Clair and Leo Nomellini?
Just looking at the 49ers Hall of Fame, you've got a whole assortment of players from before and during the Bill Walsh era. The 49ers have a storied history, but there seems to be a solid break in terms of fans. You've got the fans who great up with the Bill Walsh era (and beyond) 49ers, and then you've got the pre-Bill Walsh 49ers, which is an extensive list of all-time greats. If you go into our 49ers history section, check out howtheyscored's 49ers Year-by-Year features. He broken down every single season in 49ers history, starting back in 1946. You can start reading them HERE.