The San Francisco 49ers kick off the 2015 NFL regular season on Monday Night Football, on September 14. That game means San Francisco is now a mere 66 days away from kicking off its 2015 regular season. In the spirit of that approaching date, I thought I would steal this idea from our Oakland Raiders site.
Who wore it best: Eric Heitmann (2002-2009)
Picking "who wore it best" for No. 66 raised an interesting question. If you don't have one guy who clearly dominated, do you go with longevity or short term dominance? Eric Heitmann has always been one of my favorite 49ers because he was a solid center and guard, and he made one heck of a comeback from injury. The seventh round pick started 12 games as a rookie, then started eight of nine games in year two. Starting in year three, he seemed to settle into a groove. He started every game over two years, and would have done it a third straight year, but a broken leg ended his season after 14 games.
Heitmann returned for the next season, and played every game in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He was set to continue into 2010, but a broken leg and neck injury cost him the season. Heitmann injured his neck in one of Mike Singletary's nutcracker drills. Heitmann was placed on injured reserve in 2010, and then was released and retired in the summer of 2011.
There are two other competitors for "who wore it best", even though they only wore the number for a short time. In 1994, the 49ers signed center Bart Oates to a contract. He was the team's starting center in 1994 and 1995, earning a Pro Bowl nod both seasons. In 1997, the 49ers signed offensive guard Kevin Gogan to a contract. He was the team's starting right guard in 1997 and 1998, earning Pro Bowl selections in both seasons. The 49ers traded him after the 1998 season due to salary cap issues.
Pro Bowl berths are not exactly a scientific analysis of great players, but I'd say both of those signings worked out pretty well to a certain extent. There are salary cap issues to factor in with both, but the 49ers found success with both players
Who wears it now: OL Marcus Martin (2014-present)
The 49ers will look for another great offensive lineman to emerge with No. 66. Martin spent the second half of the 2014 season starting at center, and now he heads into training camp competing for center, and also potentially one of the guard positions. Daniel Kilgore is rehabbing his leg injury, and if he is unable to go at the start of training camp, Martin is likely going to get the center snaps.
In a perfect world, Daniel Kilgore is healthy and we see him and Martin starting in some combination at center and right guard. We'll have to wait and see what the beginning of August brings us before we know who really is competing for what on the line.