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 41 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: S Antoine Bethea (2014-present)
The San Francisco 49ers have not exactly had an extensive history with the number 41. Terry Kirby leads the team in Pro Football Reference's AV statistic, having had three decent seasons with the team. He served as a running back and return man during that time. He actually was the 49ers starting running back in 1996, leading the team with 134 rushing attempts and 550 rushing yards. He was also second on the team with 52 receptions, and third with 439 yards. This was on a team that went 12-4 and won a playoff game before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional round. I have no idea how that happened.
Kirby was fine and all, but I have to say, the guy who wears the jersey now is probably deserving of the "who wore it best" prize. He has only been on the team for one year, but he earned a Pro Bowl appearance, and was a leader of the secondary. He finished tied for second on the team with four interceptions.
Bethea enters year two of his four year contract. He will be the starting strong safety next to Eric Reid, but next year is when things get a little more interesting. The 49ers can start to save considerably more money if they decide to go younger at strong safety in 2016. The team drafted Jimmie Ward in 2014 and Jaquiski Tartt this past year. Ward has been primarily a nickel back when healthy, and Tartt is making a big leap from small college football. My guess is Bethea plays through the 2016 year on his contract, but we don't really know what Tartt will look like this year, let alone next summer.