I'm not a huge football fan (Don't have season tickets anywhere and don't play Fantasy Football), but football is my favorite spectator sport. I was talking with some friends about our favorites one day and decided to write mine down.

I grew up in Northern California and went to grad school at Cal so the San Francisco 49ers and University of California Bears still are my favorite teams.
I've lived in NJ for the last 40 years, and have rooted for the Jets ever since Ken O'Brien, quarterback for UC Davis, which I attended as an undergraduate, was drafted.

Numbers (#) below refer to all time ranking.

San Francisco 49ers.

When I was growing up it seemed that the 49ers were always coming up second behind the, then, LA Rams. People said the city of San Francisco was too laid back to have a winning football team.

One famous moment was in a 1957 game against Detroit. With 10 seconds remaining in the game, 49ers ball on the Lions 41, Detroit leading 31-28, Y. A. Tittle threw a desperation pass high in the air and into the end zone, where it was caught between two defenders by a high-leaping R. C. Owens. The pass became famously known as the "Alley Oop". Whenever they had 3rd and long and were down toward the end of the game fans started calling for "Alley Oop".
The famous picture of Tittle left dazed after being hit by a couple Pittsburgh Steelers circa 1964 after he was traded to the NY Giants is a classic.
He threw 7 touchdown passes in a 1962 game against the Washington Redskins that the Giants won 49-34, a record which still stands.

Hugh McElhenny who played for the 49ers from 1952-1960 was considered the greatest "thrill runner" of his day, averaging 7 yards per carry in his rookie season. When he retired he was one of 3 players to gain over 11,000 all-purpose yards.

In the early 60's the 49ers became the first NFL team to use the shotgun formation. Designed by coach Red Hickey and executed by quarterback John Brodie.

Frankie Albert 1946-1952
Y.A. Tittle     1951-1960 
John Brodie    1957-1973
Steve Spurrier 1967-1975
Jim Plunkett   1976-1977
Steve DeBerg   1977-1980
Joe Montana  1979-1992
Steve Young  1987-1999
Jeff Garcia  1999-2003
Tim Rattay   2004
Alex Smith   2005-
Colin Kaepernick 2012-
Bill Walsh became the coach in 1978 and drafted Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana in 1979.
He developed what became referred to as the West Coast Offense, characterized by short, horizontal passing routes in lieu of running plays to "stretch out" defenses.

Jerry Rice (#1) turned the slant pass into his art form with this offense. He is generally considered the best receiver of all time with more touchdowns (208) than any player in history and a total of 22,895 yards. And on several lists he ranks as the best player of all time.
Two things he was known for were his work ethic (Mike Shanahan, who worked with Rice in San Francisco said. "Nobody I have ever been around worked harder.") and yards after catch.
See Rice the best ever? Not according to the perfectionist - CBSSports.com

They won Super Bowls in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994. Only Pittsburg with 6 Super Bowls has more.

Y.A. Tittle, Jerry Rice (#1), Joe Montana (#3), Steve Young and Ronnie Lott were some of my favorite 49ers.

If it wasn't for my geographic perferance for the 49ers, Jets and Giants, the Chicago Bears would be my sentimental favorite.

Source: Butkus.Halas.Sayers.jpg © Mark Stewart at SportsChrome

Several of my all time favorite players were bears.

Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton (#5) were my favorite running backs because they were quick and graceful.
See Sayers video.

I think linebackers represent the primary attributes for football, quickness, strength, toughness. Although NY Giants' Lawrence Taylor (#4) is generally considered the best, the bears had 6 of the top 30. Dick Butkus (#7), Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher, Joe Fortunato, Chuck Howley, Bill George.
See Sports Central / The Best Linebackers of All-Time

Tight ends are another example of the same attributes and Mike Ditka was one of the best.

George Halas was a legendary player, coach and owner in a period from 1921-1967. In 40 years as a coach, he endured only six losing seasons.
His daughter Virginia's husband Ed McCaskey succeeded him as the Chairman of the Board and Halas' grandsons Michael and George McCaskey have succeeded him.

The Bears have won nine (9) NFL Championships (eight pre-merger, and one Super Bowl). The Bears hold the NFL record for the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with 27 members, and the most retired jersey numbers (13). The Bears have also recorded more regular season and overall victories than any other NFL franchise.

Ken O'Brien - U.C. Davis, NJ Jets

I had moved to New Jersey when O'Brien played at UC Davis but got to see him play in the division II championship game at the Boardwalk Bowl in Atlantic City in 1972.

O'Brien was one of the six quarterbacks drafted in the famed Quarterback class of 1983.
He still holds several NFL records, including several games with a perfect quarterback rating of 158; One was in beating the Patriots 42-7 in 1990.
In a famous game against the the Miami Dolphins in 1986 O'Brien and Dan Marino set a record combined 927 yards and 10 TDs passing, which lasted for 25 years. (Jets won 51-45)
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997, but he never got the Jets to the SuperBowl.

I also like wide receivers who are not necessarily big or fast, but are quick, sure-handed and able to confuse defenders. Examples are Steve Largent (5-10, 187 lb) (Seattle), Wes Welker (5-9, 185 lb) (New England), Lynn Swann (5-11, 180) (Pittsburgh), Tommy McDonald (5-9, 176) (Philadelphia) . Largent and Swann are listed among the 10 best receivers of all time.
See Patriots star Wes Welker sets the standard for small receivers - The Boston Globe.

Another of my favorites are mobile quarterbacks.
Fran Tarkenton (NY/Minnesota), Michael Vick (Atlanta/Philadelpia), Donovan McNabb (Eagles/Vikings), Randall Cunningham (Eagles/Vikings), Doug Flutie (New England/Buffalo/San Diego), Steve Young (49ers), Roger Staubach (Dallas).
And the new guys Cam Newton (Carolina), Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks), Robert Griffin III (Washington) and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco) .

Top 10 mobile quarterbacks in NFL history
Dual Threat Quarterbacks: NFL Edition / 6Magazine
Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III carrying mobile QB trend to NFL? - NFL.com

Although he does not fit in any of the categories above, Johnny Unitas (#6) (Baltimore Colts 1956-1972) has to be mentioned as the greatest football player when I was in college. His record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass stood until 2012 when Drew Brees (New Orleans) passed it.
Aaron Rodgers and 2004 BCS controversy denying Cal the Rose Bowl.

As a junior in 2004, Aaron Rodgers led Cal to a 10-1 regular season record their only loss (17-23) coming in a closely contested game with USC, who became the national champion *. He set a variety of school records and tied an NCAA record with 23 consecutive passes completed in one game.

Undefeated USC went to the BCS championship game, and most thought Cal would get selected for the Rose Bowl (which always pitted a Pac-12 team against a Big 12 team prior to the BCS system). On November 27, Cal was in the #4 BCS position and Texas was #5. Texas remained idle the next Saturday, but Cal defeated Southern Mississippi in a makeup game from Hurricane Ivan. The Golden Bears were made aware that while margin of victory did not affect computer rankings.
However, Texas coach, Mack Brown, won a political battle to get a AP poll voters to change their vote (four coaches voted Cal No. 7 and two No. 8) and Texas was ranked #4 by a mere .0102 points and invited the Rose Bowl to play #13 Michigan.
#3 Auburn went to the Sugar Bowl.
Cal played Texas Tech in tech Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.
The AP poll was eliminated from the BCS formula after the 2004 season.
See BCS Guru: Ten Years of BCS: 2004
and BCS takes Cal on Holiday - Rodgers comments - SFGate

Rodgers turned pro in 2005 and many thought the 49ers, with the first overal pick would select him, but they passed over Rodgers to pick Alex Smith.
Rodgers was selected by Green Bay where he backed up Brett Favre until 2008 when he got the starting job.
After the 2009 season Rodgers made the record books, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history ever to throw for 4,000 yards in both of his first two years as a starter.
In 2010 Arron Rodgers and the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

* In 2011 USC was stripped of its 2004 national title, because Reggie Bush was ineligible because he received extra benefits from a would-be sports marketer.

No Bay Area football page would be complete without mentioning "The Play" in the 1982 "Big Game", a traditional rivalry between California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinals.
Cal held a lead late in the game, but Stanford, led by John Elway, drove down the field to retake the lead. Elway, with a victory, might well win the Heisman Trophy.

In what is now known simply as "The Play," four Cal players lateraled the ball five times on a kickoff return with four seconds left on the clock. Kevin Moen, who was also the initial ball carrier, ran for a touchdown while knocking down the final Stanford "defender," trombone player Gary Tyrrell, who had run onto the field with the rest of the band to celebrate prematurely.
KGO radio announcer Joe Starkey's hailed it as "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!"
Stanford fans claim that that one of Cal player's knee touched and one lateral was actually forward, but the official score was Cal 25 Stanford 20.
See the video

6 of the The 10 greatest NFL football players of all time at Yahoo! Sports are listed above. Missing are (#2), Don Hutson (#8), Tom Brady (#9) and Reggie White (#10).

last updated 27 Nov 2012