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.
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".
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.
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.
They won Super Bowls in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994. Only Pittsburg with 6 Super Bowls has more.
If it wasn't for my geographic perferance for the 49ers, Jets and Giants, the Chicago Bears would be my sentimental favorite.
Several of my all time favorite players were bears.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another of my favorites are mobile quarterbacks.
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.
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.
* 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.
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).