William Wagner

San Francisco 49ers Report: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Created on Feb. 15, 2013 11:45 AM EST

With the Super Bowl behind us, everyone’s attention has shifted to the NFL’s “second season," — the offseason when teams focus on trades and free agency. In the spirit of this player-transaction frenzy, Football.com has decided to pinpoint some of the most notable veteran signings in San Francisco 49ers history.  

There have been a lot of great ones. This is after all is a storied franchise. But it hasn’t been all fun and games for the 49ers in recent years. They have suffered through their share of down seasons, too, and they have the ill-fated signings to prove it. So without further adieu, here are the good, the bad and the ugly 49ers signings.  

The Good » Steve Young, quarterback (1987–1999)

Having determined that he was a bust, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to unload Young after drafting Vinny Testaverde in 1987. The Niners traded for him and sat him on the bench to learn from the master, Joe Montana. Learn Young did. When he finally took over for Montana, the transition was seamless. Not only did he take the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory in the 1994 season, but he also earned six passer-rating titles and led the league in touchdown passes four times. It’s a no-brainer — Young stands out as the best veteran signing in 49ers history.  

The Good » Deion Sanders, cornerback (1994)

Sanders is best remembered as an Atlanta Falcon and a Dallas Cowboy. Sandwiched between his seasons with those teams, however, was a stint with the Niners. Sanders brought a defensive swagger to San Francisco that it had previously lacked and played a pivotal role in San Francisco’s 1994 Super Bowl run. He was gone the next season, but not forgotten.  

The Good » Jeff Garcia, quarterback (1999-2003)

Because he was preceded by Hall-of-Famers Montana and Young, fans often forget about Garcia. They shouldn’t. After playing in the CFL from 1994 through 1998, he was signed by the 49ers and he threw for more than 4,000 yards once (2000) and 3,000 yards twice (2001 and 2002). He never enjoyed the postseason success that Montana and Young did. Of course, he didn’t possess their great supporting casts, either.  

The Good » Ray Brown, guard (1996-2001)

Brown signed with San Francisco as a free agent after starring with the Cardinals and Redskins and quickly settled in. Fans barely ever heard his number called during his time in San Francisco, which is the way it’s supposed to be for an offensive lineman.  

The Good » Justin Smith, defensive end (2008-present)

Smith has brought much-needed intensity, as well as a bunch of sacks, to the 49ers since signing with them as a free agent. He was the heart of a defense that helped propel the Niners to the Super Bowl in 2012.  

The Bad » Antonio Langham, cornerback (1998)

The 49ers paid big bucks for Langham: $17 million over five years. And what did he do to earn that money? He spent a lot of time on his stomach as balls sailed into the arms of the receivers he was supposed to be covering. After just one season, the Niners cut their losses.  

The Bad » J.T. O’Sullivan, quarterback (2008)

Remember this guy? Didn’t think so. He was little more than an NFL journeyman when the Niners signed him in 2008. Yet they allowed him to start 14 games that season, in which he had a dismal passer rating of 73.6. The next year he was playing for the Bengals; the year after that, he was out of the league.  

The Ugly » Lawrence Phillips, running back (1999)

Despite Phillips’ troubled past, the 49ers inexplicably thought it would be wise to sign him. Not only was he a bust on the field, rushing for a grand total of 144 yards, but he was also a PR nightmare for the Niners.  

The Ugly » Mike Singletary, head coach (2008-2010)

Yes, Singletary was a coach ... but he belongs on this list anyway. His 18-22 record tells only part of the story. Singletary’s tenure was marked by all sorts of odd incidents, including dropping his pants during a team meeting to impart a lesson that was evidently lost on the players. Jim Harbaugh took over essentially the same roster in 2011 and immediately turned the 49ers into a force.   

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