The San Francisco 49ers (often referred to as the Niners) are a professional football team based in Santa Clara, California. They are members of the National Football League (NFL) as part of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the NFC West division. The team has played at Levi's Stadium since 2014.
The 49ers began play in 1946 as a charter member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and joined the NFL in 1950 after the AAFC merged into the older league. The team was the first NFL franchise to win five Super Bowls, including four in the 1980s behind three-time Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana. San Francisco is second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl wins (6) and tied with the Dallas Cowboys with 5. The 49ers were also the only team to win more than one Super Bowl without losing any, prior to their loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
In regular season head-to-head contests against the Green Bay Packers, the Packers hold the edge, 30-25-1. The teams with the Packers winning the first four of five playoff contests.
The name "49ers" comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The team is the oldest major professional sports team in California, as well as the first.
The 49ers entered professional football in 1946 as a member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Though the 49ers could never unseat the dominant Cleveland Browns (who won all four of the AAFC Championships), the 49ers were nonetheless a strong second-best team in the league. Upon the dissolution of the league after the 1949 season, the 49ers, along with the Cleveland Browns and the first Baltimore Colts were granted admission to the National Football League (NFL) in 1950, as they were the AAFC's most successful and profitable franchises.
The 49ers' first game as a member of the NFL was a home match with the New York Yanks on September 17, 1950. The Niners lost, 21-17.
Behind Joe Montana, head coach Bill Walsh, and a defense led by defensive end Fred Dean (acquired via trade) and rookie defensive backs Carlton Williamson, Eric Wright, and Ronnie Lott, the 49ers finished with a league best 13-3 record, then defeated the New York Giants 38-24 in in the divisional playoffs, then upset the Dallas Cowboys thanks to Dwight Clark making "The Catch" in the NFC title game, 28-27 to reach Super Bowl XVI. This was the first Super Bowl played in a cold weather city.
Despite being outgained in total yards by the Bengals (who were coached by former Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Forrest Gregg), the 49ers won the game thanks to 4 turnovers and a goal line stand in the third quarter. Ray Wersching also kicked four field goals. Montana was named Super Bowl MVP after completing 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards and 1 touchdown while rushing 6 times for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Behind Montana, Walsh, and their defense, the 49ers went 15-1 (the first team to win 15 games in a season), then defeated the New York Giants 21-10 in in the divisional playoffs, then shutout the Chicago Bears 23-0 in the NFC title game, to reach Super Bowl XIX.
The matchup between Joe Montana and Dan Marino, who quarterbacked the Dolphins, was in favor of the Dolphins 10-7 after the first quarter. But the 49ers scored 21 points in the second quarter and never looked back. Montana won his second Super Bowl MVP after completing 24 of 35 passes for a then record 335 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing 5 times for 59 yards (a record for quarterbacks in a single Super Bowl at the time) and a touchdown. Fullback Roger Craig scored 3 touchdowns (2 receiving, 1 rushing) to become the first player to score 3 touchdowns in one Super Bowl. This also started a streak of 13 straight Super Bowl wins for the NFC.
Behind Montana (who was facing competition from Steve Young), Walsh, NFL Offensive MVP Roger Craig (HB), Jerry Rice, and their defense, the 49ers went 10-6 clinching the NFC West title. They then beat the Minnesota Vikings 34-9 in the divisional round (avenging their upset loss from the year before), then upset the Chicago Bears 28-3 in the NFC title game to reach Super Bowl XXIII.
The game was tied 3-3 at halftime. After the teams traded field goals, Cincinnati's Stanford Jennings returned the ensuing kickoff for a 93-yard touchdown. Montana threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rice to tie the game. Jim Breech kicked a field goal to give the Bengals the lead with 3:10 to go. But Montana led a 92-yard drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left to win the Super Bowl. Although Montana completed 23 of 36 passes for a then record 357 yards and 2 touchdowns while rushing 4 times for 13 yards, Rice was named Super Bowl MVP after catching a then record 11 passes for a record 215 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 5 yards. This was the final game that Bill Walsh coached in the NFL.
Despite Bill Walsh's retirement, the 49ers did not miss a beat under George Seifert. Behind Montana (who was named NFL MVP), Rice, Craig, and their defense, the 49ers went an NFL best 14-2, then blew out the Minnesota Vikings 41-13 in the divisional round, then blew out the Los Angeles Rams 30-3 in the NFC title game to reach Super Bowl XXIV.
The game was a blowout as the 49ers scored two touchdowns in every quarter en route to setting the single game record for points scored in a Super Bowl and repeating as champions. Montana won his third and final Super Bowl MVP after completing 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards and a record 5 touchdown passes while rushing twice for 15 yards. Rice caught 7 passes for 148 yards and a record three touchdowns (breaking the record held by Max McGee, John Stallworth, Cliff Branch, and Rickey Sanders). The 49ers became the second team after the Pittsburgh Steelers to win four Super Bowls.
Behind the NFL MVP performance of Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and a defense led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Deion Sanders (in his only year as a 49er), the 49ers went a league best 13-3, then blew out the Chicago Bears 44-15 in the divisional round, and after two straight years of heartbreaking losses, finally defeated the two-time defending champion Dallas Cowboys 38-28 in the NFC championship game to reach Super Bowl XXIX.
Steve Young broke free of Joe Montana's shadow and finally won a championship in a dominating performance. He was named Super Bowl MVP after completing 24 out of 36 passes for 325 yards and a record 6 touchdown passes (breaking Montana's record) and was the game's leading rusher with 49 yards on 5 carries. Rice caught 10 passes for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns (matching his effort from five years ago) while running back Ricky Waters equaled Roger Craig's feat from ten years ago by scoring 3 touchdowns (2 receiving, 1 rushing). With the win, the 49ers became the first franchise to win 5 Super Bowls.