No. 4: Lawrence Taylor
The rivalry between the New York Giants and 49ers stretches to an interdivisional one that has seen 39 regular season showdowns, with the Giants having won 20.
However, it is the playoff games between the two that have made it one of the most bitter rivalries in NFL history. In fact, they have split eight postseason games since 1982, which is the most that two teams have met in the playoffs during that time frame.
Their history goes back to the 1981 playoffs, when Bill Walsh and Joe Montana were in the midst of creating one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports history.
Their playoff run-ins have spanned 30 years, the last being the 2011 NFC Championship game. For linebacker Lawrence Taylor, his sack totals in six games versus the Niners was 4.5. But the constant pressure he put on the quarterback on seemingly every down evokes respect but distain from Niners fans.
Taylor not only was hated for his exploits on the field, but for the ones off the field as well. He had a lengthy arrest record that included drug charges and sexual misconduct involving a 16-year-old girl.
The arrogance and reckless abandon he played with on the field often times followed him off the field as well.
But his play on the field changed how teams would scheme their offenses and his technique for chopping down on the quarterback’s hands to create a fumble rather than tackle him was copied throughout the league.
Perhaps the play that will haunt 49ers fans the most was during the 1990 NFC Championship game with the 49ers driving the ball for a potential game-winning field goal in an effort to try to three-peat, Taylor recovered running back Roger Craig’s fumble to secure a 13-12 Giants victory.
If you grew up in that era of pro football, Taylor was the single most dominate defensive player to take the field in the 1980s and 1990s.