Greatest 49ers of all time: No. 19 – Patrick Willis
Career Stats with 49ers: 950 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, five fumbles recovered, eight interceptions, two touchdowns, 55 passes defended
Before his early, unexpected retirement, Willis was seen as one of the best inside linebackers in the game. The above stats tell the story of a guy who flew all over the field making big plays and punishing guys who were brave enough to come within arm’s distance.
The killer instincts he showed on the field were impeccable. There simply weren’t many in the game with a better sense of what was about to happen. It also helped that he had the superb athleticism to track down the ball once he figured out where it was going.
In the end, though, I didn’t put him higher because his career felt incomplete. His early retirement not only left the 49ers hanging with an oft-injured Bowman to man the middle, but it ripped the heart out of their defense.
Had Willis played more than eight seasons, he’d be much higher on this list. I’m glad he made the decision he felt was best for his health, but my opinion is that it affected his overall value to the 49ers.