Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

San Francisco 49ers: All-“No” Team, Linemen

Posted on October 09, 2009 by Blaine Spence
Jamal Anderson #32

Gabe Wilkins had one sack in two seasons with the 49ers.

Writer’s note: This is the second installment of the San Francisco 49ers All “No” Team; the first can be viewed here: The San Francisco 49ers’ All-“No” Team, Pt. 1: The Skill Positions.

To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!

— The Rolling Stones, 1978

Please remember that being bad doesn’t always get you on the team, though it does help. The decision to bring you in, or even to release you, might be the deciding factor for this team.

The Defensive Line

Defensive End: Israel Ifeanyi

The 49ers draft of 1996 was one of anticipation.  Having traded their No. 1 pick the previous year for the right to draft wide receiver J.J. Stokes at the No. 10 spot (sound familiar?), the 49ers didn’t have a pick until halfway through the second round.

I remember wondering if ESPN would even get to the pick before they passed the broadcast off to their fledgling sister station—ESPN 2.

The 49ers were in desperate need of pass-rush help after trading Charles Haley to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and never adequately replacing him.

Who would be the next pass rush specialist in San Francisco?

The name was in: Israel Ifeanyi.

My reaction: “Who the hell is Israel Ifeanyi?”

Judging from Chris Berman’s non-verbal cues as he read the name, his reaction was about the same.

During the press conference, George Seifert seemed genuinely excited to have landed the defensive end from USC.  I remember Seifert saying that Ifeanyi had the quickest hands he had ever seen.

Too bad the 49ers were looking for a pass-rush specialist and not a patty-cake champion.

Considered to be a project, the native of Nigeria just never developed.  He played in only three games in 1996 and was credited with zero tackles and zero sacks.

In judging the rookie class of 1996, Bob Glauber of The Sporting News provides an excellent segue for my next defensive lineman:

“The 49ers are hoping Ifeanyi doesn’t turn into another Todd Kelly. Looks iffy to me.”

Defensive End: Todd Kelly

Todd Kelly cost the 49ers their first round pick (No. 27 overall) in the 1993 draft.  He lasted with the team just two seasons before being jettisoned and landing with the Cincinnati Bengals.

In Kelly’s four-year career, he recorded 5.5 sacks, 3.5 of those coming in his banner year with the 49ers, 1994.

The 49ers did atone for Kelly in the 1994 draft, landing probable Hall of Fame player—and all around class act—Bryant Young.

It is just too bad that in rooming with Young, nothing rubbed off on Kelly.

Defensive Tackle: Reggie McGrew

It seems as if the 49ers have had their share of early-round defensive linemen busts, and Reggie McGrew was no exception.

The 49ers selected the defensive tackle out of Florida, with the No. 27 pick overall in the 1999 draft.

McGrew played two seasons for the 49ers and appeared in two games with the Atlanta Falcons in 2002.

Career stats: Two sacks, nine tackles…’nuff said.

Defensive End: Gabe Wilkins

Rounding out the starting defensive line for the All-“No” Team is free agent acquisition Gabe Wilkins.

Wilkins was viewed as the prize defensive free agent during the offseason of 1998.

Wilkins had spent his first four years with the Green Bay Packers and was seen as the next superstar defensive end.  In his last year with the Pack, he registered 5.5 sacks, recorded a 77-yard “pick-six,” and recovered three fumbles, returning one of them for a score.

A $4.5 million signing bonus seemed like nothing after luring him away from dreaded division rivals, the St. Louis Rams, who reportedly had offered Wilkins more money.

In two seasons with the 49ers, Wilkins played in 24 games and had but one sack.

It seems that in those days, bad knees were included in the signing bonus.

I know, I know, three ends and only one tackle.  But you could line these guys up in the 3-4, or some of them could play either position.  I’ll let the Stones lend their opinion:

“What does it matter; uh-huh, does it matter, uh-huh…”


Richard Dent.  I can hear it already, but don’t forget Dent only played one season for San Francisco, in 1994, and in that one season, he played in but two games due to injury—although he did get himself a second ring.  He threatened to sue the 49ers for back pay, and returned to “Da Bears” the following year.

Charles Haley.  The 49ers never seemed to find anyone to replace the formidable pass rusher.  To add insult to injury, he goes to the Dallas Cowboys and wins three more rings.  The 49ers would “kiss and make up” with Haley, but it was toward the end of his career, and he was not the same player he once was.  How did they let this guy go in the first place?

Dwaine Board: In 1988, the 49ers tried to sneak Board through waivers, the New Orleans Saints pounced when they realized what the 49er were attempting, forcing Board to finish his playing career on a former division rival.

The Offensive Line

“Uh-huh, this town is full of money grabbers…”

Tackles: Kwame Harris and Jonas Jennings

A bit of a layup, I know, but how do you leave these two knot-heads off the team?

Harris, a No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft (26th overall) managed to stay with the team for five seasons.  But at what cost to the 49ers?

This guy’s false starts are responsible for countless touchdowns being called back.

The man is a hazard to any quarterback when he takes the field; Saran Wrap would offer more protection.

Harris signed a three-year, $16 million contract with the Oakland Raiders and was released after one year.

He remains a free agent…no surprise there.

Then there is the always injured Jonas Jennings.  This should be brief.

The “Glass Man” signed a six-year, $36 million contract in 2005, and was released in 2008 after appearing in just three games his first year, a whopping 13 games in 2006, five games in 2007, and a mere two games in 2008.

That averages to close to a million dollars per start if you factor in the guaranteed money and void the last two years of the contract.  Nice work if you can get it.

Can a man who stands 6’3″ and weighs 335 pounds really be considered fragile?

Apparently so.

Center: Terry Donahue

The 49ers would have been better off with Terry Donahue at center instead of general manager.

The 49ers would have been better off with Terry Donahue at center instead of general manager.

That isn’t a misprint.  The fact is the 49ers have had a pretty good run of centers since the Bill Walsh days.  Randy Cross and Fred Quillan both played a little center before Jessie Sapolu took over the duties for the next 13 years.  Oh, by the way, he is still one of the most underappreciated players of the “dynasty” years.

Then there was Jeremy Newberry, and now Eric Heitmann is manning the trenches.

So I ask you, as a 49er fan, wouldn’t you just love to see Donahue line up at center and get his ass canned?

Donahue was hired as the 49ers general manager in 2001.

Poor drafts, baffling contracts, and gutting the team to get under the salary cap added up to Donahue’s “getting his ass canned” by team owner John York in 2005.

Can you believe that this guy was the hand-picked successor to Bill Walsh?

Guards: Ron Stone and Anthony Clement

(Note: Had to move Clement to guard.)

This one is a bit of an enigma. In keeping with the Terry Donahue bashing, I just have to ask why you would sign an All-Pro guard off of the salary cap-strapped New York Giants to have him play for your team that has cap problems of its own?

Stone started out a bit slow with the team, but he really got it going and was becoming a force on the O-line.

After not agreeing to a pay cut, Stone was dumped after just two seasons in Donahue’s salary purge that included quarterback Jeff Garcia—need I say more?

Not to 49er fans.

Sometimes it is just better to let other people do your talking for you.

Head coach Mike Nolan on Anthony Clement: “Anthony needs to step up his game.”

A recap of the 2005 New York Giants game from “Clement was called for two holding penalties last week against the Giants, including a costly one that nullified a spectacular Brandon Lloyd catch that would have placed the ball at the 2-yard line.”

And from the fans:

“He (Kwame Harris) has slow feet, but not as slow as Clements.”—Junior

“The only reason I do not knock Kwame that much is because we had a complete bag on our team by the name of Anthony Clements.  I loathe and abhor Clements.  He is not even worthy of arena football. Clements, as I have said 100 times, is 10 pounds of ish in a five-pound bag. There will never be anyone worse in a 49ers uni than Anthony Clement.”—Kezar Niner

Can’t you just feel the love?

I will let you decide what “ish” is.

After his one season in San Francisco, Clement was “allowed” to sign with the New York Jets during the offseason.

Backups: Tyrone Hopson, Harry Boatswain, Bubba “I Ate Myself Out of a Job” Paris (1990 only), Tim Hanshaw, and Phil Ostrowski.

“What a mess, this town is in tatters, I’ve been shattered,
My brain’s been battered…”

Next up: The Secondary, Linebackers, and Not-So-Special Teams.

Blaine Spence is a regular contributor to Sports Then and Now.

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