Four former / current 49ers were named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2010s that dropped on Monday. Frank Gore, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis and Richard Sherman all made the cut, but there were four other 49ers on the bubble who had a strong case for being included.
Juszczyk is the only of the four to publicly speak out about not being included so we’ll start with him. Juice is the most unique case considering the All-Decade Team didn’t even include a fullback position on it’s roster, but rather a “FLEX” that was filled by Darren Sproles.
As far as fullbacks are concerned, it’s hard to argue Juszczyk doesn’t have the strongest case. He’s made more Pro Bowls, four, than any other player at his position this decade. What’s more, all of those Pro Bowl appearances came in the final four years in the decade, a time that has seen a decline in relevance of the position to the point where the majority of teams don’t even have one on their roster.
Juszczyk is unique in his ability as a blocker, runner and receiver, and is truly skilled enough to play both running back and tight end full time. Just look at him in the open field:
Bowman is the most obvious snub in the sense that everyone who saw him play can attest that he was at least as good as his partner, Willis, during his prime. And what an incredible prime it was. From 2011-2015 (excluding 2014 which he missed with an ACL injury) Bowman made the All-Pro team every season and accumulated 443 tackles. The fewest he had in a season was 143, and he led the NFL in 154 in 2015, the year after returning from injury.
So who do you take off? Chandler Jones is probably the weakest of the LB selections, and made the team more for being consistently excellent, six seasons of 11 or more sacks, than how good he was at his peak. Bowman was arguably the best linebacker in football for a three year stretch, but also had his career cut short due to injuries before the age of 30.
Though he didn’t make the list, Bowman will be remembered forever for his late-game pick six in the final ever regular season game at Candlestick Park.
Perhaps the most legitimate snub of all the players listed, Lee played every season of the decade unlike selections Shane Lechler and Johnny Hekker. What’s more, he finished the decade with a higher yards-per-punt average (47.9) than both players, the highest season-average (50.9 in 2010) and two seasons that rank in the top 10 of all time.
It’s likely that Lee’s stats from before 2010 affect his inclusion, as both Lechler and Hekker are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the NFL’s all-time yards per punt leaders. Hekker also has been named a first-team All-Pro three times in the decade, more than any other punter.
A fan favorite from the Harbaugh years, The Cowboy epitomized the toughness of the 49ers championship caliber defenses of that era. Alongside Willis and Bowman, Smith was the 49ers most valuable player on the defensive side of the ball, making the Pro Bowl every year from 2010-2013. A true ironman, Smith missed just two games during his 49ers tenure from 2009-2014.
Ultimately Smith loses out because his career started too early, with his final season coming in 2014. Though he may have been one of the best defensive tackles to play in the decade, all the players on this list made more Pro Bowls than Smith from 2010-2019.