Brent Jones won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. However, he does not bask in the glory of those championships, but relives the pain of those who got away.
As the 49ers prepare for Sunday’s colossal clash in Philadelphia between the NFC’s top two teams on championship weekend, Jones, buoyant and distraught, knows what’s coming.
“This is the hardest game,” he says. You are so close to savoring the sweetness of the Super Bowl. And if you lose, your entire season comes to an abrupt halt.
San Francisco 49ers legend Brent Jones speaks to DailyMail.com ahead of the NFC title game
Jones dives into the end zone during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in December 1996.
‘I played in seven NFC Championship games and lost four. And those are the four games I remember, all these years later, those are the most painful memories I have. You could have been there, you were inches away. You could have done this, you could have done that…
Don’t those three rings soften the blow, even a little?
‘Man, you know I think I should be five or six!’ he answers. I felt like we had the best team in many of those years! But unless it’s on the scoreboard, you can’t claim it.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1986, the tight end was released after one year but was picked up by San Francisco. After catching passes from Joe Montana and Steve Young, he ended his career in 1997 after 143 games and three championships.
Jones played in the only playoff meeting between the teams, a 14-0 wild card victory in 1996, and his love for the Niners is evident. He still refers to the team as “we” as he analyzes the game.
Jones talked about Brock Purdy and his incredible rise from last draftee to first-choice QB.
Jones won three Super Bowls with San Francisco, but also lost four NFC title games with the team.
‘Offensively we’re going to have to execute. We’re going to have to put more points on the scoreboard, more touchdowns, fewer field goals. I think the Eagles present a great challenge and therefore we are going to have to be prepared offensively,” he says.
‘Defensively they also present a different challenge. They have a great tight end, some great receivers and a great quarterback. Even if we cover all those guys in the passing game, it makes me nervous to have Jalen Hurts run the ball. I hope we have a great defensive package, that we can press and not let him loose with the ball in his hands.
The 49ers topped Seattle with a 41-23 victory on wild-card weekend and topped the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round in a 19-12 attrition win.
But while Dallas didn’t have a deep threat, the Eagles have AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, arguably the best receiving duo in the league. The couple is affecting Jones’ sleep.
“That’s what’s keeping me up at night right now,” he says. “I think defensively we are still the best team. I feel safe there. I think our offense has been on a remarkable run. Last week was the first time I felt like Dallas’ plan really put pressure on us and didn’t leave as many opportunities for big plays as we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Jones is confident that the current crop of 49ers can follow in his footsteps and go all the way.
“I think a big part of that was his pass rush and the Eagles can bring maybe an even higher degree of pass rush so we’ll have to be ready for that.” But I’m sure our offensive coaches have a few things lined up for the Eagles. I still believe this team has something special and we are one win away from where we want to be, so I feel good about the game.
‘I’m going to go the opposite way to last week’s defensive fight. I think there will be a lot more points scored this week for whatever reason, just my gut feeling. I feel like that’s going to be the case. Lots of great game guys. Great attention game. The winner goes to the Super Bowl, the loser goes home…’
Let’s not relive that again, but let’s talk about George Kittle and the offensive weapons of San Francisco.
‘I think George is as good a tight end as there is. I know Travis Kelce gets a lot of publicity and probably has a lot more opportunities. I think George, in terms of speed route running, and just overall ability on the blocking side of things is the best overall tight end in the league.
“He got banged up early in the season and got off to a bit of a slow start, but in the second half of the season he’s come in like a gang banger and really become one of the favorite targets.”
Jalen Hurts is a problem for the 49ers and Jones says the Eagles star has “give it up”
And then you look at all the other guys we have. Brandon Aiyuk runs the best routes of anyone on the team. He is accurate. He does so many great things.
‘Deebo is an explosive animal, coming out of the backfield and catching the ball so he can do almost anything.
“But the trajectory of this season changed when ownership made the trade for Christian McCaffrey, a great running back and a great athlete.
‘What really challenges defenses is their receiving skills. You can line him up in the slot, you can get him out of the backfield and he’s like a No. 1 wide receiver. And having that at running back creates so many matchup issues, because eventually he goes against the fourth or fifth best type of coverage and then he can really create trouble in high school.
“And his skills have allowed teams to focus so much on him that they focus less on Deebo, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
“It’s almost like you have to pick your poison because you try to stop one guy and someone else is going to hurt you.” Very much a mirror image of the Philadelphia Eagles offense.
The Brock Purdy story has captivated the sports world and Jones has been equally enamored with the 23-year-old quarterback, the 262nd overall pick in the 2022 draft.
Christian McCaffrey has been recovering from injury but says he will play in the big game on Sunday
‘Just a remarkable kid. They even challenge you to make the team when they pick you so late in the draft. But he did something that everyone talks about, but very few do. He knew the offense backwards and forwards. He was ready to play. He had the right demeanor, the right attitude, and he stepped in.
It has arrived and it has not only been a game manager. He has been aggressive. Kyle Shanahan calls the plays like he’s a 10-year vet. He is shooting the ball down the field. He’s rolling to the weak side of him. He is shooting the ball across the field. He has been very precise. He has been very thoughtful with the ball.
‘That is usually the biggest challenge with young players. They don’t realize the measurements in the NFL and how quick and fast guys can close gaps and intercept balls or get into their line of delivery. But he’s been able to account for that and he’s been so impressive that he’s led this team to a Super Bowl game.
“It’s been a remarkable change: I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
And finally, the 49ers have waited 27 years to claim their sixth Super Bowl. Could this be the year?
“Man, it feels like it’s straight out of a storybook,” says Jones, “I think it is, and man, what a great story this is going to be!”