Fred Dean was the final piece.
The final piece in establishing the foundation for a dynasty.
The 49ers were a wayward franchise just be ginning to see the light in 1981 behind an offensive genius and young quarterback both destined for greatness when Dean arrived in San Francisco via trade in early October and the 49ers preparing for a game that would change the course of the franchise.
Just like Dean changed the course of the franchise from the moment he stepped on the field in a San Francisco uniform, and continued to do so during his five glorious seasons with the team.
Dean, one of the greatest pass rushers in 49ers history and one of the colorful yet humble characters of San Francisco’s dynastic era, died Oct. 14 at age 68 in his home state of Louisiana due to complications from COVID19.
“While it cannot be said that Fred Dean’s greatness as an NFL player began when he came to the 49ers in 1981, I can say as the owner of the team that the greatness of the 49ers began with Fred Dean’s arrival in San Francisco,” former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo said when introducing Dean at his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
But Dean became a true Hall of Fame player during his time in San Francisco. And the 49ers never would be the same after Dean made the trip north from San Diego after Bill Walsh traded a second-round draft pick to the Chargers to acquire him.
The 49ers, who had gone a collective 10-38 over the previous three seasons while in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought, were 32 when defending NFC champion Dallas rolled into San Francisco for an early showdown that would tell plenty about whether or not the upstart Niners were indeed ready to play with the NFL’s big boys.
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