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.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
It was a season to remember. It was a season to forget. Either way, you look at it, it was the strangest of seasons for San Francisco that you will ever see. Looking back at the year that was to illustrate that point, The Niner Report has assembled the best, worst and most unconventional of the 49ers’ 2020 season.
TO BE DETERMINED…
49ers enter offseason with options at QB
TOP 8 Worst encore seasons
There have been plenty of tough acts to follow in the history of the 49ers franchise with a team that has five Super Bowl championships, seven Super Bowl visits, 16 trips to the NFC Championship game, and 27 playoff appearances. That kind of success has seen the 49ers enter many seasons over the years looking to take the next step to greatness or simply maintain it. That makes them fall and crash even worse when San Francisco failed to achieve those goals coming off triumphant seasons. The 2020 49ers know all about it, which lands them a place on this list of the worst encore seasons in franchise history.
SEASON IN REVIEW
Did somebody say Super Bowl hangover?
After building the 49ers into NFC champions with young talent during their first three years together — when San Francisco had a total of 40 rookies see action from 2017-2019 — the team’s leadership tandem of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan found themselves with considerably less draft capital at their disposal in the fourth year of their partnership.
GOOD MOVE OR BAD MOVE?
Revisiting 49ers’ 2020 personnel decisions
STOCK UP STOCK DOWN
STOCK UP STOCK DOWN
SOLD ON SALEH
Highly regarded DC likely to leave San Francisco after season for higher position
SHOPPING FOR A NEW DC
With the imminent departure of Robert Saleh during the offseason to a head coaching position elsewhere in the NFL, the 49ers will find themselves searching for a new defensive coordinator for the first time since 2017. With the defensive talent the 49ers have on hand, and San Francisco possessing a playoff-ready roster and one of the NFL’s most respected coaching staffs, the position will be attractive to a wide variety of candidates, including several veteran coaches who have had previous success in the league. Here’s a look at some top candidates who could be in the running to become San Francisco’s new DC in 2021.
TOP 10 Team executives
Achieving the highest level of success at every stop of his football lifetime, John Lynch climbed the ladder from collegiate star to nine-time NFL ProBowler to respected television analyst before he joined the 49ers as a first-time general manager in 2017. Since then, he’s become one of the men most responsible for building the franchise back into a champion with his shrewd moves and organizational acumen. Named the NFL’s 2019 Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, Lynch has quickly earned his place on this list of the greatest team executives in 49ers history.
TORI SPELLS OUT FOR DEAN: NO BABY, NO ALLOWANCE!
Threatens to freeze his ‘pay’ if he doesn’t play by her rules
‘I've shown a glimpse of what I can do'
QUESTION SESSION WITH WR DENZEL MIMS
JC Deep Dive: Coaching candidates from college
On Nov. 27, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer caught the attention of Jets fans when he mentioned Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald as a possible candidate for Gang Green, if they make a coaching change.
Shoots from the hip
SEASON OF SAVINGS
If the Jets end up with the NFL’s worst record and land the first pick in the 2021 draft, there is a good chance they will select a quarterback.
The Jets had issues at cornerback this season, so it’s an area they could address with a few of their myriad 2021 draft picks.
Jones, Sanders, Baker's big play
Cornerback Byron Jones made quite an impact on the field in his first season with the Dolphins, but he also was recognized for his off-the-field work.
HOWARD'S FINEST HOUR
How and why the Dolphins cornerback ‘kept balling’ in 2020
Another major step forward
The 2020 season will end up being viewed as an undeniable success for the Dolphins, no matter the outcome of the final two games
THE SECOND CAREER OF MARTELLUS BENNETT
The former NFL tight end writes the kind of children’s books he would have loved as a kid.