Ranking the 10 Most Important People in San Francisco 49ers' History
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The 49ers have a long and storied history in pro football, winning five Super Bowl titles. They have thrilled their fans with several Hall of Fame players.
In the 67-year history of the 49ers, the franchise has been graced by tremendous athletes and outstanding leaders. Let's take a look at the 10 most important people in 49ers' history.
All stats are courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.
No. 10: Steve Young
Steve Young led the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XXIX.
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Steve Young came to the 49ers in 1987 as a brash and undisciplined quarterback. In the early stages of his career, Young was known as a scrambling quarterback who looked to run before pass.
Prior to joining the 49ers, Young had played two seasons with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL. Young then played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1985 and 86 seasons.
As a 49er, Young spent the next four seasons behind Joe Montana. He learned the offensive system implemented by head coach Bill Walsh and waited patiently, honing his skills.
Young finally got his chance in 1991, when Montana was injured. In 1992, Young started all 16 games for the 49ers, as Montana was recovering from his injuries.
Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs prior to the 1993 season, which made Young the undisputed leader of the 49ers' offense.
Over his 13-year career with the 49ers, Young completed 2,400 passes in 3,648 attempts, good for a 65.8 percent rate. He threw for 29,907 yards and 221 touchdowns, with only 86 interceptions.
Young was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and received three First-Team All-Pro honors.
Young defined his career by leading the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XXIX, following the 1994 season. The 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 49-26, with Young throwing a record six touchdown passes. Young was named MVP of the game.
As a 49er, Young was a dual threat, rushing for 3,581 yards and 37 touchdowns in 608 carries.
Steve Young transformed himself from a wild, undisciplined quarterback, into a very accurate passer and focused leader. He learned how and when to utilize his athleticism, only running when prudent.
Young is currently doing television work and is a well-respected member of the media. He is extremely well-liked by 49er fans and has always carried himself with class and grace.
In 2005, Young was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No. 9: Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh is focused on restoring world championship glory to the 49ers.
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Prior to the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers toiled for eight seasons without making the playoffs. The team did not even have a winning season from 2003 to 2010.
The 49ers' record under Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary and one game with Jim Tomsula was a pathetic 46-82.
Harbaugh arrived with plenty of fanfare, having built the Stanford Cardinal into a national powerhouse. In 2011, Harbaugh's first season with the 49ers, he led the team to a record of 13-3.
The 49ers made it to the NFC Championship Game, where they were defeated in overtime by the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, 20-17. Two costly turnovers on punt returns by Kyle Williams turned the tables in favor of the Giants.
This past season, the 49ers finished the regular season with a record of 11-4-1. They advanced to the Super Bowl, where they came within five yards of scoring the potential winning touchdown. The Baltimore Ravens prevailed and came away with a 34-31 victory.
Harbaugh has turned this franchise around, and the only thing left for the 49ers to accomplish under his leadership is a Super Bowl victory. Expectations are soaring, and anything less than a Super Bowl win will be a disappointment.
Harbaugh has brought the 49ers to the pinnacle of the mountain. Now it''s his job to get them over that final hump.
No. 8: Dwight Clark
Joe Montana and Dwight Clark together once again.
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Dwight Clark had a fine career as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers. In his nine years with the 49ers, Clark caught 506 passes for 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns.
Clark was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a First-Team All-Pro in 1982.
However, the thing that made Clark such a hero was that he, along with Joe Montana, made perhaps the biggest play in 49ers history.
In the NFC title game, following the 1981 season, the 49ers were trailing the Dallas Cowboys with time running down.
Montana was flushed out of the pocket and as he ran towards the sideline, he threw it up, deep in the end zone. Clark made a miraculous catch and that play sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
The ball was virtually by Clark and he leaped up, snatching it out of the air with his fingertips. The ball was already past him, but somehow Clark made the grab.
Clark's great play, known in San Francisco as "The Catch," opened the door for the 49ers to get to and win the Super Bowl. Clark was a key member on two of the 49ers' five Super Bowl championships.
No. 7: Tony Morabito
The fan base, known as the "49er Faithful" cheer on their team.
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Tony Morabito was the San Francisco 49ers' founder and first primary owner. The 49ers were formed in 1946 and joined the All-America Football League.
Morabito headed the ownership group when the merger took place with the NFL. In 1949, the 49ers became members of the NFL.
Sadly, Morabito suffered a heart attack and died during one of the 49ers' games in 1957.
No. 6: Jed York
Jed York led the charge for the 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara.
Jed York is the son of 49er owners Denise DeBartolo York and John York. He is also the nephew of former owner Eddie DeBartolo. Jed now runs the 49ers and is their CEO. He shares the same love for the team that his uncle Eddie did when he owned the team.
At the age of 30, Jed is the youngest owner of an NFL franchise. Once ridiculed as being the son of two people who did not seek out the responsibility of owning the team, York has proven to be an astute businessman.
The younger York is now thought of as a man who has a passion for the 49ers and can get things done in the tough political climate in Northern California.
York has surrounded himself with good football men in Trent Baalke, the 49ers' GM; and Jim Harbaugh, the head coach. Unlike many owners, York has also allowed these men to make the football decisions for the 49ers without his meddling.
The crowning achievement in Jed's ownership to date is the 49ers' new stadium, which is being built in Santa Clara, about a 30- or 45-minute drive from old dilapidated Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
When it became apparent that the City officials in San Francisco could not get things done for the 49ers to build their stadium in the city, York looked elsewhere. He was able to partner with the city of Santa Clara, and the stadium is under construction.
The 49ers' new stadium will open in time for the 2014 season and will host the Super Bowl following the 2015 season, in January of 2016.
All of this was made possible with York's leadership and political savvy. He was the enthusiastic driving force who is making the 49ers' new stadium a reality.
No. 5: Ronnie Lott
Ronnie Lott was a 49er for 10 seasons.
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Ronnie Lott came to the 49ers in the 1981 NFL draft. He made his presence felt immediately, as he became a leader of the San Francisco defense that helped the 49ers win their first Super Bowl title, following that 1981 season.
Lott played both cornerback and safety for the 49ers during his 10-year stint in San Francisco, from 1981 to 1990. He helped lead the 49ers to four Super Bowl crowns.
Lott was a fierce hitter and played with ferocious intensity. He intimidated opposing offensive players with his bone-jarring hits.
Lott was also a very smart player. He studied opposing offenses and frequently knew what to expect before it ever happened. He was able to convey this knowledge to his teammates, making the 49ers defense even better.
In his 10 years with the 49ers, Lott had 51 interceptions and made the Pro Bowl nine times. He was also a First-Team All-Pro for the 49ers on five different occasions.
Lott was a tremendous leader and the heart and soul of the 49ers' defense.
In 2000, Lott was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No. 4: Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver in the history of the NFL.
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Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver of all time and one of the best football players ever to play the game.
Rice joined the 49ers as a first-round draft choice out of Mississippi Valley State in 1985. He played a total of 21 years in the NFL, 16 with the 49ers.
While in San Francisco, Rice caught 1,281 passes for 19,247 yards and 176 touchdowns. His total receptions, yards gained and touchdowns are all NFL records.
Rice was a tireless worker and a perfectionist at his craft. These traits enabled him to maximize his success on the football field.
As a 49er, Rice was selected to 12 Pro Bowls and received 10 First-Team All-Pro honors. He was a great talent made even better by his focus, dedication and work ethic.
Rice was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
No. 3: Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr. is honored by the fans of San Francisco.
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Eddie DeBartolo took ownership of the San Francisco 49ers in 1977. He held that position for 23 years until a legal scandal forced him to cede the team to his sister Denise and her husband John York.
DeBartolo owned the 49ers through their glory days, which included five Super Bowl titles.
DeBartolo was known for the luxurious manner in which he treated his players. As long as they won, they would be treated like kings. Players from around the league wanted to come to San Francisco because of the way DeBartolo took such good care of them and their families.
DeBartolo owned the 49ers for 23 years. He presided over five Super Bowl wins,
No. 2: Joe Montana
Joe Montana signals a 49ers' touchdown..
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Joe Montana was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 1979 NFL draft. He spent 13 seasons as the 49ers' quarterback and led the team to four Super Bowl victories.
Montana had an accurate arm, good mobility and outstanding leadership skills. Perhaps his greatest asset was his ability to remain calm and execute in pressure-packed situations.
As a 49er, Montana completed 2,929 of his 4,600 pass attempts, a 63.7 percent rate. He threw for 35,124 yards and 244 touchdowns.
Montana was known as "Joe Cool" for his ability to relax and come through under duress.
Montana was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and he received two First-Team All-Pro honors. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
No. 1: Bill Walsh
Bill Walsh is honored at Candlestick Park.
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The most important person in the illustrious history of the San Francisco 49ers is Bill Walsh.
He became head coach of the 49ers in 1979 and led the team for 10 years. During that period, Walsh won three Super Bowls and was given the moniker of "The Genius."
Many in the professional football world thought Walsh was too cerebral to be a successful head coach in the NFL. Although well qualified, it took Walsh until he was 48 years of age to get his first head coaching job at the pro level.
Walsh proved that taking a cerebral approach to the game could be successful. He instituted the vaunted West Coast offense, a precision passing game built around high-percentage passes and accuracy.
In addition to being an offensive genius, Walsh allowed his defensive coordinator George Seifert the ability to run the defense, while he focused on the offense. His ability to delegate these responsibilities was also a key factor in the 49ers' success.
Walsh took over a team that lacked talent to win, and the 49ers had a 2-14 record in his first season in 1979. The following year, the 49ers improved to 6-10.
Then, out of nowhere, the 49ers fashioned a record of 13-3 and went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals for their first Super Bowl title. Walsh would win again following the 1984 and 1988 seasons.
The one area that Walsh does not get enough credit for is that he was an excellent leader of men. He found a way to motivate and get the most out of his players.
Walsh finished his career with a record of 92-59-1. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.