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THE JJ STOKES BIOGRAPHY
J. J. Stokes Date of birth: October 6, 1972 (1972-10-06) (age 38)
Place of birth: San Diego, California
Position(s): Wide receiver
NFL Draft: 1995 / Round: 1 / Pick 10
2003 San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots
Playing stats at DatabaseFootball.com
Jeral Jamal Stokes (born October 6, 1972) is a former National Football League wide receiver. Stokes last played in the NFL in December 2003 for the New England Patriots.
1 High school
2 College career
3 NFL career
4 Outside the NFL
High schoolStokes began his football career at Point Loma High School in San Diego, CA, where he was part of a gifted team that included fellow wide-receiver Brett Callan, quarterback Dan White (later a UA star), and future-NFL lineman La’Roi Glover. The team was coached throughout Stokes’ four years by local legend Bennie Edens.
College careerWhile at UCLA, Stokes earned Pac-10 first-team honors as a sophomore. His breakout season came in his junior year when he was named the Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Stokes’ junior season was rewarded with a top ten finish in the balloting for that year’s Heisman Trophy, being the only junior recognized. Stokes’ junior season ended with first-team All-American recognition by The Sporting News, AP, UPI, and Kodak. Stokes’ senior year began as the nation’s leading Heisman contender but was quickly sidetracked by a severe upper thigh contusion suffered in the season’s first game. Stokes still holds UCLA school records for receiving touchdowns in a season (17 in 1993), receiving touchdowns in a career (28), receiving yards in a game (263 vs. USC in 1992) and receptions in a game (14 vs. Wisconsin, 1994 Rose Bowl), among others.
On October 9, 2009, Stokes was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.
NFL careerStokes was selected with the tenth overall pick of the 1995 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, who traded up to the No. 10 spot in the first round to select Stokes as the successor to the team’s Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice.
After a slow start to his rookie season, the former Bruin, ultimately netting 38 receptions for 517 yards and four touchdowns, the last of which was tossed by Rice. During the 1996 season, Stokes suffered a broken hand and missed most of the season, leading to the emergence of the 49ers’ third round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, wide receiver Terrell Owens. In 1997, with Rice sidelined with a torn ACL, Stokes and Owens formed a formidable tandem for quarterback Steve Young, with Stokes hauling in 58 passes for 733 yards and four touchdowns. Once Rice returned, Stokes’ production did not falter as he would achieve career highs in receptions (63), yards (770) and touchdowns (eight). Stokes was also the recipient of linebacker Bill Romanowski spitting in his face during a Monday Night Football game in December 1997. Along with the rest of the team, Stokes’ production dropped in 1999 as a result of Young’s retirement. The 49ers released him in 2003 and he was initially signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars before going to New England. Stokes was rarely used in the Patriots offense, only contributing 15 catches for 154 yards during the 2003 campaign. New England released him and activated fullback Larry Centers near the end of the season.
Outside the NFLHe currently works as a radio host for the ESPN radio affiliate based out of Modesto, California. Stokes nephew, Je’Ron Stokes, is currently a Wide-Receiver for the University of Michigan.
THE SAN FRANSISCO 49ers RUGBY CLUB HISTORIC COLLECTIONS
San Francisco 49ers
Play in Candlestick Park
San Francisco, California
Headquartered in the Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Center
Santa Clara, California
All-America Football Conference (1946–1949)
Western Division (1946–1949)
National Football League (1950–present)
National Conference (1950–1952)
Western Conference (1953–1969)
Coastal Division (1967–1969)
National Football Conference (1970–present)
NFC West (1970–present)
Team colors Primary:
49ers Gold (Metallic)
Mascot Sourdough Sam
Owner(s) Jed York
Chairman Denise DeBartolo York and John York
CEO Jed York
President Jed York
General manager Trent Baalke
Head coach Jim Harbaugh
San Francisco 49ers (1946–present)
Niners, The Red And Gold, Bay Bombers, and The Team of the Eighties, The 49er Empire
League championships (5)
Super Bowl Championships (5)
1981 (XVI), 1984 (XIX), 1988 (XXIII), 1989 (XXIV), 1994 (XXIX)
Conference championships (5)
NFC: 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1994
Division championships (17)
NFC West: 1970, 1971, 1972, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2002
Playoff appearances (23)
NFL: 1957, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002
Kezar Stadium (1946–1970)
Candlestick Park (1971–present)
a.k.a. 3Com Park at Candlestick Point (1995–2002)
a.k.a. San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Point (2002–2004)
a.k.a. Monster Park (2004–2008)
The San Francisco 49ers (often referred to as the Niners) are a professional American football team based in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are currently members of the Western Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The team plays its home games in San Francisco, California, while the club’s headquarters and practice facility are located in nearby Santa Clara. The 49ers began play in 1946 as a charter member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and joined the NFL in 1950 after the AAFC merged into the older league. The team was the first NFL franchise to win five Super Bowls. San Francisco is second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl wins (6) and tied with the Dallas Cowboys with 5 each. Their five league titles (which include the pre-NFL and pre-Super Bowl periods) place them in a four-way tie for fifth behind the Green Bay Packers (13), the Chicago Bears (9), the New York Giants (7), and the Steelers (6). The 49ers are also the only team to win more than one Super Bowl without losing any.
The 49ers teams of the 1980s and early 1990s were a great dynasty given their five Super Bowl triumphs in that span, including four in the 1980s. The Niners won 10 or more games for 16 straight seasons. Particularly notable seasons are the 1984 and 1989 teams. Three-time Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana, perennial Pro Bowler Ronnie Lott, all-time highest career quarterback rating holder Steve Young, and career touchdown leader Jerry Rice played for the 49ers during this period. Additionally, some of the most memorable plays (including “The Catch”) and games (such as Super Bowl XXIII) were played by this team.
The name “49ers” comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush.
The team is the oldest major professional sports team in California, as well as the first. Major League Baseball would not come for a few more years when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants would move to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. The Philadelphia Warriors and Minneapolis Lakers would move to California in the sixties, and the Oakland Seals and Los Angeles Kings would become the first NHL teams in the state in 1967.
1 Franchise history
1.6 1981: ‘The Catch’ and first Super Bowl championship
1.9 1988–89: Back-to-back Super Bowls
1.11 1994: The fifth Super Bowl victory
1.19 Move to Santa Clara
2 Logo and uniforms
3.1 L. A. / St. Louis Rams
3.2 Oakland Raiders
3.3 Dallas Cowboys
3.4 New York Giants
3.5 Green Bay Packers
3.6 Arizona Cardinals
3.7 Seattle Seahawks
4 New stadium
5 Season-by-season records
6 Record vs. opponents
7.1 Current roster
7.2 Pro Football Hall of Famers
7.3 Retired numbers
7.4 49ers in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame
7.5 49ers Hall of Fame
7.6 Forty-Niner Ten Year Club
Main article: History of the San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers were the first major league professional sports franchise based in San Francisco, and one of the first professional sports teams based on the West Coast of the United States.The Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles the same year, 1946. The franchise’s first touchdown was scored by Len Eshmont. The 49ers have won five NFL championships – all Super Bowls. They were the first team to win five Super Bowls (Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, and XXIX) and are the only team among those who have played multiple Super Bowls to never have lost one. They are considered “The Team of the Eighties”, winning four Super Bowls in the decade. Prior to the ’80s, the 49ers had never won an NFL championship. They did not win a division title until 1970. During the 1980s, they failed to make the playoffs only twice — in 1980, and again in the strike-shortened 1982 season.
Main article: 1957 San Francisco 49ers season
In 1957, the 49ers would enjoy their first sustained success as members of the NFL. After losing the opening game of the season, the 49ers won their next three against the Rams, Bears, and Packers before returning home to Kezar Stadium for a game against the Chicago Bears on October 27, 1957. The 49ers fell behind the Bears 17–7. Tragically, 49ers owner Tony Morabito (1910–1957) collapsed of a heart attack and died during the game. The 49ers players learned of his death at halftime when coach Frankie Albert was handed a note with two words: “Tony’s gone.” With tears running down their faces, and motivated to win for their departed owner, the 49ers scored 14 unanswered points to win the game, 21–17. Dicky Moegle’s late-game interception in the endzone sealed the victory. Victor Morabito (1919–1964) and Tony’s widow, Josephine V. Morabito (1910–1995) hired Louis G. Spadia as general manager.
On Nov. 3, 1957, the 49ers hosted the Detroit Lions, a game which has gone down in local lore as featuring arguably the greatest pass play (along with Dwight Clark’s “The Catch” in 1981). With 10 seconds remaining, 49ers ball on the Lions 41, Detroit leading 31–28, Y. A. Tittle threw a desperation pass into the end zone, right into the arms of high-leaping R. C. Owens. The play became famously known as the “Alley Oop”. Ironically, the two men covering Owens would later become 49ers coaches: Jack Christiansen (Head Coach), and Jim David.
The 49ers would end that season with three straight victories and an 8–4 record, tying the Detroit Lions for the NFL Western Division title, and setting up a one-game divisional playoff in San Francisco. The 49ers got off to a fast start, and in the third quarter led 27–7. The Lions, led by quarterback Tobin Rote, who earlier in the season had replaced an injured Bobby Layne, would mount one of the biggest comebacks in NFL history and defeat the 49ers, 31—27. Had they won the game, the 49ers would have hosted the NFL Championship game the following weekend against the Cleveland Browns. As it happened, the Lions wound up beating the Browns 59–14.
 1958–1969Also in the 1950s the 49ers famous “Million Dollar Backfield” was formed. The team’s backfield consisted of four future Hall of Fame members—quarterback Y. A. Tittle and running backs John Henry Johnson, Hugh McElhenny, and Joe Perry.
For most of the next thirteen years the 49ers would hover around .500, except for 1963 and 1964 when they went 2–12 and 4–10 respectively. Key players for these 49ers included running back Ken Willard, quarterback John Brodie, and offensive lineman Bruce Bosley.
During this time the 49ers became the first NFL team to use the shotgun formation. It was named by the man who actually devised the formation, San Francisco 49ers’ coach Red Hickey, in 1960. The formation, where the quarterback lines up seven yards behind the center, was designed to allow the quarterback extra time to throw. The formation was used for the first time in 1960 and enabled the 49ers to beat the Baltimore Colts, who were not familiar with the formation.
In 1961, primarily using the shotgun the 49ers got off to a fast 4–1 start, including two shutouts in back-to-back weeks. In their sixth game they faced the Chicago Bears, who, by moving players closer to the line of scrimmage and rushing the quarterback were able to defeat the shotgun and in fact shut out the 49ers, 31–0. Though the 49ers would go only 3—5—1 the rest of the way, the shotgun would eventually become a component of most team’s offenses and is a formation used by football teams at all levels.
In 1962 the 49ers had a frustrating season as they won only 6 games that year. They won only 1 game at Kezar Stadium while on the road they won 5 of 7 games.
After posting a losing record in 1963. Victor Morabito died May 10, 1964, at age 45. The 1964 season was another lost campaign.
According to the 1965 49er Year Book the co-owners of the team were: Mrs. Josephine V. Morabito Fox, Mrs. Jane Morabito, Mrs. O.H. Heintzelman, Lawrence J. Purcell, Mrs. William O’Grady, Albert J. Ruffo, Franklin Mieuli, Frankie Albert, Louis G. Spadia and James Ginella.
The 1965 49ers rebounded nicely to finish with a 7–6–1 record. They were led that year by John Brodie, who after being plagued by injuries came back to become one of the NFL’s best passers by throwing for 3,112 yards and 30 touchdowns.
In 1966, the Morabito widows named Lou Spadia, team president.
For the 1968 season the 49ers hired Dick Nolan as their head coach, who had been Tom Landry’s defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys. Nolan’s first two seasons with the 49ers had gone much the same as the previous decade, with the 49ers going 7–6–1 and 4–8–2.
Former 49ers’ quarterback George Mira (1964-1968)The 49ers started out the 1970 season 7–1–1, their only loss a one-point defeat to Atlanta. After losses to Detroit and Los Angeles, the 49ers won their next two games before the season finale against the Oakland Raiders. Going into the game the 49ers had a half-game lead on the Los Angeles Rams and needed either a win or the Giants to defeat the Rams in their finale to give the 49ers their first ever divisional title.
In the early game the Giants were crushed by the Rams 30–3, thus forcing the 49ers to win their game to clinch the division. In wet, rainy conditions in Oakland, the 49ers dominated the Raiders, 38–7, giving the 49ers their first divisional championship, becoming champions of the NFC West.
The 49ers won their divisional playoff game 17–14 against the defending conference champion Minnesota Vikings, thus setting up a matchup against the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC Championship. In what would be the final home game for the 49ers at Kezar Stadium the 49ers kept up with the Cowboys before losing, 17–10, thus giving the Cowboys their first conference championship.
The 49ers sent five players to the Pro Bowl that season, including MVP veteran quarterback John Brodie, wide receiver Gene Washington, and linebacker Dave Wilcox. Nolan was also named NFL Coach of the Year for 1970.
Following the 1970 season the 49ers moved from Kezar Stadium to Candlestick Park. Despite being located on the outskirts of the city, Candlestick Park gave the 49ers a much more modern facility with more amenities that was easier for fans to access by highway.
The 49ers won their second straight divisional title in 1971 with a 9-5 record. The 49ers again won their divisional playoff game against the Washington Redskins by a 24-20 final score. This set up a rematch against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, this time to be played in Dallas. Though the defense again held the Cowboys in check, the 49ers offense was ineffective and the eventual Super Bowl champion Cowboys beat the 49ers again, 14-3.
In 1971, eight 49ers made the Pro Bowl, including defensive back Jimmy Johnson and Gene Washington, both for the second year in a row, as well as defensive end Cedric Hardman, running back Vic Washington, and offensive lineman Forest Blue..
The 49ers won their third consecutive NFC West championship in 1972 with five wins in their last six games, making them the only franchise to win their first three divisional titles after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Their opponents in the divisional playoffs would once again be the Dallas Cowboys, making it the third consecutive year the teams faced each other in the playoffs.
Vic Washington took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score, and the 49ers took a 21-6 lead in the second quarter. After the 49ers took a 28-13 lead in the 4th quarter, Tom Landry sent quarterback Roger Staubach, who was backing up Craig Morton, into the game. Staubach quickly led the Cowboys on a drive to a field goal, bringing the score to within 28-16, and as the game wound down it appeared that that would be all the Cowboys would get. However, the Cowboys would complete the comeback all in the last two minutes. Just after the two minute warning Staubach found Billy Parks for a touchdown to bring the score to 28-23. Needing an onside kick to have a realistic chance at a game-winning touchdown, Cowboys kicker Toni Fritsch executed a successful onside kick, with the ball going back to the Cowboys. With the 49ers on the ropes, Staubach completed the comeback with a touchdown pass to Ron Sellers giving the Cowboys a dramatic 30-28 victory and sending the 49ers to yet another crushing playoff defeat.
The 49ers run at the top of the NFC West ended in 1973 with the 49ers falling to a 5-9 record, their worst since 1969. The team lost six of its last eight games, including games to the also-ran New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions. In the final season of his career, longtime 49ers quarterback John Brodie split playing time with two other quarterbacks, most notably longtime backup Steve Spurrier. The team also suffered from not having a dominant running back, with Vic Washington leading the team with only 534 yards rushing.
In 1974 the 49ers drafted Wilbur Jackson from the University of Alabama to be the team’s primary back. Jackson enjoyed a fine rookie year, leading the 49ers with 705 yards rushing. He and fellow running back Larry Schreiber combined for over 1300 yards rushing. With Steve Spurrier injured and missing nearly the entire year, the 49ers did not have a regular quarterback but did put together a respectable 6-8 record. Following the season, longtime tight end Ted Kwalick left the 49ers to join the World Football League (he would join the Oakland Raiders upon the WFL’s dissolution.)
The 49ers dropped back down to 5-9 in what would be Dick Nolan’s final season as coach in 1975, the 49ers losing their final four games of the season. Wilbur Jackson was hurt much of the year and Delvin Williams led the 49ers in rushing with 631 yards rushing.
Following the 1975 season the 49ers traded for New England Patriots quarterback Jim Plunkett, former Heisman Trophy winner from nearby Stanford University (which was also the alma mater of John Brodie). Though Plunkett had shown promise with the Patriots, he had not won there and it was thought that he needed a change of scenery. Monte Clark was also brought on as 49ers head coach.
The 49ers were led by one of the best running games in the NFL in 1976. Delvin Williams emerged as an elite back, gaining over 1200 yards rushing and would make the Pro Bowl. Wilbur Jackson also enjoyed a resurgence, rushing for 792 yards. Once again Gene Washington was the teams leading receiver with 457 yards receiving and six scores.
The 49ers started the season 6-1 for their best start since 1970. Most of the wins were against second-tier teams, although the 49ers did shut out the Rams 16-0, in Los Angeles on Monday Night Football. In that game the 49ers recorded 10 sacks, including 6 by Tommy Hart. However, the 49ers lost four games in a row, including two against divisional rivals Los Angeles and Atlanta that proved fatal to their playoff hopes. Despite finishing the season with a winning record of 8-6, Clark was fired after just one season by general manager Joe Thomas, who would oversee the worst stretch of football in the team’s history.
Under coach Ken Meyer the 49ers would lose their first five games of the 1977 season, including being shut out twice. Though they would win five of their next six they would lose their last three games to finish the season 5-9. Playing in San Francisco proved not to revive Plunkett’s career as he had another disappointing season, throwing only 9 touchdown passes. Bright spots for the 49ers included defensive linemen Tommy Hart and Cleveland Elam, who made the Pro Bowl, and running backs Wilbur Jackson and Delvin Williams, who combined for over 1600 yards rushing. Gene Washington again led the team in receiving in 1977, which would be his final year with the 49ers.
The 1977 offseason was marked by a number of questionable moves by Joe Thomas that backfired badly. Thomas’s big offseason acquisition was running back O. J. Simpson from the Buffalo Bills. As with Plunkett two years previously, it was thought that rescuing Simpson from a bad situation and bringing him to the area of the country he had been raised would rejuvenate his career. To create playing time for Simpson, Thomas traded Delvin Williams to the Miami Dolphins for wide receiver Freddie Solomon. Thomas also released Jim Plunkett, giving up on him after two seasons. Finally, Thomas fired Meyer after only one season, and replaced him with Pete McCulley, his third coach in three seasons.
The 1978 season was a disaster for the 49ers, as they finished 2–14, their only wins coming against the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Simpson indeed led the team in rushing, but with less than 600 yards. It had become apparent that Simpson’s knees and body were shot, and he was clearly near the end of his career. Wilbur Jackson also missed the entire season due to injury. Even worse for the franchise was that the first pick of the 1979 draft that they would have had was traded to the Bills as part of the O. J. Simpson deal. Thomas was fired following the season.
However some of the key players that would be part of the 49ers stunning rise to emergence would begin their 49ers career in 1978. Rookie quarterback Steve DeBerg, who would be Joe Montana’s first mentor, was the 49ers starting quarterback. Running back Paul Hofer and center/guard Randy Cross also started with the 49ers in 1978.
The team was led in its turnaround from late 1970s doormat by new owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. and head coach Bill Walsh. The former head coach of Stanford University was known for stockpiling draft picks, making excellent draft selections, and patching roster holes by acquiring key free agents.
Bill Walsh was hired to be the 49ers head coach in the 1978 off-season. Walsh was a disciple of Paul Brown, and served as Brown’s offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1968 to 1975. However, Brown did not appoint him as his successor upon his retirement, ironically choosing another assistant, former 49ers center Bill “Tiger” Johnson. Desiring head coach experience, Walsh looked to Stanford University in 1977. He had had some success there before the 49ers tapped him to be their replacement.
Walsh is given credit for popularizing the ‘West Coast offense’, which is not entirely true. The Bill Walsh offense was actually created and refined while he was an assistant coach with Bengals. The offense utilizes a short, precise, timed passing game as a replacement/augmentation of the running game. The offense is extremely difficult to defend against as it is content to consistently make 6-8 yard gains all the way down the field. (The true West Coast offense—more focused on the vertical, or downfield, passing game—was actually created by 1960s L.A. / San Diego coach Sid Gillman, and San Diego State coach Don Coryell, who also employed a version of it as head coach of the San Diego Chargers during a period where it garnered the nickname “Air Coryell”.)
In Walsh’s first draft, the 49ers had targeted Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana as an early round pick. Montana had enjoyed a storied college career, leading the Fighting Irish to the 1977 national title and a number of dramatic comeback victories, the most stunning of all being his final game, at the 1979 Cotton Bowl Classic. Playing the University of Houston in an ice storm, and with Montana suffering from a bad flu, Notre Dame was down 34–13 in the third quarter. However, Montana led a magnificent rally that culminated with him throwing a touchdown pass on the game’s final play to give Notre Dame the 35-34 win.
Despite this, most scouts did not peg Montana as a top prospect. In addition to being relatively small for a quarterback (just over six feet) and slow, Montana’s arm strength was considered suspect. Though he did get credit for his moxie and intangibles, most thought of him as a system player surrounded by a great team.
In the 1979 draft, the Dallas Cowboys were placed just ahead of the 49ers. The Cowboys’ draft strategy through that time was to take the highest-ranked player on their draft board at the time of their selection, regardless of position. When the Cowboys’ turn came up in the third round, the highest rated player on their board was Montana. However, feeling that the quarterback position was in excellent long-term shape with Roger Staubach and Danny White, and desperately needing a tight end, the Cowboys went off their strategy and drafted Doug Cosbie. The 49ers took Montana. The 49ers other notable draft choice of the 1979 draft was wide receiver Dwight Clark in the 10th round. Walsh discovered the unheralded Clark while scouting quarterback Steve Fuller of Clemson University as Clark ran routes for Fuller during Walsh’s evaluation of the quarterback. Walsh’s serendipitous discovery of Clark would prove to be an early glimpse into the coach’s keen eye for talent.
As Walsh implemented his strategies and game plan, the 49ers had another year of losing, going 2-14. There were, however, a number of bright spots. Despite throwing more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (17), Steve DeBerg blossomed under Walsh, throwing for over 3600 yards and completing 60% of his passes. Freddie Solomon also had a good year, with over 800 yards receiving. The running game was patchwork, with Paul Hofer leading the team with 615 yards and O.J. Simpson, in what would be his final season, rushing for only 460 yards and being sidelined with injuries.
The 49ers got off to a strong start in 1980, winning their first three games of the season. However, the team, still not quite ready for the big time, would lose their next eight games in a row, although many of those games were close, and the 49ers acquitted themselves well. During the season Walsh alternated DeBerg and Montana at quarterback. Though DeBerg had played well for the 49ers, Walsh felt the team’s best chance to win in the long run was with Montana. He alternated the two QBs, giving Montana some experience while keeping opponents off guard. This strategy of alternating quarterbacks from game to game and during games is rare in football, although it had been employed by other successful teams in the past, specifically the Dallas Cowboys of the early 1970s who alternated Roger Staubach and Craig Morton, and the Los Angeles Rams of the early 1950s alternating Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield.
In all DeBerg started nine games, going 4-5 with 1,998 yards, 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Montana started seven games, going 2-5 with 1,795 yards, 15 touchdowns, and nine picks; Montana also had a better completion percentage at 64.6 to DeBerg’s 57.9.
The highlight of the 1980 season, and a sign of good things to come, came in Week 14. The 49ers trailed the New Orleans Saints, who at the time were winless at 0-13, 35-7 at halftime. However, led by Joe Montana, the 49ers made (what was then) the greatest comeback in NFL history, coming back to tie the score in regulation and winning the game in overtime with a field goal by Ray Wersching to give the 49ers an incredible 38-35 victory. It was this game, which marked Montana’s first big NFL comeback win, that won Montana the quarterback job full time.
A number of key players emerged for the 49ers in 1980. Among them were Dwight Clark, who led the 49ers with 82 receptions and just under 1000 yards receiving, and running back Earl Cooper, who ran for over 700 yards.
‘The Catch’ and first Super Bowl championshipSee also: 1981 San Francisco 49ers season and The Catch (American football)
With the offense playing well consistently, Walsh and the 49ers focused on overhauling the defense in 1981. Walsh took the highly unusual step of overhauling his entire secondary with rookies and untested players, bringing on board Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright and Carlton Williamson and giving Dwight Hicks a prominent role. He also acquired veteran linebacker Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds and veteran defensive lineman and sack specialist Fred Dean.
These new additions, when added to existing defensive mainstays like Keena Turner, turned the 49ers into a offensively and defensively balanced, dominant team. After a 1-2 start, the 49ers won all but one of their remaining games to finish with a 13-3 record, up to this point in time it was the team’s best regular season win-loss record in its history. Dean made the Pro Bowl, as did Lott (in his rookie season), and Hicks.
Led by Montana, the unusual offense was centered around the short passing game, which Walsh used as ball control. Both Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon had excellent years receiving; Clark as the possession receiver, and Solomon as more of a deep threat. The 49ers running game, however, was among the weakest for any champion in NFL history. Ricky Patton led the 49ers with only 543 yards rushing. The 49ers’ most valuable running back, however, might have been Earl Cooper, whose strength was as a pass-catching back (he had 51 catches during the season).
The 49ers faced the New York Giants in the divisional playoffs and won, 38-24. This set up an NFC Championship Game match-up with the Dallas Cowboys, whom the 49ers historically could not beat during their earlier success and playoff run in the early 1970s.
As they had earlier in the season (beating the Cowboys 45-14), the 49ers played the Cowboys tough, but the Cowboys forced six turnovers and held the lead late. Unlike the playoff games of the ’70s, this would end differently. In a scenario not unlike the 1972 divisional playoff, the 49ers were down 27-21 and on their own 11 yard line with 4:54 remaining. As Montana had done for Notre Dame and the 49ers so many times before, he led the 49ers on a sustained drive to the Cowboys’ 6-yard line. On a 3rd-and-3 play, with his primary receiver covered, Montana rolled right and threw the ball off balance to Dwight Clark in the end zone, who leaped up and caught the ball to tie the game at 27, with the extra point giving the 49ers the lead. Other contributors on the final 89-yard drive included Solomon, Lenvil Elliott (RB), Earl Cooper (FB), Mike Wilson (WR), Charle Young (TE), Dan Audick (LT), John Ayers (LG), Fred Quillan (C), Randy Cross (RG), and Keith Fahnhorst (RT).
“The Catch”, as the play has since been named by sportscasters, reminded older 49er fans of the “Alley-oop” passes that Y.A. Tittle threw to lanky receiver R.C. Owens back in the 1950s. A picture of Clark’s leap in the air taken by Walter Iooss, Jr. appeared on the cover of that week’s Sports Illustrated and was also featured in an Autumn 2005 commercial for Gatorade.
Despite this, the Cowboys had one last chance to win. And indeed, on the first play of the next possession, Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson caught a pass from Danny White and got to midfield before he was pulled down by the jersey at the 49ers 44 yard line by Cornerback Eric Wright. Had Pearson not have been jersey-tackled, there was a good chance he would have scored a touchdown, as there were no 49ers downfield. On the next play, White was sacked by Lawrence Pillers and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Jim Stuckey, giving the 49ers the win and a trip to their first ever Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals, who were also in their first Super Bowl.
The 49ers would take a 20-0 halftime lead and hold on to win Super Bowl XVI 26-21 behind kicker Ray Wersching’s four field goals and a key defensive stand. Throughout the ’81 season, the defense had been a significant reason for the team’s success, despite residing in the shadow of the then-innovative offense. Montana won MVP honors mostly on the strength of leading the 49ers on a 92 yard, 12 play drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Earl Cooper. Thus did the 49ers complete one of the most dramatic and complete turnarounds in NFL history, going from back-to-back 2-14 seasons to a Super Bowl championship in just two years.
Montana’s success in the playoffs, and his success in leading the 49ers on big comebacks, made him one of the biggest stars in the NFL, and arguably the best quarterback ever to play the game. Not only was he the face of the 49ers, but his easygoing and modest manner enabled his celebrity to transcend football. Additionally, it caused other teams to consider players who, although not physically gifted, nonetheless had certain intangibles and tendencies that made them great players who could come up big in the toughest of situations.
During their first Super Bowl run, the team was known for its short-range passing game and the play-making ability of quarterback Joe Montana. Later, they became proficient in all aspects of the game, featuring a dominant defense (always in the offense’s shadow) and a fast-scoring passing attack (with wide-receivers Jerry Rice and John Taylor).
The 1982 season was a bad one for the 49ers, as they lost all five games at Candlestick Park en route to a 3–6 record in a strike-shortened season. This would be the 49ers last losing season for the next 17 years. Joe Montana was the one highlight, passing for 2,613 yards in just nine games, highlighted by five straight games in which he broke the 300-yard barrier.
In 1983, the 49ers won their final three games of the season, finishing with a 10-6 record and winning their 2nd NFC Western Divisional Title in three years. Leading the rebound was Joe Montana with another stellar season, passing for 3,910 yards and connecting on 26 touchdowns. In the NFC Divisional Playoffs, they hosted the Detroit Lions. The 49ers jumped out in front early and led 17-9 entering the 4th quarter, but the Lions roared back, scoring two touchdowns to take a 23—17 lead. However, Montana would lead a comeback, hitting wide receiver Freddie Solomon on a game-winning 14-yard touchdown pass with 2:00 left on the clock to put the 49ers ahead 24—23. The game ended when a potential game-winning FG attempt by Lions kicker Eddie Murray missed. The next week, the 49ers came back from a 21—0 deficit against the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship Game to tie the game, only to lose, after a questionable pass interference call, 24—21 on a Mark Moseley field goal that sent the Redskins to Super Bowl XVIII.
In 1984, the 49ers had one of the greatest seasons in team history by finishing the regular season 15-1-0, setting the record for most regular season wins that was later equaled by the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, and the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers, and finally broken by the 2007 New England Patriots (with 16 regular season victories). Their 18 wins overall is also still a record, tied by the 1985 Bears and the 2007 New England Patriots. The 49ers’ only defeat in the 1984 season was a 20-17 loss to the Steelers; a late field goal attempt in that game by San Francisco kicker Ray Wersching went off the uprights and was no good. In the playoffs, they beat the New York Giants 21-10, shut out the Chicago Bears 23–0 in the NFC Championship, and in Super Bowl XIX the 49ers shut down a record-setting year by NFL MVP Dan Marino (and his speedy receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Duper), beating the Miami Dolphins 38-16. Their entire defensive backfield (Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Dwight Hicks, and Carlton Williamson) was elected to the Pro Bowl—an NFL first.
During the 1984 season, fourteen 49ers players came together to record a 45 pop single entitled “We’re the 49ers.” The song, released as a 45 rpm single on Megatone Records, was produced and co-written by Narada Michael Walden. It mixed elements of R&B, funk, and pop. Prominent 49ers who provided vocals include Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and Ronnie Lott (Joe Montana is noticeably absent, although he would join Lott, Clark and Riki Ellison to provide background vocals for the San Francisco band Huey Lewis and the News on two tracks from their 1986 album Fore!). While achieving some local airplay in San Francisco on radio stations like KMEL, it did not catch on nationally the way the Bears’ Super Bowl Shuffle would a year later.
In the 1985 season, Roger Craig became the first NFL player to gain 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. The 49ers were not as dominant as in 1984, however, and they settled for a 10-6 record, a wild card berth and a quick elimination from the playoffs when the New York Giants beat them 17-3. In addition, 1985 marked the appearance of newly acquired rookie Jerry Rice who would continue with the 49ers throughout the 1990s.
When the 1986 season began, the 49ers were off and running with a 31–7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on opening day. But the win was costly; Joe Montana injured his back and was out for two months. Jeff Kemp became the starting quarterback, and the 49ers went 4–3–1 in September and October. Upon Montana’s return, the 49ers caught fire, winning 6 of the last 8 games, including a 24–14 win over the Los Angeles Rams, to clinch the NFC West title. However, the New York Giants defeated them again in the playoffs, 49–3. Montana was injured in the first half by a hit from the Giants’ Jim Burt.
During the strike-shortened 1987 season, the 49ers led the league with a 13–2 record but fell in their first playoff game to the Minnesota Vikings, 36–24—the third year in a row they lost in the first round. The loss to the Vikings was a stunning upset considering the 49ers that year were ranked #1 on both offense and defense, making them the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. Note that 1987 marked the first of six seasons when the 49ers had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks on the roster: from 1987 through 1992, Montana’s backup (and frequent replacement) was Steve Young.
Back-to-back Super BowlsIn 1988, the 49ers at first struggled. At one point, they were 6–5 and in danger of missing the playoffs but rose to defeat the Washington Redskins on a Monday night game, eventually finishing the season at 10-6. They gained a measure of revenge by thrashing the Minnesota Vikings 34–9 in the first round. The 49ers then traveled to Chicago’s Soldier Field, where the chill factor at game time was 26 degrees below zero. The Las Vegas line at game time was “pick”, but it was the Bears famed 46 defense who got methodically picked apart by Joe Montana and Jerry Rice as the 49ers dominated the Chicago Bears 28-3 in the NFC Championship game.
The win over the Bears gave the 49ers their third trip to the Super Bowl: Super Bowl XXIII, located in Miami. Despite numerous trips deep into Cincinnati territory by the 49ers, the game was tied 3–3 at halftime. A late Cincinnati field goal put the Bengals ahead 16-13 with just over three minutes left on the clock. Following the kickoff, and a holding penalty, the 49ers took over on their 8 yard line with 3:08 left on the clock. Joe Montana began the final drive by stepping into the huddle and remarking to his teammates, during a television timeout, “hey, isn’t that John Candy,” as he pointed to the stands on the other side of the field. Harris Barton (offensive guard) was asked by Joe Montana and said if he wanted to go meet him. His calm demeanor reassured the 49ers, and he then engineered what some consider the greatest drive in Super Bowl history, as he drove the team 92 yards for the winning touchdown on a pass to John Taylor with only 34 seconds left. Final score: 20–16 49ers.
The following year, coach Bill Walsh retired, and his defensive coordinator and handpicked successor, George Seifert, took over head coaching duties. The 49ers then steamrolled through the league to finish 14–2 and gain homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Their two losses were by a combined 5 points. In the first round, they crushed the Vikings, 41—13. In the NFC Championship game, they blew out the Los Angeles Rams 30-3 before crushing the Denver Broncos 55–10 in Super Bowl XXIV – setting a record for points scored and widest margin of victory in a Super Bowl. Montana himself set many Super Bowl records (some since tied or surpassed) en route to his third Super Bowl MVP. In winning the Super Bowl, the 49ers became the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls under different head coaches. This 1989 championship squad is often regarded as one of the most dominant teams ever, winning all three playoff games by a combined 100 points.
49ers wall of trophies at the Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Center.In 1990, the 49ers won their first ten games, and they eventually finished 14-2. They ripped through the season, and the coveted third consecutive Super Bowl victory seemed within reach. In the playoffs, the 49ers dispatched the Washington Redskins 28–10, setting up a conference championship game with the New York Giants. Despite not scoring a touchdown in the game, the Giants took advantage of a fourth-quarter injury to Montana and converted a faked punt attempt to thwart the 49ers attempt at a “three-peat.” The Giants kicked a last-second field goal after recovering a Roger Craig fumble in the final minutes of the game, winning 15-13 and going on to win Super Bowl XXV.
During their quest for a “three-peat” between 1988 and 1990, the 49ers set a league record with 18 consecutive road victories.
Joe Montana missed almost all of the following two seasons with a recurring elbow injury. Following the 1990 season, the 49ers left team stalwarts Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott unprotected and let them go to the Los Angeles Raiders via Plan B free agency.
In 1991, Steve Young injured the thumb on his throwing hand and later was sidelined with an injured knee. After 10 games, the 49ers had a record of 4-6. Backup quarterback Steve Bono helped the team win five of its next six games with Young sidelined. In the final game of the season, Monday Night versus the NFC’s no. 2 seed, Young returned and the 49ers embarrassed the Chicago Bears 52-14, finishing 10-6. However, the team missed qualifying for the playoffs by virtue of losing the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Atlanta Falcons, which had beaten the 49ers on a last-second Hail Mary pass earlier in the season. The 1992 and 1993 seasons saw a resurgent 49er team under the leadership of Steve Young, but a subpar defense could only take them to the NFC Championship game before falling to the Dallas Cowboys each time.
In 1992, Joe Montana came back after missing almost two full seasons due to an elbow injury in his throwing arm, and started the second half of a Monday night game versus Detroit on December 28, 1992. With the 49ers clinging to a 7–6 lead, Montana entered the game and looked as though he had not missed a single snap, completing 15-21 for 126 yards and 2 TDs, as the 49ers defeated the Lions 24-6. The 49ers finished the 1992 season with a 14-2 record and home field advantage in the playoffs. San Francisco defeated the Washington Redskins 20-13 in the divisional playoff game, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys 30-20 in the NFC Championship at Candlestick Park.
At the end of the 1992 season, partly fueled by media hype, the biggest quarterback controversy in football history was in full swing. After discussions with the owner and the coach, Montana asked for, and was granted, a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs prior to the 1993 season. Despite Eddie DeBartolo wanting Montana to stay and start, Montana realized that he and Young could not stay with the 49ers without a controversy. Montana was later quoted as saying, “If I had stayed and started, there would have been problems. If I had stayed and Steve Young had started, there would have been problems.”
The 49ers finished the 1993 season, the team’s first without Joe Montana on the roster, with a 10-6 record and no. 2 seed in the playoffs. San Francisco defeated the New York Giants 44-3 in the divisional playoff game, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys 38-21 in the NFC Championship at Texas Stadium.
1994: The fifth Super Bowl victoryIn 1994, the team spent large amounts of money on the addition of several star free agents from other teams, including Ken Norton, Jr., Gary Plummer, Rickey Jackson, Richard Dent, Charles Mann and Deion Sanders. Additionally, several rookie players made key contributions to the team, some becoming season-long starters such as defensive tackle Bryant Young, fullback William Floyd, and linebacker Lee Woodall. The 49ers had some tough times early in the season, including a 40–8 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and a 24–17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, led by former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana. Following the Eagles game, a poll conducted on local sports radio station KNBR showed that an overwhelming majority of 49er fans wanted head coach George Seifert fired.
The game against the Eagles was a turning point for the 49ers despite the lopsided score. Young was benched in the 3rd quarter and was later seen livid on the sidelines, shouting profanities at head coach George Seifert. The following week in Detroit, the 49ers trailed the Lions 14-0. After throwing a pass, Young was hit, picked up, and driven into the ground by three Lions defenders. After the hit, Young was screaming with his face dark red in color. He crawled most of the way off of the field before refusing help from the trainers as he limped the remaining way off the field. He miraculously returned to the field one play later (NFL rules state that after trainers attend to an injured player, that player must leave the field for at least one play) to lead the 49ers to a 27-21 victory. The team rallied around Young to win 10 straight games, including a 21-14 victory over the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. During that span the 49ers’ average margin of victory was nearly 20 points per game, a sustained dominance not seen since the 1985 Chicago Bears. Despite scoring only 8 points in one game and 14 in another the 49ers set a new record for total regular season and post season combined points scored. That record was later broken by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998 and the New England Patriots in 2007.
Even after those initial rough spots early in the season, the 49ers finished the season 13-3 and with homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. In their first game, they easily defeated the Chicago Bears, 44-15, setting up the third straight 49ers-Cowboys NFC Championship Game. The 49ers took advantage of three early Cowboys turnovers, taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Taking a 31-14 lead into halftime after a perfect 29 yard pass from Young to Rice in the closing seconds, the game appeared to be far out of reach for the Cowboys. A 49er fumble on the opening kick of the 3rd quarter led to a Cowboy score, cutting the lead to 31-21. Later the 49ers responded with a Steve Young touchdown run, making it 38-21, before the Cowboys scored another touchdown in the final minutes for a final score of 38-28. The convincing win qualified the 49ers for their fifth Super Bowl appearance, and the first to be played by two teams from California. The 49ers steamrolled the San Diego Chargers 49-26, becoming the first team to win a record five Super Bowls. With a record 6 touchdown passes, Steve Young was named the game’s MVP. Their run of 5 Super Bowl wins in 14 seasons (1981–1994) solidified them as one of the all time greatest NFL teams.
The 49ers made the playoffs in 1995, 1996, and 1997, being eliminated each season by the Green Bay Packers, including a 23-10 loss at Candlestick in the 1997 NFC Championship game. The time was marked by key injuries, including one to Jerry Rice that sidelined him for 14 games, and numerous injuries to Steve Young.
In 1998, Steve Young led the 49ers to a 12-4 record and their 16th straight winning season, all with 10 wins or more. Once again, the 49ers faced the Green Bay Packers in a thrilling NFC Wild Card game that went back and forth for its duration. Things looked bleak when the 49ers trailed 27-23 in the waning seconds. However, in one last moment of glory, Young hit Terrell Owens on a dramatic, game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass, dubbed by many as “The Catch II”, that put the Niners ahead at 30-27 with 0:03 left on the game clock. The Niners would go on to lose 20-18 to the eventual NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
In the late 1990s Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. was involved in a corruption investigation regarding Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards and one of his Mississippi riverboat casinos. DeBartolo later pled guilty to a failure to report a felony charge in 1998. He was suspended from active control of the 49ers for one year. His sister, Denise DeBartolo York, and her husband, Dr. John York, took over operations of the team.
Eddie DeBartolo returned from his suspension in 1999, but a series of lawsuits over control of the family’s vast holdings led him to surrender controlling interest to the Yorks as part of a 2000 settlement. Denise York is now chairwoman of the board, while John York is CEO.
On the field, the 1999 version of the 49ers got off to a 3-1 start, then in a nationally televised Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Steve Young suffered a blindside hit from cornerback Aeneas Williams that would eventually convince him to retire. At the time it was believed the severe hit ended his career but Young later said in interviews he could have come back to play another season or two. After meeting with then GM Bill Walsh and being told about how the salary cap troubles would make the team non-competitive, Young chose to retire rather than risk his long-term health further for a likely losing club. Without their future Hall of Famer, the 49ers lost 11 of their last 12 games, and suffered their first losing season since 1982. Bobb McKittrick, 49ers offensive line coach since 1979, also died of cancer following the 1999 season.
In 2002 they produced the second-greatest comeback in playoff history when Jeff Garcia led the team back from a 24-point deficit to win 39-38 against the New York Giants. They lost their subsequent game to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This would be, to date, the last postseason appearance for the 49ers. Following the season, head coach Steve Mariucci — whose published statements about his degree of power in the organization had frayed already-strained relations with management—was fired by John York, despite a winning record. York has since said he made the correct decision to fire Mariucci, but could have handled it better; for instance, he admitted he should have made the announcement himself rather than hand that responsibility to general manager Terry Donahue. The replacement, former Seattle Seahawks and Oregon State University head coach Dennis Erickson was signed to a five-year contract. The hiring of Erickson was highly criticized by the fans and the media. During the coaching search, three defensive coordinators emerged as candidates for the job, but the offensive-minded Erickson was chosen despite the fact that Erickson’s offensive philosophy was very different from the West Coast Offense.
Although they finished the 2003 season with a losing record of 7–9, Erickson was retained as coach for the 2004 season. The 2003 season also marked the end for volatile wide receiver Terrell Owens with the San Francisco 49ers. Owens scored 85 touchdowns in 8 seasons for the 49ers, including 4 in the playoffs. But his on and off-field antics lead to the 49ers trading him to the Philadelphia Eagles during the offseason.
49ers running back Frank Gore in action against the St. Louis Rams in 2007On September 26, 2004, the Niners were shut out 34–0 by the Seattle Seahawks, their first shut-out loss in 420 regular season and 36 playoff games, a league record. The last shutout had been 27 years prior in 1977—they were defeated 7-0 by Atlanta at Candlestick Park. The 49ers had several chances to score in the fourth quarter, but an interception and a fumble recovery sealed their fate in this game.
The 49ers finished that season with a record of 2–14, and thus finished last in the NFC West division for the first time since 1979, ending what had been the NFL’s longest active streak for not finishing last in a division. It was also the worst record that season among the 32 NFL teams, securing them the right to the first pick in the NFL Draft. Erickson and the man who hired him, General Manager Terry Donahue, were fired.
After an extensive coaching search, the 49ers announced the hiring of Mike Nolan—defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens—as their head coach for the 2005 season. He is the son of Dick Nolan, who led the team to three consecutive playoff appearances in the early 1970s. Among many NFL franchises, the general manager makes strategic, player and coaching personnel decisions; the 49ers hired a head coach without hiring a GM, indicating that Nolan will likely exert substantial control in all of these areas. In his inaugural draft as head coach, Mike Nolan selected with the first pick of the draft, future mega-bust quarterback Alex Smith of the University of Utah. It was a pick predicted by most, though many predicted the 49ers might select local product Aaron Rodgers of the University of California, Berkeley. Nolan had a strong personality, and he thought Smith to be cerebral, introspective, and non-confrontational. However, He could not have been more wrong. Smith went on to become the worst 49er QB in 3 decades. Nolan also evaluated Rodgers but did not believe that Rodgers’ attitude could co-exist with him.
Tragedy struck the Niners on August 20, 2005, when OL Thomas Herrion died immediately following a preseason loss to the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field. Coach Mike Nolan had just finished addressing the players in the locker room when Herrion collapsed. He was taken to a local Denver hospital, where he died several hours later. An autopsy revealed that Herrion died of a heart disease, which had not been previously diagnosed.
In 2005, the 49ers finished 4th in the NFC West for the second year in a row, but were able to double their win total from 2004, ending the season with a 4–12 record. They ended the season on a high note with two consecutive wins; their first two game winning streak since 2003. Also, they swept their division arch-rival, the St. Louis Rams for the first time since 1998.
The 49ers finished the 2006 regular season with a 7–9 record and 3rd in the NFC West, their fourth consecutive losing season. The team displayed vast improvement, however. The most impressive victory of the season came in the last week vs. the Denver Broncos. The 49ers managed to come back from a 13–0 deficit and knock Denver out of the playoffs in an OT win (26–23). They also defeated division rival, and defending NFC Champion, Seattle Seahawks in both meetings on the season.
At the beginning of the 2006 season, the team made perhaps their most important decision, awarding the top running back spot to second year veteran Frank Gore from Miami. Gore ran for a franchise record of 1,695 rushing yards, which led the NFC, along with 8 TDs. He was awarded his first Pro Bowl appearance as a starter.
Before the beginning of the 2007 season, former coach Bill Walsh died of complications from leukemia. In the off-season, cornerback Nate Clements was signed as a free agent from the Buffalo Bills. Clement’s contract was worth $80 million for 8 years, the largest contract given to a defensive player in NFL history at the time. In the NFL Draft that year, the 49ers made another key addition to their defense, selecting middle linebacker Patrick Willis with the 11th overall pick. Willis was named the 2007 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 49ers started that season 2–0, winning their first two games against the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams. This marked the first time the 49ers started 2–0 since 1998. In the fourth game of the season, against the Seattle Seahawks, QB Alex Smith suffered a separated shoulder on the third play of the game, an injury that would severely hamper his play and ultimately lead to an early end to his 2008 campaign after having shoulder surgery. Chiefly due to QB Trent Dilfer’s struggles and Alex Smith’s injury, the 49ers lost 8 straight games from week 3 through week 12, ending the year with a disappointing 5–11 record.
 2008In the 2008 offseason, the 49ers signed Quarterback Shaun Hill to what was to be a three-year deal. They added free agents Justin Smith, Isaac Bruce, and J. T. O’Sullivan. Questions were raised about the future of Alex Smith, whose first three seasons had been plagued by inconsistent play, injuries, and not having had an offensive coordinator remain on the team for consecutive years. Head coach Mike Nolan and new Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz stated that a competition between Smith, Hill, and O’Sullivan would run through the first two preseason games of 2008, with the hope of naming a starter soon after. O’Sullivan was named the 49ers starter because of his familiarity with the Martz offense and after performing better than Smith or Hill in the first three preseason games.
On the night of October 20, 2008, after struggling through the beginning of the season, head coach Mike Nolan was fired. Assistant head coach Mike Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker with the Chicago Bears, was named as the interim head coach. Singletary proved to be a fan favorite when after his first game as head coach he delivered a memorable post game interview. Singletary said of their loss: “… right now, we’ve got to figure out the formula. Our formula. Our formula is this: We go out, we hit people in the mouth.”.
The 49ers won their final game of the 2008 season, a 27-24 win at home over the Washington Redskins, to end their campaign with a final record of 7 wins and 9 losses. After the game, Singletary was announced as head coach by Jed York, who had been appointed as team president just days before. Jed York is the oldest son of John York and Denise DeBartolo York (and nephew of former team owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.). The team had won five of its final seven games and went 5–4 overall under Singletary after Nolan’s dismissal.
 2009On April 25, 2009, the 49ers selected Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree with the 10th pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. This was the only pick on the first day of the draft for the 49ers. After selecting Crabtree, they traded their 2nd round pick along with a 4th round pick to the Carolina Panthers. From this trade they received an additional first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Other selections for the 49ers during the 2009 draft included Glen Coffee, Scott McKillop, Nate Davis, Bear Pascoe, Curtis Taylor, and Ricky Jean-Francois.
The 2009 training camp was the first time since 2005 that the 49ers failed to have all drafted rookies signed and in training camp on time. The tenth pick of the first round, WR Michael Crabtree, reached a contract agreement with the team on October 7, 2009, after having missed the first four games of the regular season.
After an up and down season, featuring many close games, the 49ers posted an 8-8 record, the team’s first non-losing season since 2002. Despite missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season, several key players continued to show signs of improvement. Alex Smith regained his role as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, passing for more than 2,000 yards with 18 touchdowns, while Frank Gore collected his fourth consecutive season with 1,000 or more rushing yards, a 49ers record. Safety Dashon Goldson showed signs of potential in his first year as full-time starter, as he tallied 94 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 sacks. Vernon Davis, in particular, had a breakthrough year at tight end, earning Pro Bowl honors with 965 yards and 13 touchdowns (tying the NFL record for his position). 2010 saw 5 Pro-Bowl Players for the 49ers. Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, and Andy Lee.
 2010In 2010, the 49ers selected Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis, 11th overall, and Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati, 17th overall, in the first round. The team also selected USC safety Taylor Mays with the 49th pick of the 2nd round. Other draft picks include LB Navorro Bowman, RB Anthony Dixon, TE Nate Byham, WR Kyle Williams, and DB Phillip Adams. On May 4, the team gave star LB Patrick Willis a five-year, $50 million contract extension through the 2016 season, with $29 million in guaranteed money.
The 49ers began the 2010 season with a 0-5 record, their worst start since 1979. The 49ers gained their first win of the 2010 season when they won at home against the Oakland Raiders in week 6. After their first win they lost again to the Carolina Panthers by 3 points. They then won three out of the next four games (against Denver Broncos 24-16, St. Louis Rams 23-20 in overtime, 0-21 loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, win at Arizona Cardinals 27-6, loss at the Green Bay Packers 34-16 and a divisional win over the Seattle Seahawks 40-21, loss at San Diego 34-7, loss at St. Louis Rams 25-17) and finished 6-10 with a 38-7 drubbing of Arizona. The win against the Rams was significant because both teams are in the same division and the Rams led that division at the time of the contest a well as their win over Seattle because of their tie with the Rams. After losing to St. Louis on December 27, the San Francisco 49ers fired Mike Singletary as head coach and hired their Defensive Lines coach Jim Tomsula, to be interim Head Coach for the last game of the regular season; against the Arizona Cardinals, at home.
The 2010 San Francisco 49er’s finished 3rd in the NFC West with a record of 6-10. They have not made the playoffs for the past eight seasons leading back to 2002 when eliminated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
 2011-PresentAfter Singletary’s firing, searches led to Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, as well as former Denver Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels. On January 7, 2011, Jim Harbaugh signed a 5-year deal to become the new head coach. Offensive Coordinator Mike Johnson, who was promoted on September 27, 2010 after replacing Jimmy Raye signed with the UCLA bruins as Offensive Coordinator.
In the 2011 Season the 49ers and Head Coach Jim Harbaugh will travel to Baltimore for a highly anticipated game against his older brother John Harbaugh, who is the head coach for the Baltimore Ravens, who compete in the AFC North.
 Move to Santa ClaraThe 49ers sponsored Measure J, which appeared on the June 8, 2010 Santa Clara, California ballot, to build a new stadium as home for 49ers in that city. The measure passed with 58.2% of the total vote. This is seen as the first step for the 49ers relocation to a new venue to be built in Santa Clara, California
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