Over at ESPN.com the NFL bloggers are having readers vote on each teams defining moment that changed the team for better or worse. ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando picked four defining moments that changed the fortunes of the 49ers:
- RC Owens alley-oop beats Lions in ‘57
- Bill Walsh Hired to coach team
- Dwight Clark make “The Catch”
- Eddie DeBartolo Jr. forced out as owner
The fifth option is a vote for other but with the four listed above I think the 49er Faithful will have no problem picking between those four but picking which is the defining moment is more difficult.
RC Owens’ catch happened in the early years of the 49ers franchise in 1957. Owens had a 41-yard touchdown reception with 1:20 left in the game against the Lions that lead to the 49ers first NFL playoff appearance.
The hiring of legendary coach Bill Walsh not only changed the 49ers franchise but also changed how teams operate on offense with the West Coast offense and in the front office. Walsh was responsible for drafting 49er legends Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott to name a few. Under Walsh the 49ers turned into one of the most respected and successful franchises in the NFL with three Super Bowl championships during his tenure as coach. Without Walsh I doubt the 49ers would have been as successful as they were during the 1980’s and ‘90’s.
One play that defines the Bill Walsh era and the 49ers franchise is “The Catch” by Dwight Clark. “The Catch” led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance which ended with a championship ring.
Since 2000 when Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was forced out as the 49ers owner a decade of decline followed with incompetent head coaches, front office and ownership in the York family. The 49ers have only had three-non losing seasons since 2000 and have not made the playoffs or won the NFC West for eight straight seasons.
Having to vote for the 49ers defining moment in their history was tough. For me it came down between Walsh’s hire, “The Catch” and DeBartolo Jr. being forced out. As iconic as “The Catch” was and the success that followed, it would not have happened without the hiring of Walsh. Another tough choice when it comes down to picking between Walsh’s hire and DeBartolo getting the boot, you are really choosing between the beginning and end of the 49ers dynasty. What makes teams like the Steelers so successful for over four decades is the ownership. If the people running the franchise know what they are doing they rarely go through consecutive losing seasons and stay relevant even during the losing seasons. The futility the 49ers have suffered since DeBartolo Jr. gave up control of the franchise is still going on but has hopefully been solved with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. With that said I voted for “Eddie DeBartolo Jr. forced out as owner” as the defining moment in 49ers history because the consequences over ten years later are still being felt and we have no idea when they will end.
To vote go to http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/tag/_/name/2011-flash-points and scroll down to the fourth post.