How is the current San Francisco 49ers rebuild by general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan comparing to perhaps the most famous rebuild in franchise history by Hall of Famer Bill Walsh?
Like most things on planet earth, there is a cyclical nature to the performance of a professional sports team.
Winter doesn’t last forever. Rest assured that low tides eventually rise.
The San Francisco 49ers are an old franchise. Old enough to have endured a few brutal winter seasons of their own. The only solace the fanbase can take is that spring is coming.
The 49ers have recently braved a long winter. Almost forgetting the feeling of a warm, summer-like season of winning.
History being humanity’s great educator, let’s take a look at past 49er winters. What took place just before the sun came out? What moves were made? Which position groups were key to the turnaround? Taking a look back can often times allow us a glimpse of what is ahead.
In May of 1977, Edward DeBartolo Sr., a Youngstown, OH public real estate businessman, was cleared by the NFL to purchase the struggling 49ers franchise. Day-to-day management was given over to Eddie DeBartolo Jr., his son. His first order of business was to hire the experienced Joe Thomas as general manager. Thomas proceeded to mortgage the immediate future of the team on a pair of balky knees from the Buffalo Bills. It only took five early round NFL Draft picks for the 49ers to pry away the over-the-hill running back, O.J. Simpson. Two seasons later, Simpson was out of the league and the 49ers had an overall record of 7-23. Thomas was fired in 1978.
January of 1979, DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh as head coach and general manager and the rebuild was officially underway.
What follows is a look at the beginning of Walsh’s tenure, along with that of current head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. This is not to say Lynch and Shanahan will have the same success as Walsh, but rather is a way to objectively study the progress of the current regime.