Most beloved San Francisco 49ers in franchise history: 9. Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
There are many owners out there who show little interest in whether or not the team is winning. Sure, wins and championships are great. But as long as the financial returns are worthwhile, nothing else truly matters.
Just don’t say that about former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
It’s not hard to argue that DeBartolo is totally responsible for the Niners’ five Super Bowl championships. Yes, he had a rough go of things early during his ownership tenure when he took over the team in 1977 (don’t ask about his hiring of general manager Joe Thomas), and the factors that led to him selling the team to his sister Denise York and her family in 2000 are still considered a stain on the franchise.
Still, DeBartolo’s approach should be considered revolutionary. Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young certainly thought so.
“In most of the league, the players were chattel,” Young said of how things were done before DeBartolo’s model. “What I see in the league today are owners who have made their players partners. That changes the nature of the NFL.”
DeBartolo treated his players like family. The fans recognized it, too.
And if you’re still not sure whether DeBartolo belongs on this list or not, especially this high, try thinking about other former owners across all sports where he or she is so revered by the fanbase.
Tough, isn’t it?