San Francisco 49ers History

San Francisco 49ers - Team History

San Francisco 49ers, professional football team and one of five teams in the Western Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football League (NFL). The 49ers play in 3Com Park (formerly Candlestick Park), renamed in 1995 for its corporate sponsor. The team, which takes its name from the gold rushers who flooded California in the late 1840s, wears jerseys of scarlet and gold.

Few NFL teams can boast the individual stars and strong teams that made the 49ers a dominant power in the 1980s and 1990s. While on their way to capturing five Super Bowl titles, the 49ers fielded such players as running back Roger Craig, wide receiver Jerry Rice, defensive end Fred Dean, and quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Earlier stars include Hall of Fame members quarterback Y. A. Tittle, and running backs Joe “The Jet” Perry and Hugh McElhenny.

Founded in 1946, the 49ers began as part of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), reaching the AAFC championship game in 1949. After the AAFC folded in 1949, the 49ers joined the NFL. San Francisco returned to the postseason in 1957 under head coach Frankie Albert. That year quarterback Tittle captured the player of the year award and Billy Wilson won his third receiving championship in four seasons.

The arrival of head coach Dick Nolan in 1968, the development of a sophisticated defense, and the experience of quarterback John Brodie helped San Francisco reach the playoffs for three straight seasons beginning in 1970. That year league passing champion Brodie was named NFL player of the year; cornerback Bruce Taylor, rookie of the year; and Nolan, coach of the year.

In 1979 new head coach Bill Walsh and a brash rookie quarterback from Notre Dame named Joe Montana ushered in an era of unprecedented stability and success for the 49ers. Two years after the team posted a league-worst 2-14 record, Walsh won coach of the year honors for steering San Francisco to 13 regular season wins and a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. Carrying San Francisco into the Super Bowl was a last-minute touchdown pass from Montana to Dwight Clark that resulted in an NFC championship; it became known in football history as “The Catch.”

San Francisco returned to the playoffs in 1983, something they would do in 11 of the following 12 seasons. Montana finished the year with a 93.1 quarterback rating—the highest in league history (the rating, which tracks passing efficiency, is based on completions, yards gained, touchdowns, and interceptions). A season later the 49ers dominated the league with an 18-1 overall win-loss record (including the playoffs) and a victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.

The 1985 season saw the arrival of Jerry Rice, who would go on to become the most prolific pass receiver in NFL history. Rice was named NFC rookie of the year, while workhorse running back Roger Craig became the first NFL player to amass 1000 rushing and 1000 receiving yards in the same season. First-round playoff defeats in the 1985, 1986, and 1987 seasons were followed by a last-minute victory over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII in 1989. Walsh, who had led the 49ers to three Super Bowl victories, retired at the season’s end.

George Seifert, the 49ers defensive coordinator since 1983, became head coach in 1989 and the second rookie head coach in NFL history to lead a team to the Super Bowl. (Don McCafferty of the Baltimore Colts was the first, in 1970.) Under Seifert’s leadership, Montana had his best season ever, winning an NFL most valuable player (MVP) award, his second of two league passing championships, and his league-record third Super Bowl MVP award. The 49ers set or matched 40 records in their defeat of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.

Steve Young took over for Montana as San Francisco’s starting quarterback in 1991, capturing the NFL passing title for the first of a league-record four consecutive times. Young’s streak culminated in a Super Bowl XXIX victory over the San Diego Chargers, and his 112.8 rating in 1994 broke Montana’s league mark. A year later, Rice broke the NFL’s career receptions record by catching his 941st pass and the career yardage record with 14,004 yards. After the 1996 season coach Seifert retired. He was replaced by former Green Bay Packers assistant coach Steve Mariucci.

1982 XVI Defeated Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21
1985 XIX Defeated Miami Dolphins, 38-16
1989 XXIII Defeated Cincinnati Bengals, 20-16
1990 XXIV Defeated Denver Broncos, 55-10
1995 XXIX Defeated San Diego Chargers, 49-26

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