In 1946, a California football fan decided it was time the West Coast joined the world of professional sports. Tony Morabito, a wealthy owner of a lumber business, created the San Francisco 49ers- a name derived from the city’s well known gold rush in 1849.
Initially, the team was a member of the All-America Football Conference- a slightly less epic version of the NFL. The 49ers made an impressive showing in the league and were granted admission to the big time NFL in 1950.
The young team experienced a slow start, finishing their inaugural season under .300. The next few years brought minimal success, until a bittersweet game in 1957. During the first half, the team’s beloved leader, Tony Morabito, experienced a heart attack and died. The team rallied to score 14 unanswered points in the second half to win the game and begin a path to the first victorious season, falling just short of a chance at the NFL title.
During the next decade, many of the team’s performances could be classified as mediocre. The 49ers did, however, contribute some notable additions to the game. Football players can thank the 49ers coach, Red Hickey, for creating the shotgun formation. This widely used formation positions the quarterback several yards behind the center, allowing the QB more time and space to make a play. Without a doubt, the shotgun formation has had an enormous impact on the way football has been played since its introduction.
In addition to the shot gun formation, 49ers head coach, Bill Walsh (1979-1988, 1992-1994) contributed a significant new offensive strategy to the game, called the “West Coast Offense.” This strategy altered the focus from running plays to passing plays. In 1985, Giants coach, Bill Parcells mocked the 49ers use of short passing plays rather than running plays after the Giants claimed the playoff victory, saying, “What do you think of that West Coast offense, now?” From here, the term was coined and given to offensive strategy which smartly utilized throwing talent like that of 49ers quarterback and legend, Joe Montana.
In 1981, Joe Montana would make a pass to Dwight Clark, forever memorialized as, “the Catch,” (undisputed, unlike Dez Bryant’s). The play sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where they fell just short of the world title. Though shy of a championship in ’81, the team became a football powerhouse during the ensuing decade, winning 4 Super Bowl championships from 1984-1994. During this time, 5 future Hall of Famers emerged, setting league records: Joe Montana, Ronnie Lot, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, and Fred Dean. Without a doubt, these men, along with the 9 other Hall of Fame inductees from the San Francisco 49ers have made a lasting impact on the game of football.
The upcoming season is largely uncertain for the 49ers. As the only NFL team without a head coach as of now, the team is looking for a leader who can bring some fire to re-energize the team who has been in a slump for years, most recently finishing the 2016 season with a 2-14 record. It is all but certain that coach will be Kyle Shanahan- current offensive coordinator of the potential NFC champions, the Atlanta Falcons (to be decided this Sunday when the Falcons take on the Packers).
In the upcoming draft, it’s likely the 49ers will focus on defensive help. Since Patrick Willis’ retirement in 2015 and NaVorro Bowman’s achilles injury, there is little stopping an effective offensive line from creating ample time for brilliant QB plays. Alabama’s Reuben Foster could be first on deck for the 49ers if all goes according to plan. The silver lining to one of the franchise’s worst seasons is early draft picks.
Stay up to date with the Provident blog to see which of your favorite teams we feature next. And, while you’re here, learn from the original treasure seeking 49ers and invest in bullion. The Provident Prospector Series offers excellent options to celebrate the legacy of the 49er.