Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Flash Points: 49ers' defining moment
By Mike Sando
What key event significantly changed the fortunes of the San Francisco 49ers -- for better or worse? Give us your take and we’ll give you our definitive moment on May 19.
The 49ers packed more pivotal moments into the 1980s alone than some teams manage over the course of their existence.
They've also got a history dating to 1946 and the All-American Football Conference.
The four key events I singled out spanned the eras.
R.C. Owens' signature alley-oop touchdown grab against Detroit for a 41-yard touchdown in the final 1:20 played a critical role in securing the team's first NFL postseason appearance. Owner Tony Morabito had died of a heart attack during a game one week earlier. Owens' 1957 reception was the difference in a 35-31 victory as San Francisco improved to 5-1.
Having acknowledged the 49ers' more distant history, there was no sense in filling out this list with moments predating Bill Walsh's arrival as head coach for the 1979 season. Walsh revolutionized offensive football while turning the 49ers into one of the model franchises in any professional sport. His hiring was much more than a "key event" in 49ers history. It changed everything.
I had a tough time settling on only two other moments for listing here. "The Catch" had to make the list. There is no more iconic play from the Walsh era.
The 49ers' recent struggles feature a long list of missteps, none more pronounced in retrospect than drafting Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Only six seasons have passed since that draft, however, and any young quarterback might have struggled in San Francisco. That's why I singled out Eddie DeBartolo Jr.'s departure as team owner for the fourth and final spot on the list. Consider it a jumping-off point for the subsequent decade of futility.
There were other moments worthy of consideration.
Leonard Marshall's 1991 hit on Joe Montana cleared the way for the trade that sent Montana to Kansas City, but the 49ers won another championship with Steve Young, while Montana lasted only two seasons with the Chiefs.
If you vote Other, give us your suggestion in the comments area below.