Bill Walsh

49ers' connection to past greats has ushered in new era of glory days

49ers' connection to past greats has ushered in new era of glory days

The 49ers might be beginning a new era of glory days, but they aren't leaving the previous ones behind.

Since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over as head coach and general manager prior to the 2017 season, they've placed an emphasis on binding the current 49ers to some of the all-time greats that came before them.

Whether it's Jerry Rice, Steve Young or Jesse Sapolu, there's no shortage of Hall of Famers from which the current generation of players can glean knowledge and advice.

"We're back at it now," Young told ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "Kyle and John have reembraced the history. It's an embracing of the past. I think they can use it as a tool and sometimes a weapon. I feel completely affiliated with these 49ers. For many years, I didn't. ... This is certainly recognizing that we're gonna build off of our history, which is smart. We should."

When Lynch and Shanahan arrived, the franchise's relationship with past alumni wasn't what it is now. Shanahan immediately went about addressing that failure and was influenced due to his prior history with the 49ers, having served as San Francisco's ball boy as a kid.

"I just know how excited I was to have the opportunity to be the head coach of the Niners," Shanahan said. "I just look at that differently than a lot of other teams. I look at the Niners, just from when I was growing up, the way people look at the Yankees. Or the teams that have been around, those marquee franchise teams. I always felt that way about the Niners and that's why it was cool to be here, and I want everyone else to feel that way."

Lynch never played for the 49ers, but went to college at nearby Stanford where he developed a close relationship with legendary coach Bill Walsh. That exposure influenced him to use reminders of the past to help improve the franchise's future.

"We all practiced in the NFL the way the Niners did," Lynch described. "Everybody did. That was the standard. So I think that drew us to the place, so then you get here and say, 'How are we going to be successful?' And what a great resource to have that here. So it just naturally happened because we both thought, 'Why wouldn't we?'"

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It's been 25 years since the 49ers last won the Super Bowl. If they manage to end that drought and add a sixth Lombardi Trophy to the museum at Levi's Stadium, some of the critical members of the franchise's prior championships certainly will have played a part.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

49ers legend Roger Craig passed over for Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

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AP

49ers legend Roger Craig passed over for Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

Roger Craig’s wait for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame continues.

The former 49ers running back was among 20 finalists for 10 spots reserved for players whose playing careers ended at least 25 years ago.

But Craig, 59, again was passed over, this time by a blue-ribbon panel assembled to select an expanded class to commemorate the 100th season of the NFL.

Craig, whose career ended in 1993, was the most-recent player considered as a finalist by the blue-ribbon panel. He played eight seasons with the 49ers from 1983 to ’90, before ending his career with one season as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders and two with the Minnesota Vikings. His teams advanced to the playoffs in each of his 11 seasons in the league.

Craig was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. He made the Pro Bowl as a fullback and tailback. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion. In 1985, he became the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards both as a rusher and receiver in the same season. Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk in 1999 became the only other player to accomplish the feat.

“In another offense, Roger would easily have gained a lot more yards rushing,” Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh wrote in his forward to “Roger Craig’s "Tales from the San Francisco 49ers Sideline” in 2004. “But we combined rushing and pass receiving. We looked at total yards, not just rushing yards from our backs.”

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Craig was the 1988 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. That season, he rushed for 1,502 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 76 passes for 534 yards.

The blue-ribbon panel selected no running backs as part of the expanded class of seniors.

Former Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch was also a finalist as a seniors candidate and was not selected for induction.

The centennial class of enshrinees will be joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 by five modern-era players who will be elected the day before Super 54 in Miami.

Here is the complete list of inductees selected by the blue-ribbon panel as part of the 2020 Hall of Fame Class that consists of 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches:

Coaches

Bill Cowher –1992-2006 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Jimmy Johnson –1989-1993 (Dallas Cowboys), 1996-99 (Miami Dolphins)

Contributors

Steve Sabol, Administrator/President – 1964-2012 (NFL Films)
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 (NFL)
George Young, Contributor/General Manager – 1968-1974 (Baltimore Colts), 1975-78 (Miami Dolphins), 1979-1997 (New York Giants), 1998-2001 (NFL)

Seniors

Harold Carmichael, WR – 1971-1983 (Philadelphia Eagles), 1984 (Dallas Cowboys)
Jim Covert, T – 1983-1990 (Chicago Bears(
Bobby Dillon, S – 1952-59 (Green Bay Packers)
Cliff Harris, S – 1970-79 (Dallas Cowboys)
Winston Hill, T – 1963-1976 (New York Jets), 1977 (Los Angeles Rams)
Alex Karras, DT – 1958-1962, 1964-1970 (Detroit Lions)
Donnie Shell, S – 1974-1987 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Duke Slater, T – 1922 (Milwaukee Badgers), 1922-25 (Rock Island Independents), 1926-1931 (Chicago Cardinals)
Mac Speedie, E – 1946-1952 (Cleveland Browns, AAFC/NFL)
Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E – 1944-1955 (Chicago Bears)

How Kyle Shanahan matched Bill Walsh in first three seasons with 49ers

How Kyle Shanahan matched Bill Walsh in first three seasons with 49ers

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan inherited a dilapidated roster when he agreed to lead the rebuilding effort as 49ers head coach in 2017.

Comparisons were immediately drawn to Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, who entered into the same challenge with the 49ers in 1979.

It took Walsh only three years to reach the pinnacle of the NFL world. And here is Shanahan in Year 3 keeping pace with Walsh’s amazing achievement.

Walsh compiled a 24-27 record in his first three seasons as head coach of the 49ers. After winning just eight games in his first two seasons at the helm, Walsh’s team went 13-3 in the regular season and 3-0 in the postseason to win Super Bowl XVI.

After the 49ers’ 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs on Saturday, Shanahan’s overall record now stands at 24-25, as discussed on The 49ers Insiders Podcast.

The 49ers will play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium with a trip to Miami for Super Bowl 54 on the line.

Like in Walsh’s third season, the 49ers under Shanahan went 13-3 in the regular season, won the NFC West and earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We knew coming into the season that we were going to have a chance to compete in every game,” Shanahan said. “(I) didn't really look at it much past that. Even when we were 8-0, that's all you look at. We thought we could compete in every game and we had won them up to that. We were like that all the way to the end.”

The Shanahan tenure could not have started in more agonizing fashion.

The 49ers began the 2017 season with nine consecutive losses, including a record five consecutive defeats by three points or fewer to the Seattle Seahawks, the L.A. Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts and Washington.

Joe Montana, a third-round draft pick in 1979, started a combined eight games in 1979 and ’80 before playing in every game in 1981.

Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired in a midseason trade in 2017, started eight games in ’17 and ’18. Garoppolo has started every game for the 49ers this season.

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Shanahan and the 49ers are not finished this season, so he is reluctant to reflect on how far the 49ers have come in such a relatively short period of time. But he said he granted himself some a short period of time two weeks ago for reflection.

“Once we got into the playoffs and got that bye week, I did personally sit back for a day and think about the season,” Shanahan said. “It was great how we got home-field advantage. Once you get that, that is completely over. All you think about is this game. We just got that done. Not trying to go celebrate anything.

"We celebrated winning the division in the bye week, which was nice.”

 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 5:30 p.m.