Former San Francisco 49ers owner and 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., joined Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area on his most recent podcast.
DeBartolo will be honored by the 49ers during their home matchup with the New England Patriots on Sunday. The ceremony will be very important to DeBartolo because it will be in front of the fans and is one of the last individual tasks that he needs to do that is related to his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.
"A lot of these fans weren't there during our successful years, but I'm sure that their parents were and their relatives were and I'm sure that they're old enough to appreciate what transpired," DeBartolo said. "That is going to be a very emotional big thing for me because my fans – obviously my players and our coaches – but my fans were right up there. They were as important to me as anybody."
DeBartolo went on discuss his start with the 49ers, the hiring of head coach Bill Walsh, and the struggles that they had early on. Solid drafts turned things around quickly and the 49ers became the powerhouse of the NFL.
This morning, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke admirably with Bay Area media about the former 49ers owner. DeBartolo shared the history between himself and Belichick and how that relationship blossomed. "His family was from the same city, which was about five miles from where I grew up," DeBartolo said of Belichick. He said that Belichick had actually met the family of his wife long before the two had met. DeBartolo believes that Belichick shopped at the grocery store that was owned by the parents of his wife.
"That's how this relationship started and then he and I started to get close," DeBartolo said. "I just knew this man was destined for greatness."
Then the topic of the 49ers' current situation came up. The team is spiraling downward and is in the midst of a 1-8 season. "They're going through a very tough time," DeBartolo said. "Things like that happen. Winning becomes something that you get used to. Unfortunately, when you lose, it's hard to break that too. I think Jed [York], truthfully, is doing to do what he has to do to turn things around. I think he's doing it now. There are some distractions. They have the nucleus of some really good, good football players on that team and I think that coach [Chip] Kelly is going to do what he has to do and I'm sure, with the division that they're in -- I think that Seattle's got a good team. I don't think they're the team that they were. I think neither is Arizona and I expected Arizona to be a lot better this year. You have the Rams.
"It's just, you know, it's different. I think that they're in a position, that they can really get over this hurdle and get over what they're going through right now and turn things around. They've been competitive in quite a few of the games even though it doesn't show and you don't have a W in your column.
"I think that Jed -- Jed will be fine. I don't talk to him as much as I used to, but he's a very, very, very smart young man and I think he knows what he has to do and he knows moves that have to be made. I'm just hopeful that everything gets turned around and they start winning and get back to where they were a few years back when they were competing for the Super Bowl and I think that will happen."
Regarding Colin Kaepernick's protest, DeBartolo said that he believes that everyone has the right to have and express their own opinions, but it doesn't mean that he agrees with it. He hopes that Kaepernick believes in what he is doing and what he is doing is right. "I can't say that he's right and I certainly can't say that he's wrong, but I can say that he has a right to express his feelings," DeBartolo said. "This is a free country and he has that right."
DeBartolo said that if Kaepernick's protest had happened during his ownership, he would probably stand by that position. However, he is not sure that Bill Walsh would have. "Walsh was not the type of person that would put up with situations that were distractful or distracting to the team," DeBartolo said. "I don't know what he would have done in a situation like that, but I don't think that he would have been happy with it. I think that he would have done something very proactive."
DeBartolo doesn't believe that the players have given up on the season. "I know some of the current players," he said. "Honestly, they haven't thrown in the towel. I thought that they played pretty good. They should have and could have won that game in Arizona. I know it's easy to say 'should have,' 'could have,' but I don't think throwing in the towel. I think the coach has them playing. I think that they do have some talent. They've had some injuries too. They've had a lot of distractions, Matt. That really hurts a team. That's as bad as an injury. They'll get it together. Jed will get things straightened out. I assume that coach Kelly will come out of this and be the type of coach that they want him to be."
You can listen to the entire interview, which includes numerous other topics of discussion, on CSN Bay Area.