Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports



The day before the San Francisco 49ers suffered their seventh-straight defeat of the season, head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to his players and gave them a little bit of a history lesson. On Sunday, there was a lot of history at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers honored one of their greatest players, Dwight Clark, who is battling ALS. Over 30 of his former teammates were on hand to pay tribute to the 49ers icon.

As most fans know, Clark was part of "The Catch," which launched the 49ers to their first of five Super Bowl championships following the 1981 season.

Shanahan had an opportunity to speak to some of those players, including former 49ers cornerback Eric Wright, who threw a young Kyle Shanahan in the ice tub "a ton of times." Shanahan also spoke to former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, whom Shanahan had not seen since he was "real little."

On Saturday, Shanahan spoke to the current roster about that 1981 team and drew some comparisons between what the 49ers are going through now and what some of the early Bill Walsh teams went through. The late Walsh took over as the 49ers' head coach in 1979 and then built a dynasty. However, it took a couple of rough seasons to get there.

"I talked to our team about it a little bit on Saturday night just to go through what the '81 Niners meant to this organization -- things like that," Shanahan told reporters. "Got a lot of young guys in there so you've got to tell them a lot of stuff sometimes. Just telling them how big of a team that was because they were the first team to win a Super Bowl here and they did it in '81.

"Kind of talked to them a little bit about the '79 season when they were 2-14. Talked to them about the '80 season when they were 6-10. And I told them how the '81 season was what started it all. Kind of talked to them about how I don't think they just got to that '81 season. I think they went through a lot of stuff in those two years prior to that and some hard work. They had to grind out and find out the types of people that coach Walsh wanted on that team and I think they went through a lot of adversity to get to that '81 team.

"I kind of made some comparisons to that, what we're going through right now. I'd like to say that I feel farther ahead than they were at that time. I definitely haven't studied that team very hard with the film and everything but I like to feel we're ahead of that. I know we don't have that record to show for it but I just try and put it into perspective to some people that no matter how tough things are and no matter how bad people can say they are that you've got to be strong-minded. You've got to know where you're going and what it's going to take to get there. And just because it's hard on your way there, it doesn't mean you can't stop believing in what you think is important and working at it every day. I think they're a perfect example of a team that did that."

Like the current 49ers, the 1979 team also started 0-7 before finally winning its first game. Of course, no 49ers team has ever started off a season 0-8 and the current team has a surging Philadelphia Eagles team to contend with on Sunday.