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Can Shanahan’s 49ers bring back Camelot?

Aug 13, 2021 at 6:17 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers were Camelot. They had their own King Arthur, their own Sir Lancelot, and their own castle. From 1981 to 1998, the 49ers won five Super Bowl championships and missed the postseason just twice. During that span, the team set a record for most consecutive 10-win seasons...16 (1983-1998). Had it not been for a strike-shortened season in 1982, it could have potentially been 18 consecutive seasons.

It wasn't always like that. By the late 1970s, the 49ers had fallen on hard times. They were desperate, even going as far as trading for an aging O.J. Simpson. This was after he was a 2,000 yard rusher, and before he committed a double-homicide. Then the team hired Bill Walsh as head coach. And everything changed.

From the moment Dwight Clark caught Joe Montana's pass in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, slaying the dragon (the Dallas Cowboys), a dynasty was birthed. And the NFL would never be the same. Walsh changed the way offense was played, and how teams were run. They were just different; from how they treated their own players, to how they prepared to win. Players all over the league commented on it. Owners and coaches tried to emulate the 49ers. They were the gold standard, not just in the NFL, but in all of sports.

ESPN football analyst, Chris Berman said, "The Niners were classy to watch play football and classy the way they ran it. It was the best. It was Camelot." That word, Camelot, was a word Walsh had used to describe the 49ers during those days. It was a word that described excitement, purpose and a high level of greatness. It represented something that is legendary. A dynasty.

When Montana retired from the NFL in April 1995, Carmen Policy, the 49ers president, compared him to a noble knight, saying: "The 49ers were Camelot...and you know who Sir Lancelot was." Years later, at a gathering to honor Clark, Policy said, "I think I'm quoting Eddie (DeBartolo) when I'm saying, look at any sports team over the last four decades, find one that has quite what we have. You've heard of Camelot, I think the 49ers under Eddie and Bill Walsh and eventually George Seifert, came as close to Camelot as you could come."

It was a magic era that covered almost two decades. 49ers fans were as blessed as any fanbase; their team being the favorite to win the Super Bowl almost every season for twenty years. It was an era that produced numerous Hall of Fame players, not to mention a coach and an owner.

But in the late 1990s, years of backloading contracts to manipulate the salary cap, plus an aging roster that wasn't helped by a few bad drafts, finally started to catch up to the team. Camelot was fading, and by 1999, the dynasty was dead. A four-win season left 49ers fans stunned, having had experienced something that few of them had experienced. When your dynasty lasts two decades, you have a lot of fans who don't remember what it was like to lose.

And now, after years of mostly losing, coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have the 49ers roster in great shape. They have an offensive-minded head coach who is always one step ahead of everyone. They have a rookie quarterback who many are hoping is the next Lancelot, a great group of scouts, a talented coaching staff and an excellent front office that has the potential to keep this organization competitive for years. I doubt it will ever get back to how it was, the days of Camelot. But I believe in this staff, this organization, and these players. Great days are ahead!

Can the 49ers bring Camelot back to the Bay?

"For one brief shining moment, there was a Camelot. That time was our Camelot. Bill Walsh was our King Arthur, and this stadium was our castle."

- Eddie DeBartolo, at Walsh's public memorial, in the north end zone of Candlestick Park (where Camelot was born)
August 2007
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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