The 49ers' dynasty was born when owner Eddie DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh away from Stanford following San Francisco's dismal 1978 season. Walsh had a rough first year in charge -- the `Niners went 2-14 in 1979 -- but he quickly took the franchise to the top of the NFL through shrewd drafting, clever schemes and smart free-agent signings.
2 of 13Andy Hayt/SI
One of the best moves of Walsh's career came when he selected Joe Montana in the third round of the 1979 draft. Montana was a solid quarterback at Notre Dame but slid in the draft due to worries about his size, speed and arm strength. Safe to say the four-time Super Bowl champ put those pre-draft concerns to bed during his Hall of Fame career.
3 of 13Walter Iooss Jr./SI
Clark made one of the most famous plays in NFL history in the 1982 NFC Championship against Dallas, jumping as high as he could to make "The Catch" -- a fingertip touchdown grab that gave San Francisco a 28-27 lead with just 51 seconds left.
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Fullback Earl Cooper spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter of Super Bowl XVI. The 49ers beat the Bengals 26-21 to win their first championship.
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Running back Roger Craig on the cover of SI following the 49ers second championship, a 38-16 beat down of Dan Marino's Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. San Francisco finished its dominant season with an 18-1 record -- the first team in NFL history to reach the 18-win mark.
6 of 13Heinz Kluetmeier/SI, Peter Read Miller/SI
Less than four months removed from their Super Bowl XIX victory, the 49ers added to their already dominant offense when they traded up to select Jerry Rice 16th overall in the 1985 draft. The then little-known receiver from Mississippi Valley State went on to set every major receiving record during his Hall of Fame career.
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Joe Montana and Steve Young
San Francisco absolutely stole Young from Tampa Bay in 1987, trading second- and fourth-round picks to the Bucs for the future Hall of Famer.
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The Niners won their third championship in 1989, getting a dramatic 92-yard touchdown drive that ended with 34 seconds on the clock to beat the Bengals 20-16 in Super Bowl XXIII. That final touchdown may have never happened if Montana -- in a move that cemented his "Joe Cool" reputation -- hadn't calmed his teammates at the start of the drive by nonchalantly pointing out comedian John Candy in the crowd.
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Bill Walsh and George Seifert
Walsh retired after the Super Bowl XXIII win, ending his tenure as San Francisco's head coach with three titles and a 102-63-1 overall record. Defensive coordinator George Seifert was handpicked by Walsh to take over the head coaching job.
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The 49ers didn't miss a beat without Walsh, winning their second straight championship by smashing Denver 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. Montana won his third career Super Bowl MVP award for his 297-yard, five-touchdown performance.
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Young, Seifert and Montana
Young became the full-time starter in 1991, when Montana went down with an elbow injury that kept him out for all but one game of 1991 and 1992. Young struggled in his first year as the No. 1, going just 5-5 as a starter. He did much better in '92, winning the NFL MVP, leading San Francisco to the NFC Championship game and holding off the newly healthy Montana to keep the starting job.
12 of 13Peter Read Miller/SI
Young and Montana
San Francisco had a full-fledged quarterback controversy on its hands in the 1993 offseason, with the question of who would be the starter in the upcoming season. The 49ers eventually chose Young and granted Montana's trade request, sending the then 36-year-old to Kansas City.
13 of 13Peter Read Miller/SI
Young won his only Super Bowl as a starter in 1995, leading the 49ers to a blowout 49-26 victory over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. The championship was the fifth for San Francisco, which will play for its sixth title in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans next month.
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