No way DeBartolo returns, but imagine ...


Well-Known Member
Jan 22, 2006
Reaction score

No way DeBartolo returns, but imagine ...

I think we can all agree that the idea of former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo buying the Raiders is pure fantasy, a late-night Las Vegas remark that should have stayed in Las Vegas.

And I think we can also agree that the odds are long that DeBartolo will ever rejoin the ranks of NFL owners.

There's that sordid little Louisiana riverboat casino licensing scandal that exiled DeBartolo from the NFL. He copped a guilty plea in 1998 to a felony -- failure to report an alleged extortion attempt -- paid a $1 million fine and served two years probation.

He admitted giving former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards a briefcase filled with $400,000, the price for his help to secure a casino license.

NFL owners would have to let DeBartolo back into their club. Besides the gambling mess, DeBartolo undoubtedly made a few enemies while winning five Super Bowls and both bending and breaking a few NFL rules along the way.

Those are just some of the obstacles DeBartolo faces, with or without sidekick Carmen Policy.

But what if DeBartolo were able to overcome those obstacles and buy an NFL team?

If I were a player on or a fan of that DeBartolo team, I'd start popping champagne corks and dreaming of Super Bowls. Granted, I might feel a bit queasy doing it, in light of DeBartolo's Louisiana misadventure. But I'd party and dream, nonetheless.

Warts and all, DeBartolo delivered five 49ers Super Bowl victories from 1981 to 1994.

Ask DeBartolo's former players what they think of him. Ask Joe Montana. Ask Jerry Rice. Ask Steve Young or Brent Jones or Eric Wright.

They all but worship the man. That has to count for something.

Some would say that DeBartolo simply Steinbrennered the rest of the league, spent his fellow owners into the ground and bought those five Lombardi Trophies.

Yes, DeBartolo outspent his peers when it came to player perks. The 49ers under DeBartolo traveled in style, flying jumbo jets with their own chef on board and staying at the finest hotels.

Then there were those all-expenses-paid getaways for 49ers players and coaches to lavish resorts in Hawaii and Colorado, rewards from DeBartolo for Super Bowl victories. The league eventually cracked down on that spending, deeming it an unfair advantage.

For the most part, it was money well spent. Because it helped promote fierce player loyalty to DeBartolo and the 49ers.

Of course, five-star hotels and jumbo jets alone don't win you Super Bowls.

The 49ers won five Super Bowls primarily because DeBartolo was smart enough to learn from his early mistakes and hire Bill Walsh in 1979 to coach his team.

DeBartolo was smart enough to step back and let Walsh and later George Seifert do their jobs while at the same time applying pressure from the top on the entire organization to meet Super-Bowl-or-bust standards.

The 49ers won their first four Super Bowls before true free agency and a salary cap arrived in the NFL in 1993.

With no salary cap, some say, DeBartolo was able to spend as much as he wanted to acquire players.

Yes, DeBartolo signed checks to land a number of experienced veterans cut loose by other teams, such as Jack Reynolds and Matt Millen.

Yet during the 49ers' first four Super Bowl seasons, almost all of their greatest players were home-grown draft picks. A handful of stars came to the 49ers via trade.

Let's look at the 49ers' 1981 Super Bowl team.

Montana was a 49ers draft pick. So were defensive backs Ronnie Lott, Wright and Carlton Williamson, linebackers Willie Harper, Keena Turner and Dan Bunz. So was wide receiver Dwight Clark. So were offensive linemen Randy Cross, John Ayers, Keith Fahnhorst and Fred Quillan.

Designated pass rusher Fred Dean came to the 49ers in a trade. So did wide receiver Freddie Solomon.

DeBartolo didn't buy this Super Bowl roster. With Walsh's expertise, he built it.

Now turn to the 49ers' 1988 Super Bowl team. It started 11 home-grown draft picks on defense, including linebacker Charles Haley, nose tackle Michael Carter, strong safety Jeff Fuller and Lott.

On offense, 10 of 11 starters, including Montana, Rice, running back Roger Craig and fullback Tom Rathman, were 49ers draft picks.

If you want to make a case for DeBartolo buying a Super Bowl, 1994 is the most likely candidate. With Policy manipulating the salary cap -- some accused him of violating NFL rules -- the 49ers started five true free agents on defense: cornerback Deion Sanders, strong safety Tim McDonald and linebackers Ken Norton Jr., Gary Plummer and Rickey Jackson. Then there was center Bart Oates, another free-agent pickup.

Those free agents came to San Francisco for the money, of course, but also for a chance to play for DeBartolo, an owner known for treating his players well and winning Super Bowls.

This thread has been closed due to inactivity. You can create a new thread to discuss this topic.