The 49ers will a decal honoring Fred Dean for Sunday night's game against the Rams. Dean, the pass rusher who helped the 49ers win their first two Super Bowls, died last week at the age of 68 after battling COVID-19.
A second-round pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, Dean blossomed into an All-Pro player during his time with the Chargers. In 1979, his presence helped the Chargers capture their first division title since the AFL-NFL merger. The following season, Dean helped San Diego come to within a game of the Super Bowl. In 1981, a contract dispute led to Dean being traded from San Diego to San Francisco. The trade paid immediate dividends for the 49ers, who that season won their first of five Super Bowl titles. He recorded one of San Francisco's five sacks during the 49ers' 26-21 victory over the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.
"From the minute he joined the 49ers, Fred immediately helped to change the team's fortunes," the 49ers said in a statement issued last week. "In just his first game with the team, he put in an all-time performance against the Dallas Cowboys [a 48-14 win in Week 6 of the '81 season] that not only helped defeat a nemesis but propelled the 49ers to our first Super Bowl Championship later that year.
"As the 49ers marched through the NFL, often having opponents on the ropes early in games, Fred was referred to by his teammates as 'The Closer' for his ability to deliver the knockout blow to opposing offenses. One of the most feared defenders in the game, he is remembered as a quiet, fun-loving, sincere, country gentleman. Fred's accolades were numerous, but his love for the game, his teammates and those close to him are what endeared him to so many."
In 1983, Dean earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection after recording 17.5 sacks. The following season, his presence helped San Francisco become the first team to win 15 regular-season games. In Super Bowl XIX, Dean and his teammates shut down Dan Marino and the rest of the Dolphins' prolific offense during the 49ers' 38-16 victory.
Dean played one last season before retiring before the start of the 1986 season. He joined several of his former teammates in Canton, Ohio, in 2008.
"When it came to pass-rush off the corner, nobody was faster or quicker than Fred Dean," Chargers Hall of Fame receiver Charlie Joiner said of Dean. "He was also tremendously strong. If he weighed 225, his upper body was 210."
While he wasn't the first, Dean, who unofficially tallied 93.5 sacks for his career despite making just 82 starts, showed how effective a pass rush specialist could be on the outcome of a game.
"When he was at San Diego, they flopped him side to side," said Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf. "Ted Hendricks, Lawrence Taylor, they moved around, too. But I think Dean was the first ... When we played, we had to make sure to account for Dean on every play. And you had to hurry up and get players on the field to block him."