It’s a sad day in Niner Land as Fred Dean, Hall of Fame pass rusher for the Chargers, and 49ers, passed away at the age of 68 from complications due to COVID. In a stellar career that coincided with the dynasty that became the 49ers dominance for 20+ years, the 49ers traded for him during the 1981 season. Dean, who was going through a contract dispute with the Chargers brass, said he was making the same amount as his brother in law, a truck driver.
Walsh, always looking to improve the team, offered the Chargers a 2nd round pick early in the season, and seeing that the 49ers were 2-2 and coming off a 6-10 season, it looked like it could be a decent deal for San Diego. As it turned out, it was likely the greatest in-season trade in NFL history. At least for the 49ers.
His first game gave notice to the NFL that Fred was an elite pass rusher as he sacked Danny White of the Cowboys 6 times in our annihilation of them 45-14. Funny thing is, in his nearly 5 year career with the Niners, he had 5 starts. His main task was to pressure the QB, and smoke lung darts on the sidelines. He didn’t get in for very many 1st down plays, but wreaked his havoc on 2nd and long and 3rd down plays.
His next game, against the Rams saw Dean get 5 sacks of Pat Haden in the 49ers 20-17 victory. The Chargers of course became a much weaker defense and were summarily drummed out of the playoffs after winning the epic battle between SD and Miami in the 41-38 overtime game, and then getting stomped by the eventual AFC Champ Bengals. Dean ended up with 12 sacks for the 49ers in his 11 games.
Hard to imagine what would have happened to the course of the two teams had the trade not gone down. Dean was a generational talent who ended up as the UPI Defensive player of the year in 1981, and ended his career with 93 sacks. In his 4+ years with the 49ers, he had 41 sacks, and he was instrumental in the 1984 playoff run with his former SD teammates Gary Big Hands Johnson and Louie Kelcher.
Saw many a game where Fred Dean was a dominant force, and a relentless pass rusher.
Never met the man, but he always seemed to be smiling and happy.
“I WANT TO LIVE WITH MYSELF AND SOUL
I WANT TO BE ABLE FOR MYSELF TO KNOW
I WANT TO STAND AND SEE THE SUN
AND NOT HATE MYSELF FOR THE THINGS I’VE DONE
I WANT TO BE ABLE AS DAYS GO BY
TO ALWAYS LOOK MYSELF STRAIGHT IN THE EYE
AND FEEL THAT I NEVER HAVE TO LIE
R.I.P. Fred Dean