The San Francisco 49ers entered the 1984 season determined to erase the memory of their three point loss to the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship Game the year before. Nineteen games later, they had not only won the Super Bowl, they had redefined NFL history by becoming the first team to win 18 games in a single season. Led by Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh and future Hall of Fame players Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, and Fred Dean, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers finished the season with just one defeat.
A Nearly Perfect Season: The Inside Story of the 1984San Francisco 49ers chronicles the story of one of the greatest teams in NFL history. Through in-depth research and extensive interviews, Chris Willis details every aspect of this memorable season, from the preseason training camp through Super Bowl XIX. Inside stories from the 49ers are brought to life in colorful detail, including Joe Montana’s penchant for stealing teammates’ bikes during camp, the players’ pre-game superstitions, and what went on in the 49ers’ locker room before Super Bowl XIX. In addition, Chris Willis had complete access to Bill Walsh’s game plans and meeting tapes, revealing the intense preparation the coach and his staff went through to give their team the greatest chance for success on the field.
Featuring original interviews with more than 30 players from the team—including Dwaine Board, Roger Craig, Fred Dean, Keith Fahnhorst, Riki Ellison, Guy McIntyre, and Keena Turner—and interviews with the coaches and the general manager, this book provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of a season to remember.
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Chris Willis has worked at NFL Films as the head of the research library since 1996. He has written multiple books on early pro football, including Old Leather: An Oral History of Early Pro Football in Ohio, 1920–1935 (2005), The Columbus Panhandles: A Complete History of Pro Football’s Toughest Team, 1900–1922 (2007), The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr (2010), and Dutch Clark: The Life of an NFL Legend and the Birth of the Detroit Lions (2012), all published by Scarecrow Press.Review:
In this detailed account of the San Fransisco 49ers’ 1984 season, historian Willis recounts how the team’s 15-1 regular season . . . culminated in its Super Bowl XIX victory over the heavily favored Miami Dolphins. Central to the story is the relationship between coach Bill Walsh and his star quarterback Joe Montana. Walsh, who had 'gained the reputation as an offensive genius' as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, found his perfect student in Montana, who teammates considered to be the best quarterback ever to play the game. Willis provides full descriptions of each game of the season, even giving details on the television commercials that aired during ABC’s broadcast and mentioning that Apple computers provided 84,000 seat cushions for the wooden seats in Stanford Stadium. Overall, this is a book for hardcore 49ers fans. (Publishers Weekly)
The 1984 San Francisco 49ers are something of a neglected team among great teams, despite being the first club to win 15 regular-season games and 18 games overall; there is much more written about the 15-1 Super Bowl champion 1985 Bears, for example. However, the 49ers had a deeper roster that featured superstars Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott and groundbreaking coach Bill Walsh, and decimated a much better opponent in the Super Bowl than that fearsome Bears’ team did. Drawn from extensive interviews with more than 40 players, as well as original broadcast tapes and Walsh’s recorded comments from player meetings, this book details how the team was constructed and clarifies what the coaches were thinking from the preseason to the postseason. Game by game, Willis (head of research library, NFL Films; Old Leather) examines game plans, observes strategic personnel moves, and depicts the emotional fluctuations of the season with a flowing narrative that is enlivened by piquant quotations from the team’s animated personalities. While the author’s previous books all dealt with pre–World War II football, he shows an adept familiarity with the modern game in this thoroughly enjoyable retelling of the 1984 49ers. VERDICT The best football book of the year will be enjoyed by all football fans. (Library Journal)
Willis, who heads up NFL Films’ research library, conducted first-person interviews with 49er players, coaches, and front-office personnel. He also watched each of the team’s 19 games and was given access to Coach Walsh’s weekly- meeting tapes and his game-plan binder for the Super Bowl. The result is as perfect a re-creation of a professional football season as readers are likely to find. Within any group focused on a mutual goal, the dynamic is complex, and even more so in a group divided by assignment. Walsh did a marvelous job synthesizing those potentially disparate groups into a cohesive vision. Willis folds in exciting game accounts along with mini-profiles of players and plenty of funny locker-room high jinks. A great book for football fans. (Booklist)
Chris Willis is back and better than ever in a comprehensive examination of the nearly perfect season of the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. . . .[This] is an enjoyable and exciting read taking you back to 1984 and 85 reliving this incredible 49ers season. . . .Willis has established himself again as a prolific writer of football history with his new book. (Gridiron Greats)
[This book] certainly provides a host of interesting details. [T]he book’s greatest contribution is its ability to give a real sense of how Walsh thought, planned, and communicated. Wells had access to recordings of every 49er team meeting and 'offensive installation' of the year, and he justifiably devotes a great deal of space to block quotes from Walsh’s addresses to the team and to providing the specific details of practice and meeting schedules and philosophies. While almost anyone interested in reading about one of pro football’s legendary teams will enjoy this book, it will especially appeal to those who want to understand how a true innovator approached and managed the best season of his career. (Journal of Sport History)
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