49ers Year-by-Year: 1982

What follows is a brief historical recap of the San Francisco 49ers' 1982 season. Coming off of the team's first ever Super Bowl victory, how would the 49ers respond to their success? What repercussions would an impending player strike have on the season? How would the season affect Bill Walsh's desire to continue coaching in the future? And what the heck happened to Paul Hofer?

Date:

Opponent:

Score:

Record:

Opponent's Record:

Sept. 12

Los Angeles Raiders

L: 23-17

0-1

1-0

Sept. 19

@ Denver Broncos

L: 21-24

0-2

1-1

Nov. 21

@ St. Louis Cardinals

W: 31-20

1-2

1-2

Nov. 28

New Orleans Saints

L: 23-20

1-3

3-1

Dec. 2

@ Los Angeles Rams

W: 30-24

2-3

1-4

Dec. 11

San Diego Chargers

L: 41-37

2-4

4-2

Dec. 19

Atlanta Falcons

L: 17-7

2-5

5-2

Dec. 26

@ Kansas City Chiefs

W: 26-13

3-5

2-6

Jan. 2

Los Angeles Rams

L: 21-20

3-6

2-7


Head Coach:
Bill Walsh

Key Losses: DE/DT Archie Reese, HB Lenvil Elliott, HB Paul Hofer

Key Additions: T Bubba Paris, KR Dana McLemore, TE Russ Francis

In 1980, the Oakland Raiders had filed a suit against the NFL. Al Davis wanted to move the team to Los Angeles, but the league was blocking him. So Davis filed an antitrust suit. The suit simmered for two years before a ruling was finally reached. The court found in favor of Davis, and in 1982, the team officially became the Los Angeles Raiders.

Outside of the ordeal with the Raiders, 1982 was a difficult year for the NFL. The player's union was also in conflict with the league office. At the time, player salaries could not be made public, and most players only found out whether or not they were making good money for a football player by hearing what their teammates were making in conversation. The truth is that many skilled players were earning significantly less than their comparable peers, and some were even earning less than their backups. As the years passed under this system and the inequities became more transparent, tensions were quick to rise.

Still, things were business as usual for the teams throughout the offseason. For the 49ers, it was a quiet offseason. Having just won the Super Bowl, they didn't make any major moves. Paul Hofer, who had been plagued by injuries, retired, as did fellow halfback Lenvil Elliott. Other than that, the team said goodbye to Archie Reese, a four year starter on the offensive line. With TE Charle Young aging, they reached out and signed tight end Russ Francis as the heir apparent to the position.

The draft was also quiet. Outside of first round pick Bubba Paris, the 49ers didn't make any real splashes in 1982.

But, coming off of the Super Bowl victory, an offseason with minimal turnover could only be considered a good thing. The team was intact, and they were unlikely to take much in the way of a step back.

As the season grew nearer, tensions between the league and the players union were beginning to cause an exceptional amount of trouble. However, the season would start on schedule. The 49ers opened the season at home against the newly located Los Angeles Raiders, becoming the first team to play the Raiders under the Los Angeles name. The game itself wasn't particularly pretty. Both teams were sloppy and inefficient on offense, and the Raiders ended up winning a match of who could play worse. In week two, playing the Broncos in Denver, the 49ers played much better, but the results didn't reflect it as they lost again.

And then the season came to a grinding halt. The players union had had enough, and the players went on strike. The union's primary grievance was over the amount of league revenue that was allotted to player salaries, but considering the consternation over salary inequities, the conflict was significantly more complex than that. For three weeks, the conflict was at a complete standstill. Negotiations were slow as both sides tried to gain as much leverage as they could over the crucial first few weeks, but by the time the strike hit October it became clear that both sides were still much too far apart and that they would need to take more drastic actions to get any closer.

During this time, the players union tried to pressure the league by holding "All Star" games that they hoped would feature many of the league's best players coming out to support the cause. They hosted two of these games, but, by and large, the stars didn't come out. They didn't have any health insurance at the time, and couldn't risk getting an injury that they couldn't pay for.

After 22 days of the strike, the NFL finally made a serious move by bringing in Sam Kagel, a renowned mediator who had been helping to settle major disputes exactly like this one since the 1930s. Kagel was aggressive and put a huge amount of pressure on both sides, but even he couldn't bring the stalemate to an early conclusion. At the time that he was brought in, some feared that the strike would last the entire season. As it turned out, he was able to bring the league and the union together in just about a month and a half, and the schedule resumed play in November. The strike had lasted 57 days overall. The NFL won a major point by not having to concede extra revenues to player salaries. But the players won a major point by earning the right to have contracts made public. This kind of transparency would revolutionize contract negotiations and salary structure from that day forward.

For the 49ers, the season started up again on November 21st in St. Louis against the Cardinals. At 0-2 and with only seven games remaining, they would have to move fast to re-establish their dominance. And they got off to a good start. Montana threw for three touchdowns (to three different receivers) and over 400 yards as the 49ers rolled to q 30-21 victory.

Coming back home to face the Saints with a chance to even up their record at 2-2, the 49ers fell just short in a game that they found themselves outplayed in for three quarters. A fourth-quarter comeback would be too little, too late, and just like that they were two games under .500 again.

Over the next two weeks the 49ers yo-yoed in the same way again, first defeating the Rams in Los Angeles and then losing to the Chargers in a shootout at home. On December 19th the 49ers played their 7th game of the season. Already assured of an embarrassing losing record, they were only playing for the shred of a chance that they could sneak into a playoff system that had been modified to accommodate the strike-shortened season. The Falcons crushed those hopes, defeating the 49ers 17-7 and dropping them to 2-5 and completely out of the race.

The 49ers won what was by then a meaningless game the next week and would finish out the season, appropriately enough, with a loss.

For Bill Walsh, the season was complete misery. When the season ended, he was seriously beginning to doubt whether he could handle the pressures of coaching a team without enjoying the relief of being able to win consistently. He spoke to Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., about his concerns, and DeBartolo told him that he would support any decision that Walsh made.

Walsh contacted three men who he felt comfortable succeeding him: Illinois head coach Mike White, USC head coach John Robinson, and UCLA head coach Terry Donahue. All three told him that they weren't interested. With nobody that he trusted to do the job but himself, Walsh continued to struggle with the decision until later in the offseason when person friends Jim Finks and Jim Hanifan gave him some good advice at the Senior Bowl: "Get over it."

The 1983 season was fast approaching.

Player Profile: Paul Hofer

Paul Hofer was drafted by the 49ers in the 11th round of the 1976 draft. He didn't play much for two years before finally seeing significant time in 1978, when he ran for 465 yards and seven touchdowns. That audition was enough to make him an early favorite of Bill Walsh when Walsh inherited the team in 1979, when he ran for 615 yards on 123 carries and seven more touchdowns.

Known for his tough running style, by the end of the 1970s Hofer had established himself as a legitimate long-term option at halfback. In 1980 he was in his prime and a two-time Len Eshmont award winner, and expectation were high. Bill Walsh was confident in his ability, and he's improved dramatically in each of his first four years in the league. Things started well for him in 1980 before the team played the Cowboys in week six. It was during that game that Hofer suffered a grisly knee injury after his cleat caught in the Dallas turf as he was being tackles backward by a group of Cowboys' defensemen. He missed the rest of the season and was lucky to play again in 1981.

His knee never felt right in 1981, though, and only got worse the more he played - which wasn't much. Late in the season his knee gave out again after another awkward tackle. He had no chance of playing again, missed the playoffs and the Super Bowl, and retired after the season.

Hofer was devastated. His knee was shredded, he was in constant pain, and his promising career was over. Emotionally distraught, he filed a lawsuit against the 49ers and their old team physician for what he claimed were actions that aggravated his knee and ultimately led to his final injury. He was referring to a series of injections that he took to reduce the swelling in his knee that allowed him to play in 1981.

The truth is that his knee would be in almost constant pain for the next 25 years. In 2006, he was ultimately forced to have a complete knee replacement, which finally relieved his pain. He stands as both a symbol of his time, when low salaries prohibited players from being able to adequately recover from injuries like his, for fear being replaced, and as a symbol of the NFL's continuing problem with medical support for retired players - which is to say, they don't provide any.

Primary References:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/sfo/1982.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982_NFL_season
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Football_League_Players_Association#1982_strike
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/comment/forbes/2001-06-08-forbes.htm
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/01/21/49ERS.TMP
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HofePa00.htm
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/01/21/SPG6JNM6MN1.DTL
http://www.sf49ers.com/history/awards.php?section=HI%20Awards
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/31/sports/football/31kagel.html?_r=1&fta=y

Glenn Dickey, San Francisco 49ers: The First 50 Years. Turner Publishing Inc. 1995

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