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Football Outsiders ranked 56 NFL dynasties; 49ers come in second

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From 1981-1998

Super Bowl XXIX - San Diego Chargers v San Francico 49ers

Bryan Knowles of Football Outsiders has been publishing his analysis-based rankings of all the dynasties in the history of the NFL. Using a dynasty points scale, DVOA, and a number of qualifying seasons and championships won. The San Francisco 49ers were always going to be on this list, but how high? The New England Patriots from 2001-2019 were first. The Niners from 1981-1998 were second, according to Knowles analysis.

Knowles goes down memory lane on how Paul Brown did not want Bill Walsh to become a head coach in the NFL. Brown gave Walsh terrible reviews when Walsh was with the Bengals as an offensive assistant for nearly a decade. Knowles also touched on how the west coact offense benefited from the rule changes in 1978 that prevented defensive backs from mugging receivers, which, in turn, opened up the short passing game.

Knowles is a 49ers fan at heart and said the most impressive part about the 49ers isn’t the five Super Bowls; it’s the continuity:

Every other team on this countdown has at least a few key personnel in common the entire time — a legendary head coach, an all-world quarterback, a two-way superstar. But the 49ers are a dynasty in the classical sense — a succession of rulers, keeping the reign going long after the founders have left. So Walsh begat George Seifert, who begat Steve Mariucci. Montana gave way to Young. Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon became Jerry Rice, and John Taylor became Rice and Terrell Owens. The team never skipped a beat.

Here is why the 49ers weren’t the top dynasty:

Their stellar 5-0 record in Super Bowls sort of hides the fact that they only made five Super Bowls. Yes, I know, “only,” but we’re talking about the top two dynasties of all time here. Eric Wright interfered with Art Monk in the 1983 NFC Championship Game (well, no he didn’t, but that’s what the history books say). Roger Craig fumbled against the Giants in 1990. The Triplet Cowboys took two of three title games in the early 1990s. Brett Favre took the 49ers down in 1997. This was an era where the NFC was, for the most part, significantly better than the AFC — of those teams that beat San Francisco; only the Packers didn’t go on to win the Super Bowl. The 49ers would have been favored in the Super Bowl each time. Flip a couple of those San Francisco’s way, and they’re probably still on top of this list. But if wishes were horses…

Five Super Bowls is something. Winning each of those is probably more impressive.

Fast forward to now. Based on what we saw last year from the Niners, what is the missing element for this team to return to a dynasty level. Is it simply time? You don’t go from four wins to a dynasty in a year. These take time, though John Lynch and the front office has been piecing together parts since he took over a few years ago.